TITLE: Green Day: Rock Band
PLATFORM: 360, PS3, Wii
PUBLISHER: MTV Games/Electronic Arts
RELESASED: June 8
By Eric Stuckart
The music rhythm game genre has definitely had its fair share of ups and downs, what with Activision pumping out sequels to their once-white hot Guitar Hero series at a pace that all but killed the franchise, while Rock Band creators Harmonix took the less-is-more approach, allowing their series to age like a fine wine, only releasing four full-priced titles between 2007 and ’09, as opposed to Guitar Hero‘s brain-breaking 18 games since 2005.
That makes it strangely perplexing as to why Harmonix and MTV would choose now to, in my opinion, tarnish their reputation by releasing another band-centric music game, based on the songs and the ‘history’ of Green Day. Now, I love these types of games, and even then I can’t really seem to reconcile the point of a game based on the band. Every single aspect of this game points to the developers having an obvious amount of love and respect for the band, but why? When the AC/DC: Live track pack was released, it was treated as such. As with the other track packs released, one could play the songs directly off of the track pack discs or upload them into the hard drive (for the 360 and PS3 at least) and play them on RB1 or 2). But Green Day was given the full-fledged band treatment, without much justification.
When The Beatles: Rock Band was released last September, I could understand the reasoning. The Beatles are one of the bands that could not and should not play second fiddle to a hodge-podge of songs that fare as typical set lists in these games. They deserved to have a game devoted completely to their legacy. But Green Day? Were they the voice of a generation that I never knew existed? That’s a real head scratcher for me. I feel like I’m in the dark on this. My first introduction to Green Day was through their breakthrough Dookie album and I still view it as one of the greatest alternative rock albums of the ’90s, if not a great pop punk record as well. However, beyond that, their albums haven’t had the timeless luster or nostalgic appeal that the Beatles, or I dare say, Metallica—which made for one of the greatest GH games in the series—had in the sense that they deserved to have a full video game devoted to them.
After Dookie came out, they had three mostly-awesome albums followed by a resurrection of the public interest in them in the form of American Idiot, which smartly straddled the line between the band’s desire to step out of the snotty pop punk shadows they had allowed themselves to be draped in, while still playing to their strengths and abilities to write a damn catchy hook from time to time. The album was an oddity for the times: pop punk’s response to the rock opera (an oxymoron in and of itself from a music history standpoint), based on the trials and tribulations of the overmedicated youth during our troubled times. It was more interesting of a listen than it probably should have been, but given Green Day’s pedigree, it made more sense that way.
However, because of its success, it also ended up inspiring Green Day to inundate their fans further by releasing another rock opera, 21st Century Breakdown, with plans for more on the way. This saddens me, because to be frank, the only breakdown that their last album illustrated was the breakdown of communication between them and their fans. While I’ve always been one to praise bands that follow their hearts rather than cash in and do what the fans want, it just wasn’t an interesting listen to me. It was clumsy and some of the songs were stretched out because “that’s what you do in a rock opera!” apparently. This is coming from an enormous fan of progressive rock and metal, the one genre where it’s almost expected to have overlong songs.
Image from elmundotech.wordpress.com
And this brings us to the actual game, which does things a little differently than the typical Rock Band fashion. In career mode, the player will immediately notice that there are only three venues to play in. The game basically follows three snapshots of the group during their career, once during their early days prior to breaking out with Dookie (The Warehouse), on the tour where they recorded their live album Bullet in a Bible (Milton-Keynes), and on tour in support of 21st Century Breakdown (Fox Theatre).
Each of the venues are broken up into sets, totaling 47 songs. The Warehouse venue consists of three sets consisting of all 14 Dookie songs, Milton-Keynes is American Idiot in its entirety with seven songs from Insomniac, Nimrod, and Warning peppered throughout, and the Fox Theatre consists of 12 21st Century Breakdown‘s songs; to get the other six, players will have to download the two previously released Green Day track packs as DLC. Considering how little the game really offers in terms of features, that feels like a bit of a slap in the face to the players and fans.
If you’ve played a Rock Band game, there really isn’t much I can say about it that’s different. The game very closely follows the formula that the Beatles entry did, and there really isn’t much else to say. Successfully playing songs earn the player Cred points; beating the song gets a certain amount of Cred, while 5 starring it earns more. Cred points are used to unlock certain features in the game, such as photos and videos on disc, as well as challenges. The challenges basically just consist of arbitrary tasks such as completing a given number of songs without failing, or completing full albums. Aside from that, the game features the usual quickplay mode, allowing for players to create their own set lists, as well as another drum trainer program, this time featuring “Tre’s Greatest Hits”, a collection of beats and solos from actual Green Day songs, which is kind of cool for Rock Band drum enthusiasts.
Visually, the game looks just as good as any of the other games in the series. It has a bit of the same style as the Beatles game, whereas the band members’ looks reflect the time and place of the venue they are playing in, but I must say that the character models in the latter two venues look much better than the Dookie-era Green Day in the warehouse. I can’t put my finger on it, but they look kind of off. Perhaps it’s from years of seeing them as they look now, as the three of them really haven’t changed their appearance quite as often as they did back in the day.
The one element that Green Day: Rock Band does feature unlike The Beatles is full song exportability for play on RB1 & 2. However, this is only available to players for a ten dollar charge, or if they buy Green Day: Rock Band Plus (available on the 360 and PS3), which contains a free track export code as well as a code to download the six remaining 21st Century songs missing from the set list. This version of the game is retailing for ten dollars more, so basically that means you’re still paying to export the songs but EA is throwing the other songs in there for free.
Image from elmundotech.wordpress.com
While some Green Day fans may bitch and moan about not being able to play any of the songs off of 1,039/Smoothed Out Sloppy Hours and Kerplunk, the trio’s first two albums, it was mainly due to the fact that the master tapes are very old and need remastering before they can be utilized; talk has been made of making these songs available as downloadable content in the future. Frankly, I’m not one of these naysayers. When I think of Green Day, there are a certain number of songs that I feel are iconic, and while they (mostly) hit the nail on the head by making Dookie and American Idiot available to play, I really wish that they would have integrated more of their mid-career material into the game. Yes, 21st Century Shitzoid Break is their latest album and the band is probably viewing it like their trophy wives of the moment, but it just isn’t very interesting or fun to play. Hell, in the first set in the Fox Theater venue, they feature “Song of the Century,” an intro to the album that features nothing but vocals. It’s not playable in career mode unless a vocalist is present, and that just seems like another misfire in the whole shebang. It either should have been integrated into another one of the songs in the set list or cut, as it’s one of those unnecessary additions that just looks stupid on the developers’ part.
But back to those two first albums, I don’t care if they’re not in the game, and I’m pretty sure that MTV Games doesn’t really care too much either. If they’re anything like most businesses, they want the songs on the game that people recognize, not the songs that will serve as fan service, and I’m fine with that. Sure, it sucks that the career mode requires players to finish the game off on by playing the most boring album of Green Day’s career, but that’s who they are, and if you buy the Green Day: Rock Band, that’s what you’re getting. My recommendation: Wait ’til it drops in price, and get it for the songs that can be uploaded into Rock Band 2.
Front page image from elmundotech.wordpress.com.