in Review

Rock Band Blitz

Do you still care about Rock Band? Probably not, only the addicts and the hardcore are still jamming these days. Hell, even Viacom decided it cared so little about the series it let Harmonix go. That was before Dance Central became the one universally acclaimed Kinect series, of course. Perhaps emboldened by that success, or driven by a decline in DLC sales, Harmonix has put out a new entry in the Rock Band series that changes, well, a lot.

Unless you played Rock Band Unplugged on the PSP, or the studio’s first two games, Frequency and Amplitude. Then you’d have a pretty good idea about what Rock Band Blitz is like. It’s an arcadey, singleplayer rhythm game that in many ways is the antithesis to the rest of the series’ home console entries. While Rock Band proper is all about simulating a musical experience, Blitz focuses on being a game-ass game, with high score competitions as its focal point. Let me explain.

You have all the instrument tracks in front of you – drums, bass, guitar, vocals and keyboards – coming at you in the way Rock Band does. The objective is to play all the instruments well enough to increase your multiplier, driving up your score. Tracks never disappear, like they did in Harmonix’s other games like this, but their multipliers do eventually hit a cap. That cap goes up at certain points, depending on how high your lowest multiplier is… You know, this sounds way more confusing than it is in reality. You just hit lots of notes and the numbers go up. There are various power-ups that you can unlock and use, just like Overdrive in Rock Band. Beating songs unlocks more power-ups and increases your credibility. And makes your numbers go up.

A big part of the Rock Band Blitz release is a new Facebook app that I am choosing to ignore. But, since Blitz doesn’t have any mulitplayer, that social aspect is pretty important. The game really hits you over the head with leaderboards, there’s one for like, every song. You can issue challenges to friends on specific songs, are just generally try to top the leaderboards, if that’s your thing. This is all predicated on you having friends who still care enough to try to bring their Rock Band music catalogues back to life.

That’s what’s cool about this game, ultimately. I know I’m not the only person who’s sunk hundreds of dollars into DLC for this series, and it’s great to get to use it all again, so long after the party has died. Whoever came up with the science that turned every song into something that’s fun to play with just two buttons is a genius. The game even comes with 25 new songs that export into Rock Band 3, making this a crazy good deal – if you like at least eight songs on the soundtrack, then Blitz pays for itself.

That said, even if you have never bought a single piece of Rock Band DLC, this is still a game worth checking out. Everyone knows by now whether they like playing with tiny plastic instruments, but this style of rhythm game is much less known. That Harmonix has found ways to make it feel more arcadey and intense is awesome, those damn leaderboards kept me playing much longer than I did with Unplugged. And, if you like it, there’s plenty more music out there for you to get. Those devious bastards.


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