Green Day: Rock Band
Band-specific games have worked with varying effectiveness in the past. Activision's Guitar Hero: Aerosmith
and Guitar Hero: Van Halen
were not received particularly well. Even the Rock Band AC/DC Track Pack
fell a little flat. Harmonix didn't nail the formula until The Beatles: Rock Band
came out last year. A few short months later, Green Day: Rock Band is here in an attempt to recapture the bottled Beatles lightning. How does it stand up to its predecessor?
Green Day: Rock Band includes 47 on-disc songs from Green Day spanning from as far back as 1994's Dookie
, which is featured in its entirety. The band's 2004 concept album American Idiot
also shows up in full. It's joined by most of 2009's 21st Century Breakdown
, with the exception of the six songs from that album that are already available as Rock Band 2 DLC. (And if you've already purchased those songs, they'll be automatically imported as soon as you turn the game on.) Rounding out the game are several singles from Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning.
It was clear from the day the game was announced that a Green Day Rock Band game would have less universal appeal than one featuring The Beatles. Still, even casual fans of Green Day should be surprised by the amount of variety in the soundtrack. It's very interesting to follow the band as they go from their two-minute rebellions on Dookie to neverending epic-length songs on their concept albums. But you won't get the amount of variety that existed between, say, A Hard Day's Night and Abbey Road; at the end of the day, you'll still be very aware that you're playing Green Day.
Green Day: Rock Band takes some of the better parts of Rock Band 2 and The Beatles: Rock Band and combines them into one package. Possibly the biggest inclusion is three-part harmony, brought over from The Beatles: Rock Band and also appearing in the upcoming Rock Band 3. Players can plug in up to three microphones and sing as Billie Joe Armstrong on lead or Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool on harmonies. Unlike The Beatles: Rock Band, though, guitarists and bassists can use the effects switches on all Rock Band guitar and bass controllers. Also, drummers are able to use their own fills to activate overdrive, as opposed to the static overdrive activation from The Beatles: Rock Band. Finally, in a huge difference from The Beatles: Rock Band, the game is fully exportable, which means you can play all 47 songs in Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and Rock Band 3.
The game progresses through three venues, two indoor and one outdoor, each of which showcases a particular album. Getting three stars on any given song will net you an unlockable photo from Green Day's personal gallery as well as a piece of cred, which can be used to unlock in-game challenges once you have enough. Getting five stars on any song, as well as clearing the venue entirely, will get you another photo and another piece of cred.
The challenges function like Rock Band 2's challenges: Generally, you'll have to play a few songs focused around a specific theme (an early challenge has "Pulling Teeth
" and "Give Me Novacaine
", for example) to clear it. You'll also be able to play entire albums as challenges. By clearing challenges, you can unlock special videos from the band, including clips from live shows and hard-to-find interviews. The unlockables are a decent reward for any Green Day fan, even if you've only gotten into them recently—or stopped paying attention to them after Dookie. Disappointingly, the unlockables are on an as-is basis; you won't see a lot of extra information about the pictures or videos.
The game includes a vocal harmony trainer and standard guitar and bass tutorials, as well as two different kinds of drum trainer. The regular drum trainer uses stock beats and is meant to help develop your skills. The second, like Ringo's beats in The Beatles: Rock Band, features actual drum patterns from Tré Cool's astonishingly complicated repertoire. Even expert drummers might struggle with this one. If you try to tackle this trainer, you won't be getting any help from a drum solo so long it had to be split into two separate tracks.
One of the more popular jokes about a video game based on Green Day asked, "What are you going to do with the other two buttons on guitar?" While it's not true that every song in the game is a three-chord strum-fest, it's not far from the truth. There are some complicated chord changes, especially on the faster songs, but you won't be seeing any ridiculous shredding in this game if you're playing guitar. Mike Dirnt's bass lines, however, took me by surprise with how complex they really were. And of course, Tré Cool is no slouch, either. With the amount of achievements for bass and drums, it's pretty clear that this game isn't guitar-driven. You could just play the guitar career and be done with it, but you'd be missing out on a lot of interesting parts.
From the moment you turn the game on and see the grimy, war-torn opening cinematic, the aesthetic of Green Day comes across perfectly. Their music has always been rebellious, and that's one thing Harmonix definitely captured in nearly every visual aspect of the game.
The first venue, a run-down, claustrophobic club called The Warehouse, shows the band with dyed hair, beaten up clothes, and a ton of energy. We move from there to the Milton Keynes, the site of the band's 2005 live DVD Bullet in a Bible. Enormous screens plaster the stage and fireworks erupt into the sky in an impressive display for the Rock Band series' first outdoor venue. Finally, for 21st Century Breakdown, the band hits up the Fox Theatre in Oakland, which (like the rest of the game) lacks any elaborate dreamscapes, but does include a video screen that displays the same atmospheric images used on the band's actual tour.
The members of Green Day were available to provide motion capture for their in-game avatars in all the venues, which lets the animations look more lifelike and natural. The more noticeable ones include Billie Joe pretending to take a drag during "Longview" and Tré running around the stage during the first half of "F.O.D.". The band also captured their instrument playing on guitar and bass; when I first saw Mike Dirnt's fingers moving so fluidly, it immediately struck me as something really, really cool.
Motion capture can cause problems, though, if you start to notice things a bit too much. Tré Cool, for example, constantly has a smug smile on his face no matter what song is being played, and Mike Dirnt looks bored more often than not. Billie Joe is consistently the most animated person on stage, which is great if you're pretending to be Billie Joe, but not that appealing if you're on one of the other instruments.
Green Day: Rock Band isn't going to be the next The Beatles: Rock Band, but we shouldn't expect it to be. If you're a Green Day fan and you only play guitar in rhythm games, this would be an excellent chance to broaden your horizons. If you're a Green Day fan and you don't play rhythm games, Green Day: Rock Band is definitely worth a rental. If you just plain don't like Green Day, though, this isn't the game for you.