Rock Band Blitz preview

While the Rock Band franchise has fallen out of the limelight, there's still plenty of reason to be excited by Harmonix's latest entry into the series, Rock Band Blitz. Blitz represents a significant departure for Rock Band. Not only is it a XBLA/PSN downloadable title, it also ditches instrument support altogether. The end result is a game that should appeal to Rock Band fans that continue to rock out and gamers that have dumped their plastic gear. What makes Rock Band Blitz such an attractive proposition is its compatibility with the Rock Band library of games. In addition to the 25 songs that will be included with the game at release, Blitz will work with any song you've downloaded to your console's hard drive. Across DLC, Rock Band Network, and disc imports, that's a library of more than 3500 songs that can be accessed. For anyone that's invested in the Rock Band ecosystem, this is a great opportunity to get new life out of old songs. While Blitz represents a great value for long-time fans of Rock Band, it wouldn't mean much if the game wasn't fun to play. Harmonix has been in the beat-matching game for a long time before Guitar Hero came along, and Blitz will be immediately familiar to anyone that's played their previous games: Frequency or Rock Band Unplugged, for example. As in Unplugged, Blitz gives you the ability to switch and play between every instrument in a song. You can stick to one instrument, but you'll be able to toggle between the various instruments by hitting the shoulder buttons on the controller. Whereas guitar tracks used to have players press one of four buttons, Blitz distills the experience into two--left and right--regardless of what instrument you're playing.

Rock Band Blitz's various control options

That might make Blitz seem much "easier" to play than previous Rock Band games, but a heavy emphasis on multipliers and power-ups makes Blitz a more competitive affair than previous games. As you play, you're constantly being compared to other players in your friends list. As in Trials HD, an on-screen indicator quickly informs if you're beating or trailing your peers at any given time. To earn a high score, the game encourages you to switch between the instruments as often as possible, without missing a note. Each phrase you complete flawlessly increases that individual instrument's multiplier, and passing a checkpoint will increase your total potential multiplier--assuming every instrument has reached a certain threshold. With players having to switch between guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and keyboard, there's a lot of information to process. Matters are made even more complicated thanks to power-ups. Before each song, you can select a power-up that has certain effects. The most visually appealing one is the pinball power-up. When activated, this launches a ball that bounces around the play field. You'll want to switch between the tracks to make sure you can bounce it back. While each bounce will earn more bonus points, you also don't want to risk breaking your multiplier by wildly chasing it. Trying to keep track of everything and use the pinball power-up is not unlike patting your head while rubbing your stomach while reciting the numbers of pi. (It's quite difficult!) Rock Band Blitz is not only great for fans that have amassed a significant Rock Band library, it's a fun return to Harmonix's roots. Blitz is no less fun than the Rock Band games that inspired it--but it sure is a lot more accessible.
Watch the Shacknews E3 2012 page to follow all our coverage of this year's show. This preview is based on a hands-on demo shown at a pre-E3 event.