Rock Band 2 Impressions: Oh God Yes

Considering our exhaustive coverage of Rock Band 2--most of which I have personally written or had some hand it--I knew about nearly all of the the tweaks that Harmonix community manager Sean Baptiste was running me through.

But knowing about it is one thing, whereas seeing it in action is something entirely different. Once I'd actually experienced the ease of custom setlists--something I've been waiting for since the very first Guitar Hero--well, in the words of Baptiste, "I peed a little."

Quite frankly, the redesigned song selection menu--which pretty much mimics Rock Band's in-game music store--is a godsend. Searching through the massive tracklist and finding that one specific tune is super easy now that you can jump directly to a letter instead of scrolling through everything.

Considering that the the combination of on-disc tracks and weekly downloadable content will result in over 500 Rock Band tracks by the year's end, that's a pretty good thing.

Per-instrument difficulty levels for each track are now displayed when a song is highlighted. And all it takes is a few button presses to have the game automatically cue up an entire album in the proper order.

A new no-fail mode is perfect for new players and parties, especially combined with the ability to make a custom setlist. To resolve disputes about track selection and oft-repeated songs, just create a party-themed setlist with a few hundred songs.

World Tour is now playable with a single player, meaning that the linear songlists of Rock Band's Career mode are a thing of the past, replaced by numerous venues and ever-changing challenges.

Don't forget the part where World Tour is now online, letting bands of up to four players to face off against others worldwide.

Speaking of ever-changing challenges, Harmonix will be delivering online challenges into the game on a daily basis. If one of the folks on your friends list tops your score, you'll receive a menu notification and, if you've linked your online name to your e-mail address on the Rock Band forum, an e-mail.

And the setlist, oh, the setlist. I've put the entire 84-track Rock Band 2 tracklist below, but some of my personal highlights include Bob Dylan, Billy Idol, Jethro Tull, Modest Mouse, Kansas, Guns N' Roses, Fleetwood Mac, Bon Jovi, System of a Down, and AC/DC.

Another 20 unspecified tracks will be provided post-release as a free piece of downloadable content.

In addition to Rock Band 2's compatibility with all Rock Band downloadable content released thus far, Harmonix has confirmed that "most" of the tracks from the original Rock Band can be imported into Rock Band 2. The company isn't ready to talk specific songs and tracks yet, but noted that the vagueness stems from licensing negotiations.

But for all the talk of song importing and such, the one thing that players can't carry over from the original Rock Band is their bands and musicians. However, Baptiste noted that Rock Band 2 will contain all of the customization parts as the first along with much more, enabling players to recreate their rocking avatars.

The reworked instruments likewise contain a number of subtle tweaks to enhance the experience. The fret buttons on the guitar feel more responsive.

The drum pads are a bit quieter and have a bit more spring to them. The drum pedal is a giant piece of metal instead of plastic, preventing any instrument malfunctions.

Optional cymbals can be purchased and plugged into the stock Rock Band 2 drum kit. While these don't provide any additional notes or challenges in the songs, the game will recognize where the input came from and provide the appropriate sound effect.

The new guitars also pack a small light sensor and microphone, enabling the game to automatically calibrate for display lag. Just hold the guitar up to the screen, hit the right menu selection, and you're ready to go. And yes, the manual options are still there as well.

In short, Rock Band 2 isn't a huge shift from the first. It's more of a refinement, bringing some oft-requested polish to the game.

Rock Band 2 hits Xbox 360 in September, with PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and Wii versions following later in the year.

Full Disc Setlist
1. AC/DC - "Let There Be Rock" - 1970s
2. AFI - "Girl's Gone Grey" - 2000's
3. Alanis Morissette - "You Oughta Know" - 1990's
4. Alice in Chains - "Man in the Box" - 1990's
5. Allman Brothers - "Ramblin' Man" - 1970's
6. Avenged Sevenfold - "Almost Easy" - 2000's
7. Bad Company - "Shooting Star" - 1970's
8 Beastie Boys - "So Whatcha Want" - 1990's
9. Beck - "E - Pro" - 2000's
10. Bikini Kill - "Rebel Girl" - 1990's

11. Billy Idol - "White Wedding Pt. I" - 1980's
12.Blondie - "One Way or Another" - 1970's
13.Bob Dylan - "Tangled Up in Blue" - 1970's
14.Bon Jovi - "Livin' on a Prayer" - 1980's
15.Cheap Trick - "Hello There" - 1970's
16.Devo - "Uncontrollable Urge" - 1980's
17.Dinosaur Jr. - "Feel the Pain" - 1990's
18. Disturbed - "Down with the Sickness" - 2000's
19. Dream Theater - "Panic Attack" - 2000's
20. Duran Duran - "Hungry Like the Wolf" - 1980's

21. Elvis Costello - "Pump It Up" - 1970's
22. Fleetwood Mac - "Go Your Own Way" - 1970's
23. Foo Fighters - "Everlong" - 1990's
24. Guns N' Roses - "Shackler's Revenge" - 2000's
25. Interpol - "PDA" - 2000's
26. Jane's Addiction - "Mountain Song" - 1980's
27. Jethro Tull - "Aqualung" - 1970's
28. Jimmy Eat World - "The Middle" - 2000's
29. Joan Jett - "Bad Reputation" - 1980's
30. Journey - "Anyway You Want It" - 1970's

31. Judas Priest - "Painkiller" - 1990's
32. Kansas - "Carry On Wayward Son" - 1970's
33. L7 - "Pretend We're Dead" - 1990's
34. Lacuna Coil - "Our Truth" - 2000's
35. Linkin Park - "One Step Closer" - 2000's
36. Lit - "My Own Worst Enemy" - 1990's
37. Lush - "De-Luxe" - 1990's
38. Mastodon - "Colony of Birchmen" - 2000's
39. Megadeth - "Peace Sells" - 1980's
40. Metallica - "Battery" - 1980's

41. Mighty Mighty Bosstones - "Where'd You Go" - 1990's
42. Modest Mouse - "Float On" - 2000's
43. Motorhead - "Ace of Spades" - 1980's
44. Nirvana - "Drain You" - 1990's
45. Norman Greenbaum - "Spirit in the Sky" - 1960's
46. Panic at the Disco - "Nine in the Afternoon" - 2000's
47. Paramore - "That's What You Get" - 2000's
48. Pearl Jam - "Alive" - 1990's
49. Presidents of the USA - "Lump" - 1990's
50. Rage Against the Machine - "Testify" - 1990's

51. Ratt - "Round & Round" - 1980's
52. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Give it Away" - 1990's
53. Rise Against - "Give it All" - 2000's
54. Rush - "The Trees" - 1970's
55. Silversun Pickups - "Lazy Eye" - 2000's
56. Smashing Pumpkins - "Today" - 1990's
57. Social Distortion - "I Was Wrong" - 1990's
58. Sonic Youth - "Teenage Riot" - 1980's
59. Soundgarden - "Spoonman" - 1990's

60. Squeeze - "Cool for Cats" - 1970's
61. Steely Dan - "Bodhitsattva" - 1970's
62. Steve Miller Band - "Rock'n Me" - 1970's
63. Survivor - "Eye of the Tiger" - 1980's
64. System of a Down - "Chop Suey" - 2000's
65. Talking Heads - "Psycho Killer" - 1970's
66. Tenacious D - "Master Exploder" - 2000's
67. Testament - "Souls of Black" - 1990's
68. The Donnas - "New Kid in School" - 2000's
69. The Go-Go's - "We Got the Beat" - 1980's
70. The Grateful Dead - "Alabama Getaway" - 1980's

71. The Guess Who - "American Woman" - 1970's
72. The Muffs - "Kids in America" - 1990's
73. The Offspring - "Come Out & Play (Keep 'em Separated)" - 1990's
74. The Replacements - "Alex Chilton" - 1980's
75. The Who - "Pinball Wizard" - 1960's

Bonus Artists
76. Abnormality - "Visions" - 2000's
77. Anarchy Club - "Get Clean" - 2000's
78. Bang Camaro - "Night Lies" - 2000's
79. Breaking Wheel - "Shoulder to the Plow" - 2000's
80. The Libyans - "Neighborhood" - 2000's
81. The Main Drag - "A Jagged Gorgeous Winter" - 2000's
82. Speck - "Conventional Lover" - 2000's
83. The Sterns - "Supreme Girl" - 2000's
84. That Handsome Devil - "Rob the Prez-O-Dent" - 2000's

Chris Faylor was previously a games journalist creating content at Shacknews.

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