Rock Band 2

Rock Band 2
Rock Band 2 Game Cover.JPG
Developer(s)Harmonix (Xbox 360/PS3)
Pi Studios (PS2/Wii)
Publisher(s)MTV Games
Designer(s)Dan Teasdale[1]
Sylvain Dubrofsky[1]
Casey Malone[1]
SeriesRock Band
Platform(s)Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Wii
ReleaseXbox 360
  • NA: September 14, 2008[2]
  • EU: October 19, 2008 (Bundle)
  • EU: November 21, 2008[3]
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 2
  • NA: December 18, 2008[6]
  • EU: October 9, 2009
Genre(s)Rhythm game
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Rock Band 2 is a 2008 music video game developed by Harmonix. It is the sequel to Rock Band and is the second title in the series. The game allows up to four players to simulate the performance of popular songs by playing with controllers modeled after musical instruments. Players can play the lead guitar, bass guitar, and drums parts to songs with "instrument controllers", as well as sing through a USB microphone. Players are scored on their ability to match scrolling musical "notes" while playing instruments, or by their ability to match the singer's pitch on vocals.

Rock Band 2 features improved drum and guitar controllers, while supporting older controllers, as well. New features include a "Drum Trainer" mode, a "Battle of the Bands" mode, online capabilities for "World Tour" mode, and merchandising opportunities for the players' virtual bands. In addition to the 84 songs included on the game disc and 20 free downloadable songs, over 1400 additional downloadable songs have been released for the Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3 versions, with more added each week. All of these songs, existing and future, are compatible with all Rock Band titles.

Rock Band 2 software was released in North America for the Xbox 360 on September 14, 2008, along with individual instrument peripherals, and later for the PlayStation 3 on October 19, 2008. The software/hardware bundles for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were made available on October 19, 2008. Versions of the game for the PlayStation 2 and Wii platforms were released on December 18, 2008.[6] Rock Band 2 received highly positive reviews from critics upon release and sold 1.7 million copies through the end of 2008.[7]


The core gameplay in Rock Band 2 is mostly unchanged from the original Rock Band. Players use controllers modeled after musical instruments to simulate the performance of rock songs. Players use these instruments to play scrolling musical "notes" on-screen in time with the music. Rock Band 2 offers single-player and multiplayer gameplay for lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, and vocals, allowing for any combination of parts to play as a band.

During song performances, the game displays up to three tracks of vertically scrolling colored music notes, one section each for lead guitar, drums, and bass. The colored notes on-screen correspond to buttons on the guitar and drum peripherals. For lead and bass guitar, players play their notes by holding down colored fret buttons on the guitar peripheral and pushing the controller's strum bar; for drums, players must strike the matching colored drumhead, or step on the pedal to simulate playing bass drum notes. Along the top of the screen is the vocals display, which scrolls horizontally. The lyrics display beneath green bars, which represent the pitch of the individual vocal elements. When singing vocals, the player must sing in relative pitch to the original vocals. A pitch indicator displays the singer's accuracy relative to the original pitch. The remainder of the screen is used to display the band's virtual characters as they perform in concert.

A screenshot of a full band playing Lush's "De-Luxe" in Rock Band 2. Each instrument is represented by a different interface: lead guitar (left), drums (middle), bass guitar (right), vocals (top). The Band Meter (green meter on left) measures the performance of each band member, while the Energy Meter (gold meter beneath each interface) tracks each player's Overdrive.

During cooperative play as a band, all players earn points towards a common score, though score multipliers and "Overdrive" are tracked separately for each player. Overdrive is individually collected by players during select portions of a song by successfully playing all white notes (or yellow notes for vocals) within that section (or by using the guitar controller's whammy bar during white sustained notes). Once a player's Energy Meter is filled halfway, they can deploy their Overdrive, resulting in the "Band Meter" (which tracks how well each player is doing) changing more dramatically. This allows players to strategically use Overdrive to raise the Band Meter and pass portions of a song they otherwise might have failed. Overdrive can be used to activate score multipliers, which vary based on a player's note streak. Players can deploy Overdrive independently of each other, as well as collect additional Overdrive while it is deployed and draining.

Each band member can choose the difficulty at which they play (spanning Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert). If a player does not play well enough and falls to the bottom of the Band Meter, they will fail out of the song and their instrument will be muted from the audio mix. However, any active player can activate their Overdrive to bring failed players back into the song, "saving" the band member. However, a band member can only be saved twice; after the third failure, they cannot be brought back for that song. Failed players continuously drag the band's Band Meter down until they are saved. If the player is not saved before the Band Meter reaches the bottom, the band fails the song. Players can earn Overdrive bonuses from "Unison Phrases" and extra points from a "Big Rock Ending."

Instrument peripherals

Four people play on the Rock Band 2 stage at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, August 29, 2008.

All of the original Rock Band peripherals are compatible with Rock Band 2 for the same console. Similarly, the newly designed peripherals for Rock Band 2 are backwards compatible with the original Rock Band.

The game features Rock Band 2-branded guitar controllers modeled after the Fender Stratocaster. The guitar is nearly identical to the original Rock Band Stratocaster in terms of gameplay, featuring ten colored fret buttons, a strum bar, a whammy bar, and an effects switch. Improvements to the new guitar include a sunburst paint job, a more reliable strum bar and Overdrive accelerometer, a self-timing calibration, and quieter fret buttons. The bass drum pedal from the drum set can also be used with the guitar to activate Overdrive mode.[8]

The bundled drum controller is also similar to the one featured in the original Rock Band. It features four rubber drum pads and a kick pedal. New improvements include velocity-sensitive drum pads (the force of the drum hits will dictate the in-game volume) with more rebound and less noise,[9] a metal-reinforced kick pedal,[10] expansion plugs for separately sold cymbals manufactured by Mad Catz,[9] and wireless capabilities.[9]

Rock Band 2's USB microphone instrument is identical to the microphone from the original game. Singers are judged by pitch, or during "talking parts", their ability to enunciate spoken vocals. The phoneme detection system used for atonal vocal parts has been completely replaced with a new, more lenient engine, and songs imported from Rock Band and pre-existing downloadable content will be converted to use the new phoneme system.[11]

Harmonix and MTV Games have also provided limited edition instruments, including an authentic Fender Squier Stratocaster guitar and Precision Bass retrofitted with the game's input controls by Mad Catz.[12] Additionally, Ion Audio is selling a "Premium Drum Kit" that not only works within Rock Band 2, but can also be expanded into an electronic drum kit through the purchase of a separately sold drum brain. The "Premium Drum Kit" features four drum pads, two cymbal pads (with the option of a third), and a bass pedal.[9]

The Rock Band 2 peripherals and Guitar Hero World Tour peripherals are cross-compatible with other music games on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Sony originally announced that instrument peripherals would be universally compatible on the PlayStation 3;[13] and on November 24, 2008 a patch was released to allow the Guitar Hero: World Tour drums to be properly recognized by Rock Band 2.[14] Microsoft has also stated that instruments on the Xbox 360 will be compatible between the two games, as well as Rock Revolution.[15] The Wii edition of Rock Band 2 is compatible with the Wii drums and guitar for Rock Band and Guitar Hero World Tour as well as the guitar for Guitar Hero III. Rock Band 2 drum and guitar peripherals do not work with Wii Guitar Hero games prior to Guitar Hero 5, although the microphone does.[16][17]

Tour mode

Unlike Rock Band, which segregated the single-player Solo Tour mode and the multiplayer Band World Tour mode, Rock Band 2 features a single "Tour" mode that makes no distinction of the number of players. Any combination of 1–4 players, both online and local, can create a band composed of the player(s)' virtual characters. A band leader is no longer necessary, allowing the characters within the band lineup to change at will, as well as swap instruments. The band must also select a name and hometown before proceeding to their "practice space". From here, the band can choose to "Start Tour", undertake "Tour Challenges", or compete with other bands in "Battle of the Bands."

If the band chooses to "Start Tour", they will enter the game's equivalent of the original Rock Band's Band World Tour mode, allowing the band to play gigs and tour a virtual representation of the world. Once setup is complete, the band can begin playing concerts in small venues in their hometown until they unlock vans, tour buses and private jets, which unlock more cities and different continents. Unlocking and completing new gigs unlocks additional songs for play across all game modes. Successful performances also earn the band fans, stars, and in-game cash. Most cities and larger venues require the band to achieve a certain number of fans and stars before they are unlocked. The band must complete unique sets of activities at each venue. Performances consist of single songs, multiple song sets, "make your own" setlists, and mystery setlists. For certain performances, bands are faced with an optional challenge that requires the band to average a certain number of stars for their gig in order to reap the rewards. Bands can also hire personnel, including band managers, roadies, and sound guys.

The second option from the band's "practice space" is "Tour Challenge", which is a set of non-linear challenges. Some of these challenges include completing certain band-specific setlists, sets of songs that are difficult on a particular instrument, or songs all with a common theme. New downloadable songs will be integrated into this mode, allowing the creation of new challenges. Players can save their progress through these setlists and complete them at a later time. Newly purchased songs that will extend the length of a Tour Challenge setlist will also need to be completed in order for the challenge to be completed.[18]

The final option from the band's "practice space" is "Battle of the Bands", only available for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii versions of the game. This mode allows the band to virtually compete against other bands via online scoreboard tracking. This mode is composed of limited-time online tournaments created by Harmonix, with approximately five to ten challenges available any time. Challenges may be made up of one or more songs, and may be geared to one instrument or a full band. The songs will not be limited to those on the Rock Band 2 disc and will include ones that use songs off the Rock Band disc and downloaded content; it is expected that challenges centered around downloadable albums will also be made available. Challenges may also provide special rules, such as turning on the "no fail" mode for a difficult guitar song, or completing a song without activating "Overdrive". While playing the challenge, the band will see the score of the next highest band from the online leaderboard, as well as a "tug of war" meter to show how close they are to the score. If a band's score is surpassed, they will be notified the next time they are online. Challenges participated in and the corresponding scores will be tracked as part of the band's history, with this information also being made available through the game's website.[11][19]

Unlike the original Rock Band, players can designate custom characters as "stand-in musicians" for their band members on a specific instrument, which will appear when the instrument in question has no player instead of a random preset character made by Harmonix.[18]

Other modes

Also included in Rock Band 2 is a "Training" mode, which will help players learn how to play each instrument. Within this mode is the "Drum Trainer", which will help players improve on the drums through a "Beat Trainer" (with dozens of drum beats to practice), "Fill Trainer" (which will teach players how to perform better drum fills), and a "Freestyle Mode" (which will allow player to freeplay the drums, or play over MP3 songs on their Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 console).[10][20] The "Extras" menu of the game allows "modifiers" to be activated; some of these include "No Fail Mode", which will allow playing through songs without anyone being able to fail, and a "Breakneck Speed" mode, similar to the Hyperspeed mode in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock which doubles the track's scrolling speed.[21] The "Score Duel", "Tug of War", "Quickplay", and "Tutorial" modes from the original Rock Band are also retained.


In Quickplay modes, players can assemble variable-length custom setlists, allowing multiple songs to be played in sequence without returning to the song selection menu in between each song.[10] As with the original Rock Band, players can create and customize their own in-game character, complete with adjustable hair, body physique, clothing, tattoos, piercings, onstage movements, and instruments. Using cash earned within the game, the player may purchase items at the in-game "Rock Shop", with which they can customize their rock star. The game features an art maker where players can combine different clip art elements to create custom face paint, tattoos, clothing designs, instrument artwork, and band logos. The same character is usable to play any of the instruments in the game, unlike in Rock Band where a character was fixed to one specific instrument.[10] Players' characters created in the first Rock Band cannot be transferred to Rock Band 2, although all of the customization options from Rock Band are present, allowing characters to be recreated.[22] The Wii version has character customization as well, though features like custom tattoos, face paint, body paint, make-up, and instrument art are not included[23] an upgrade from the Wii version of Rock Band, which used pre-rendered video. The PlayStation 2 version uses aforementioned pre-rendered video.

Before the Rock Band website was redesigned for the release of Rock Band 3, players were able to interact with their virtual characters and band on the game's website. Using the website's "Photo Booth", users were able simulate a photo shoot by posing their characters, choosing a backdrop, and applying visual effects. Any pictures taken could be used to order custom merchandise, including T-shirts, posters, keychains, and stickers; however, this service was discontinued on March 30, 2010. Additionally, the Merch Booth allowed users to purchase figurines modeled after their characters.[24] The six-inch-tall figurines were created by the Z Corporation using 3D printing techniques, and cost $70.[25]

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