Harmonix swung by New York City this week so I finally got a chance to check out Rock Band 2 for the XBOX 360. So is there any new info we didn't already see from E3? Why yes, yes there is. Although we briefly went over some of the game's features that were already reveled, we spent the majority of the time going over new details on modes - such as the Drum Trainer and Battle of the Bands - as well. Oh, were you thinking about buying the original Rock Band so you could import the old songs? You might want to consider just renting it instead."The drums are hard" was probably one of the most used phrases of from last year's Rock Band players. I thought they were doable on medium, but yeah, hard and expert levels were near impossible without any previous expertise. Well, the bad news is the drums are still the same ol' drums you've come to love and hate. But the good news is there is finally a drum trainer to help you out! There are three modes: Beat Trainer, Fill Trainer, and Freestyle Mode. Here's how they work: Drum Trainer Beat Trainer – Beat Trainer will help you with your rhythm and timing. You're given 76 individual preview beats that endlessly loop. On the left hand side, you can adjust the tempo with about 10 or so selectable speeds. Your goal here is to drum the notes of the looping track for about eight or so measures until you perfect it (read: no misses). This is pretty easy on the lower tempos, and you'll get notification once you completed the tempo, but the fun comes in once you crank it up. There's no failing here, just keep practicing until you get it. Fill Trainer – I thought the drum fills in the origin Rock Band were a nice touch. It was the only time during a song you could really stand out and show off your skills. But fuck, I couldn't make it sound good worth a damn. Now, you can practice filling, too. Like Beat Trainer, Fill plays endless looping tracks with variable speeds, each with fills that have specific notes you need to hit consecutively before passing. This time there are only 45 preview beats, however. Freestyle Mode – Just as it sounds. You're presented with a blank, scrolling note canvas that allows you to just drum away forever. No challenges here. But like with the other modes, you can select different drum samples. So if you dig 80's electronic drum sounds - and wanted to try and re-create your own cover of a certain Rick Astley song - no one will stop you. Interestingly enough, you can also play music from your hard drive to drum along with. The only bummer is there is no way to record what you've done in-game to send to friends. So expect a lot of Youtube videos this fall. Overall, Drum Trainer mode is a lot more robust than I though it would be. I hope they consider adding more preview beats to try and master. Oh, if you were wondering if you got any sort of reward for completing this. Probably not, though, I was told there might be an achievement. But the point of this mode isn't really to compete, however. So don't be afraid to think you might be missing out on something by not completing it.
Battle of the Bands We've heard about how awesome Battle of the Bands mode will be. Everyday (yes, even on Sunday) there will be new, automatically downloaded set list challenge for you or your band to try and win against others across the globe on the ranked leader boards. Each challenge has a set number of rules, conditions along with a time limit (usually a few days) and a set difficulty. Some challenges will simply make you compete for the highest score while others may want the most stars. Others allow No Fail mode or only allow certain instruments, for example. So there doesn't seem to be any limit with what crazy rules or set lists they might implement. If you win challenges, they will appear in your fancy "winner" tab to scroll through. If someone passes your score while the challenge is still in play, you'll receive a notice via XBL or e-mail letting you know you've been passed. When you play a challenge, you pick someone on the leader board whom you want to try and beat (probably the current leader or someone on your friends list). During the song, a ‘tug-of-war' indicator appears at the top showing who's winning score-wise. Only the opponent's finals score appears on screen, so there's no ghost-play over top yours or anything. But don't worry, you'll still know when you're sucking. Will new DLC songs be available to play in challenges, too? You bet. If you decide not to purchase any new songs, the challenges containing the DLC will still appear, but you'll be prompted to purchase the song(s) if you want to play. This goes for your other band members, as well. Cool indeed, but I can't help but think if this was the true motivation behind this particular feature. What better way to sell your DLC than to offer incentives? Besides Harmonix's apparent obsession with wanting to print money, this really hasn't been done before on a console game, so even they aren't sure how it's going to turn out.
Creating Set Lists While you can create set lists to play so you don't have to stop at the end of each track like before, there appears to be no way of actually saving the list to go back to later. This baffles me. So you'll have to keep selecting the same collection of songs over and over again if you find a great list to jam out to later. John Drake from Harmonix did say, however, that they're always open to fan feedback, and if it's a feature they get enough response for, they'll consider patching it in. So go bug them. The Peripherals There are new and improved guitars this time around. All the instruments are sturdier and all wireless, including the drums. The guitar is pretty much the same, with the exception of a new wood grain look and a sensor to test playback lag. The drum foot pedal stays attached to the drums and features quieter heads. I still think they sound pretty loud, but you can always continue to wrap tissues around the drumstick heads. If you want to continue to give Harmonix your money, there will be plenty of drum add-ons for you to pony up for, like cymbals and a double-bass pedal. Rock Band 1 Disc Transfer All previously bought DLC is backwards compatible, but what about the songs on the first Rock Band disc? This was a topic I needed clarification on. How is this going to work? OK, so there will be an update for Rock Band 1 that will ask if you want transfers ‘most' of your songs on the disc to your hard drive. In order to transfer ‘most' Rock Band songs into Rock Band 2, you'll need to pay a one-time fee – they are saying less than $5 – and you'll be given a software key to enter in and it will work. So will you have to actually ‘own' a copy of the original Rock Band game to do this? No. There appears, as of now, no DRM tracking on anything to indicate you rightfully own the disc you want to export. So if you missed out on the Rock Band party last year and want to play the old songs, too, all you have to do is rent a copy or borrow someone else's. It doesn't seem Harmonix isn't too concerned, however, as they're happy you already paid the licensing fee and bought Rock Band 2! PS3 and Wii Versions I was only demoed the 360 version., but Harmonix still isn't talking about the other versions. There's no indication, however, anything will change with PS3 copy, as I don't see any problems implementing the feature sets across the two platforms. But what about the Wii version? Harmonix already complained about there not being a hard drive. And they recently said the Wii version will be "fully featured." I just don't see how any of the best parts in Rock Band 2 are done on the Wii without some storage solution. Harmonix said they'd make announcements for both the PS3 and Wii version soon. Will there be a stand alone hard drive? Maybe an exclusive Rock Band 2 pack-in? We'll soon find out.