Sunday, January 6, 2013

Rock Band Blitz: Series On Life Support

Well, I know this ain't a racing game but it's something close to my heart so let's talk about this months-old game.  Rock Band Blitz.

Rock Band Blitz is a $15 game you can buy off of Xbox Live/Playstation Network.  It does not require instruments.  Basically, you pick a song as four/five lanes of notes come at you.  You only need four buttons to play this game.  Down arrow/A to hit left/right notes in your current lane, left/right shoulder buttons to switch lanes. Hit notes in each instrument lane to max out multipliers for the greatest possible scores. You might say "hey that's Frequency/Amplitude" well, yeah it is.

This game is friggin brilliant for a few reasons:

* It is the quintessential "Programmer Game."  Basically I get up here and say "Games have too pretty graphics & cutscenes, not enough gameplay," well guess what.  Look at any generic screenshot of the game.  THIS IS THE WHOLE GAME.  There are no "characters" in the game.  You move through a seemingly endless city (a.k.a. "New Jersey" as Harmonix describes it) as buildings pulsate to the beat of the song.  The only goal of the game really is to play songs over and over again trying to get high scores.  Great game, huh.

* You take a look at every single song in Rock Band's history and there are MANY.  There are over 3,000 SONGS you can download and play in Rock Band 3.  And guess what, you can play all of those in Rock Band Blitz too.  Basically, it gives your library a little more can play songs on Guitar, Bass, Drums, Vocals, Keys, and Rock Band Blitz which is like its own instrument.

* At the end of the day, you will have worn out your A button which is kind of cool yet sad at the same time.

* Play enough notes in a row to enter "Blitz Mode." Camera drops back a little as you start to haul ass through the city. Yet the notes stay in the same place (you still travel the same speed). Can you say SENSE OF SPEED at work here???

* On top of a new Rock Band experience, you get 25 songs to add to your library.  That's 25 songs for $15.  Usually, the average Rock Band song goes for $1 or $2.  What a super deal.

Speaking of deals, I'll tell you some great news.  If you've on the fence about buying some Rock Band DLC, then you're in luck because all pre-RB3 DLC (anything without keys/harmonies/pro guitar/pro bass, about 2000 songs in total) is half-off.  Forever.  You wanted to play some Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, PanteraFoo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Boston, The Cars, Queen, Jane's Addiction, Guns n' Roses, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Tom Petty, The Who, No Doubt, Bob MarleyWeezer, Disturbed, System of a Down, The Offspring, Avenged Sevenfold (aw hell naw), well you're in luck cause they're basically giving away these songs.  Before you would have to pay about $2 per song (song packs would reduce that to about $1.50 a song).  But here, you can get songs for less than a dollar on average.  So to repeat, GO BUY SOME ROCK BAND DLC IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY.  Go buy the DLC that I bought at full price.  Yeah, I'm happy dancin' right now.

But there are some problems with the game and I really don't want to get into how to play the game because you can basically download the demo which comes with the full game but only three songs unlocked (All-American Rejects, Foo Fighters, Barenaked Ladies) so you can play that and come to your own conclusions.  Here's my nitpicks:

* The "perks" are rather unbalanced.  Note, these perks are out of order.
For the first perk, just pick the instrument with the most notes (usually the guitar or bass).  Second perk, Road Rage is good for wiping out tons of notes easily but Jackpot is clearly the best (3x as long as you don't miss) for getting high scores.  Third perk, Blast Notes are the best since it hits notes from all lanes, a very useful, predictable bonus. I can't see any use into turning the purple note into anything else, especially a pinball that bounces around Breakout-style which is distracting enough when trying to fill all the lanes in the first place.  But there's on exception in which Pinball reigns supreme:

Harmonix QA, where were you?

* Playing held notes is kind of stupid.  Assume you hit a held guitar/keyboard note.  Holding a long note "fills" the lane just as much as hitting a lone note in an empty void.  Think about some crap Tier 1/2 keyboard songs where the keys' only purpose is to chime in with some weird BG noise during the chorus.  And you're trying to fill the drums lane.  Okay, now you have to sprint to the orange lane (keys) every 5 second to hit that held note, run back to green lane (drums), hit a bunch of notes, run back between the two again and again.  And because you didn't hit enough of the orange lane's notes (which had about 5 in a minute-long section), you don't raise your instrument multipliers to the max.  Aggravating as s***.

* Switching notes to another lane counts as "missing" notes if you don't play them.  So you are in Blitz Mode or have Jackpot activated.  Good luck trying to "not miss" when switching lanes since if you move to another lane while a note passes, you miss and are penalized.  It's pretty ridiculous especially when the game preaches "It's not about hitting every note, it's about getting a high score."

* A minor complaint but you can't play Rock Band 3 songs in Blitz.  You can play everything else though because it's already on your hard drive.  Yet I have RB3 installed on my hard drive too so the songs are sitting there idle yet Blitz can't play them...yeah, it's stupid programming but the option to play stuff like Caught in a Mosh and Fly Like an Eagle in Blitz would've been nice.

Review-wise, I give this game a typical 8 because it has some replay value if you have a large library.  But after a while it gets repetitive and hurts your thumbs.

This leads me to my final point and it's about Harmonix and HOW THEY ARE TRYING TO EUTHANIZE THE ROCK BAND SERIES.

I always keep track of Rock Band's weekly DLC.  DLCQuickplay is a good site to do so.  Now in case you don't know about how Rock Band DLC works, basically it's a 3-to-6 month process.  Harmonix gathers data on what songs are popular.  Then they get the rights to the song, pass them through a machine that bangs out the song charts (notes), QA them, and plan to release them some time in the future along a time table.  Great.  But the stream of new songs have gotten weaker and weaker.  Used to be that HMX was proud to release a 10-pack of some awesome band like Billy Joel or Bon Jovi every other week and we would be stoked.  Next they toned it down to 5/6-packs and we were happy.  Then they did 3-packs.  Now they do 3-packs with songs that already exist in the Rock Band library.  Sure, it's great that you would release "We are Young" or "Pumped Up Kicks" a month after I imported that garbage from Rock Band Blitz.  It's like they're trying to wean us off of the DLC rather than go cold turkey and kill us all.

Because I am such a lazy bastard and because some other guy detailed our thoughts perfectly on this DLCQuickplay site, I'm just going to copy & paste what user "Riles" said:

Nevermind the facts that Harmonix has never gone out of their way to support Wii before, or that one of the songs this week is a song Wii already has so they only get two songs this week, or that purchasing eight of the 25 songs would cost more money than just buying the pack (which doesn't include when it was on sale for $7.50), or that any songs released now will most assuredly not have retroactive pro support,

this marks the first time that no new downloadable content came out for a week, and that's huge. And it's a complete bummer. And it's asinine the way Harmonix has tried to disguise it as saying this is a result of community feedback that they're doing this, because if that were the case, these Blitz songs would be released as a supplement to regularly scheduled DLC, or as one big release week like the FIRST time they released these songs and claimed it to be DLC for that week, and not the only focus for a DLC week. There have been controversies before about whether or not the DLC streak technically ended with country packs or Green Day, but if it didn't happen before, this is the definitive broken streak. And that sucks, and it gives us every right to complain. Because none of us are complaining about the song choices this week - we're all complaining about there not being any song choices this week

If you need any hint that the Rock Band series is dying, just go to Amazon and search for a Pro Guitar, Pro Keyboard, or Drum Set.  Cheap as it ever has been.  It's a shame too since I poured a ton of money into Rock Band but if the series goes away, then at least it's understandable.  We'll still have loads of Rock Band Network songs (custom songs people submit...most of it novelty/metal trash) but if you're expecting "real" songs like these bunches of requests that I wish I could play on Pro Keys (actual fun Classic Rock songs), well...I've lost all hope.  Rock Band Blitz was basically chemo before the series' eventual death which gave us a little optimism but not much longer.

A toast to my dear Rock Band friend, thanks for keeping me sane during this racing game drought that we've been through for so long.  Who knows how much longer you'll actually be relevant?  A year, two years, three years?  You have no idea how much this sucks for me, but at least Harmonix isn't "Sega-bad" at this point so I cannot complain. They had a really good run with the series--they didn't quit and actually managed to release more DLC than Sega ever will ever.

Adios!  I rocked this song on Pro Keys.

LOL JK GUYS, we'll all wake up tomorrow and HMX will release a 16-song Muse pack and everyone will be happy, DAE believes with me???

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