Sunday, January 11, 2015

Level Up: Rock Band Country Track Pack & Rock Band AC/DC Live Track Pack

For the past few years, I’ve been talking about the Guitar Hero series to celebrate the New Year, and I think it’s time that we talk about Rock Band. I’ll get into the history behind the two series someday, but today I want to focus on how they both handled additional content. One of the reasons Rock Band “won” over Guitar Hero is that Guitar Hero focused on pumping out games, while Rock Band just provided more songs. While most were DLC, they also had standalone disks with 20 or so songs on them. Let’s take a look at one of those with the Rock Band Country Track Pack for the Nintendo Wii.
While it might seem a little silly to only have a disk with about 20 songs on it, I need to mention that this was mostly a way for Developers Harmonix and Publishers MTV games to put out extra content for the Wii and PlayStation 2 consoles (which apparently couldn’t support DLC like the others). A handy work around as it gets you a lot of songs at a bulk price, and since it’s a standalone game, you could buy the instruments and not bother with the original Rock Band. But if you just wanted Alan Jackson’s good time, you’ll have to still endure and pay for Sara Evans’ Suds in the Bucket.
This is also a very bare bones version of the Rock Band game mechanic. There’s no shop in game and no avatar creation; you only get the songs. Plus, since it’s modeled after the first Rock Band, you don’t have the option of changing instruments or difficulty if it gets a too hard for you, and in some modes that may stop your progress completely. I can’t hold this too much against the game though, as this remains from what Guitar Hero was doing before. I will say that I believe the songs to be well arranged for the instruments, so no sudden difficulty spike. As a matter of fact, I’ll say that there’s not much difficulty at all. This isn’t for people who want a challenge, this is just for people who like and want to play country.
Well that’s all I really have to say about a Track Pack that’s a little bit country, so now let’s move on to one that’s a little bit Rock and Roll. Here’s the AC/DC Live Track Pack.
I need to start off by saying that AC/DC ranks pretty high among my favorite bands, and that’s why I bought this game. That being said, band specific track packs are very polarizing: you either like pretty much all the songs, or you might like none.However, unlike the country track pack, I can see people playing this game for the challenge, as some of AC/DC’s songs can be fast with a lot of notes. While a higher difficulty isn’t a bad, this does cause a problem with the song order. See, they were arranged to preserve the live concert experience, so the songs aren’t put in order of difficulty. Thunderstruck (one of the songs I’ve had the hardest time with) starts things off, instead of something easy like Money Talks. Also, since this is a live recording, even if you are familiar with the songs you might have difficulties with subtle changes (particularly if you’re singing).
One more issue that might come from the fact that this is focused on a band is that the difficulty the remains pretty consistent. In other Rock Band games, individual instruments have their own difficulty curve, so no matter what you’re playing, as you play, you get better. In here, there are no real mountains to make valleys, and the hardest song for one instrument tends to be the hardest song for another. Other than that, it’s pretty similar to the Country Track Pack: it’s very bare bones, but if you’re an AC/DC fans who likes to play Rock Band, than this is for you.
The Rock Bands Track Packs were definitely a neat way to tide you over between major game releases, and I really do like how they’re standalone games. The country track pack has a really good selection of songs for its theme, however it could be argued that you might be missing your target demographic for this reason. The AC/DC one hit that mark, but it made me realize how much variety having other bands adds to the game play. Now when I was writing this I questioned if it was fair to give these games scores, as with collections, it’s the songs that decide if you’ll like this game. But, since these are standalone games and I can still judge them on how they handle, increase in difficulty and other such elements, so  I still feel just in giving them scores. The Country Track Pack is a good mix for country fans, but that’s it. The AC/DC Track Pack offers songs for AC/Dc fans, a decent challenge, knows its audience more and uses more Rock Band elements (like most of the songs having an ending bonus). I give the Rock Band Country Track Pack 8 and the Rock Band AC/DC Live Track Pack 9 levels out of 10.