If you manage to get the band back together, you'll find that multiplayer is the star of the show. Aside from being able to hold quick jams with people online, or face off in one of two challenge modes, there's the Band World Tour that simulates a group of like minded musicians on their rise to stardom, from two person duos to four player power bands. There are list songs to play like in solo mode, but in addition to stars and money, you'll earn ever increasing fanbase, which will drop should you fail on a tune. There are also set lists where you face random tunes or songs of your own choosing, picked from lists you've unlocked in this or any of the solo modes. Some of these are challenges where you earn your band a van, a manager, and other goodies. You can even create your band's logo in the tattoo creator, which will be plastered all over your venues. To play those big gigs, however, you'll need to earn stars and fans to get your boot in the door. Rocking the house down unlocks bigger and better arenas to play with more and more perks. Sadly, this can't be played online, but it still works as the ultimate party experience.
The visuals of Rock Band are rich and varied, keeping the general aesthetic of cartoon mixed with realism of Guitar Hero II, while discarding much of the colored lights for a more down to earth look. Crowds are full of life, swaying to the music and singing along, but nothing matches the showmanship on stage. Your personalized avatars will be rocking together and leaning in for the perfect camera shot, while every strobe light and camera cut is timed in sync with the music. From synchronized jumping, to cowbell banging, to crowd surfing, the action in Rock Band doesn't let up until the song ends, though you'll likely miss most of it while staring at the notes to be sure you don't miss your cue.
Rock Band can't be played with the standard controller, so let's talk about the hardware. The microphone seems of pretty decent quality that feels right in the hand and carries your voice on a long, long chord. The guitar is a step up in looks from the GH models, like something that belongs in an actual music store instead of the tots section of Toys R Us. The fret buttons are recessed into the neck of the guitar, which makes it much easier for me to slide my hand along and nail that pesky fifth note. The strum bar, however, is questionable. While I can generally hits notes faster, it no longer clicks, which was helpful to me in counting off the notes in rapid passages. Also while mine is still rocking, there have been a number of reports of the strum bar breaking after continual use, and while EA's return policy on it has been great, it's a little disappointing they opted for such a flimsy mechanism. A few drum kits have also come out broken right out of the box, but this seems far more rare. The drum kit itself is massive, with four big pads to wail on, mounted smaller xbox controls for ease of navigation, a sturdy kick pedal, adjustable height, and even holders for your drum sticks. Just don't play it late at night if you don't want enraged neighbors.
Rock Band's biggest problem is the high cost of entry. When $60 games cause people to grumble, $170 is a lot to ask of anyone. If you're timid about the investment, however, you can buy the stand alone game, and pick up the Xplorer guitar controller cheap if you don't already have one (the GH3 works also). The xbox headset can be used in place of a microphone, so you can already experience two thirds of the game already. Then later if you really think the drums will add to your jam sessions, you can pick up the individual set when it's released, or you can pass the stand alone game off to a friend, and finally take the plunge on the big set. With so much on disc content, and plenty of downloadable content being rolled out, Rock Band is an investment that will keep you and your friends rocking for a long time to come.