Sophomore trump

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Rock Band, the game that turns bathroom crooners into rock gods, is back with new songs and gameplay adjustments that make an already excellent title just a bit better.

Last year I gave EA/MTV's groundbreaking Rock Band my highest recommendation for broadening the Guitar Hero formula from its single-instrument roots and creating the ultimate musical party game. Since then, it's become a bit of a sensation - nightclubs hold Rock Band party nights, and some high-profile musicians and celebrities have offered endorsements.

While there's been a near-constant string of downloadable content available, this version contains more than 80 new songs and the promise of another 20 free ones in the future. There's no lack of variety in the selections, either, with songs from all eras and styles of rock.

On the Xbox 360 and soon the PS3, owners of the previous title will be able to access almost all the original content for a small fee, and all previously downloaded content is compatible as well, meaning Rock Band 2 has a potential 300-plus songs.

Now, those adjustments. Band management, once a troublesome spot in pick-up-and-play modes, has been tweaked so players can move their avatars between instruments. Don't feel like playing drums today? No big deal, you can just log in your character on guitar and continue your progression on the road to superstardom.

The actual instruments got some needed attention. The guitar's new strum bar isn't as soft and feels a bit more reflexive, and the re-engineered drums boast a new metal-reinforced kick bass pedal and impact-sensitive, noise-dulled drum pads. While the game plays fine with the older instruments, it's worth it to upgrade the drums at least.

Online play has been tweaked, too. The main focus is on the battle of the bands - players can compete in the same songs or in sets to see who can win over the most fans.

If you're already a Rock Band fan, there's no reason not to update - the extra songs alone are worth the $60. It might be best to wait and see, though, if you're considering buying Guitar Hero World Tour. These games are constantly trying to one-up each other, and this year it's looking like Guitar Hero could come out stronger.

Ultimately, though, it doesn't really matter which camp you pick - the makers of both franchises have promised that the instruments are cross-game compatible.