E3 2012: Rock Band Blitz Hands On
Developer: Harmonix / Release Date: Not Yet Rated / Release Date: Q3 2012
It’s a fundamental prerequisite of videogame coverage that we like early builds of all games. I mean, they may not strike us as the polished article the developers describe, but we can see the potential. Fundamentally, I subscribe to this philosophy because I want every game ever made to be awesome. Really, isn’t that the truest statement of fandom?
Then I saw Rock Band Blitz, the regular controller iteration of the hit music franchise, staking a claim for relevance in a marketplace that has turned its collective back on the “music genre.” While grappling a plastic guitar or drum set might initially feel awkward in rocking out to your favorite tunes, fiddling buttons on the controller across four lanes of notes covering each instrument was downright weird.
The process makes sense; each instrument has a different skill level for each song. So if riffing lead guitar with button and D-pad button presses is too much, you could switch to vocals (or bass or drums) if their pace was more to your suiting. You know those one-man band acts, with the drum on their back and their foot stomping the beat, their mouth hovering over a secured mouthorgan, maybe holding a ukulele or accordion (or guitar, if the street performer is aiming mainstream)? That’s the feeling Rock Band Blitz affords with just a controller in your hand and your own mind crafting the scenes that elevate you to rock star status.
If it sounds awkward, it definitely was at the outset. Flipping lanes to hit the notes for the different instruments was simple enough, but the left D-pad being used as the default “left button” confused many, particularly as on the Xbox controller that button isn’t the most responsive. Several other control options are provided, so that shouldn’t be an issue for music lovers wanting to expert each track, but as the default setting, it made little sense.
As is the case with all music games, what matters most is the music itself. If there are enough songs you want to hear and play through, then this kind of game will sell itself. We only had a handful to play (our group was focused on Rick Springfield’s 80s anthem “Jessie’s Girl” which is hard to ignore, but here’s a list of more songs that will be available:
- All-American Rejects – “Kids in the Street”
- Barenaked Ladies – “One Week”
- Collective Soul – “Shine”
- Elton John – “I’m Still Standing”
- Fall Out Boy – “A Little Less Sixteen Candles”
- Great White – “Once Bitten Twice Shy”
- Iron Maiden – “Wicker Man”
- Living Colour – “Cult of Personality”
- P!nk – “Raise Your Glass”
- Shinedown – “Diamond Eyes”
- Tears for Fears – “Shout”
Rock Band Blitz definitely has spiritual attachment to Harmonix’ early release, Amplitude (though you won’t hear that name mentioned due to ownership and copyright issues). It feels part of the DNA.
But it will be fascinating to see how this Rock Band release is received. It’s atypical for the franchise. It takes a reverse direction from the band-creation methodology that was so successful for a year or two. It’s simple to play, but that may hinder its attachment to core music fans, and miss more casual players looking for a good song.
If Rock Band Blitz was an iPad/Tablet release I can imagine it being hugely anticipated for bridging the gap between what’s considered casual and hardcore in the music game ownership stakes. As it stands, we’ll see if it can grasp the skill/reward tree that will enthuse gamers of all stripes.
Rock Band Blitz ships later this summer.