Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (reviewed)
I’m a sucker for music games and Rock Band has long been my game of choice, but to say I was skeptical about Rock Band Blitz would be quite the understatement. Luckily, Blitz turns out to be a great game, but how much enjoyment you’ll get out of it will depend on your fondness of the Rock Band franchise.
Gone are the days of plastic guitars and drum sets, as Blitz has replaced them with the standard Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 controller (similar to the games Frequency and Amplitude, also made by Harmonix). With this new control scheme comes a simplified version of what you would normally expect from a Rock Band game. Each track (drums, bass, guitar, vocals and keyboard) will feature only two possible notes that can be played at any given time. Also unlike previous titles in the franchise, you won’t be choosing just one instrument to play. Instead, you’ll be tasked with being a one person band, switching between all available instruments. You can control the game with one of four control configurations. One example (and the one I prefer) uses the left bumper or trigger to play notes on the left, right bumper or trigger to play notes on the right and the left or right analog stick to switch between instrument tracks.
With the controls figured out, you’ll get into what makes Blitz so addictive, trying to boost your scores and position yourself on the leaderboards. This is done through increasing the multiplier of each track independently. With every note you hit, you’ll score points and hitting a certain number of notes will increase your multiplier. Like in other Rock Band games, the higher the multiplier, the more points scored. By spending time playing each instrument you’ll rack up a multiplier for each, but there will always be a cap to just how high you can take it. As the song progresses you’ll reach checkpoints and these will increase the multiplier cap. If you have all tracks capped out, then you’ll increase the cap by 3, but if any track falls behind it will limit just how high the cap will rise. This adds a level of strategy never seen in Rock Band before, which is a nice change of pace that makes Blitz feel truly unique.
To help you increase your score and boost your multiplier you’ll also have a variety of power-ups at your disposal. These come in three varieties: Overdrive, Note and Track. Overdrive power-ups work like overdrive from previous games and can be deployed once you’ve built up enough energy throughout a song. These include options like doubling the amount of points you’re earning per note or having a simulated band mate play the track of your choice until your energy is drained. Note power-ups are special notes added in throughout a song that will trigger an effect, such as an explosion that will clear nearby notes. Finally, the Track power-ups are passive abilities that make a certain instrument’s notes worth more points during a song.
These power-ups are great tools to increase your position on the leaderboards, but they do come at a cost and aren’t all available from the start. As you complete songs in Blitz you’ll earn both cred and coins. Cred acts somewhat like XP early in the game, as you’ll need to reach certain levels in order to unlock power-ups. Once you’ve unlocked all of them, cred basically acts as a way of showing just how much you’ve played the game. Coins are also awarded after completing songs and this is how you’ll fund the use of power-ups. At the beginning of each song you’ll get to choose one of each type of power-up, but you’ll have to pay between 200 and 300 coins in order to use each one. One thing that should be noted regarding power-ups, cred and coins is that none can be used or earned if you aren’t connected to the Rock Band Network. So if for some reason you would want to play offline, you won’t get the full experience.
You’ll get 25 songs when you download Blitz (all of which will be instantly compatible with Rock Band 3, if you own it) and that isn’t a bad deal for the $15 price tag. The song selection is decent, ranging from pop to funk to metal, so if you’re looking for a straight-up rock experience, you might be disappointed. If you’re a longtime Rock Band fan and have previously downloaded tracks, you’ll get a lot more variety in Blitz as Rock Band’s entire downloadable catalogue is compatible. Having access to songs from other games and thousands of downloadable songs is where Blitz really shines. As someone who has far more songs downloaded than I’d care to admit, I’d imagine I could get dozens of hours out of the game without ever having to play any one song twice. If you’re coming in new to the series, there’s still plenty of fun to be had from a gameplay perspective, but lack of song variety may reduce the longevity of your experience, so keep that in mind.
This time around there is no “World Tour Mode”, which is kind of disappointing, but with the limited song selection it is understandable. There’s also no setlist option, but again, I can understand why with the way power-up selection works. It would be nice to have the ability to play through a set without having to exit to the menu after every song though. Also gone are the band performances during each song, which means no character customization. So with all that missing, Blitz basically exists just to compete for high scores, which isn’t bad, but just feels somewhat lacking.
Blitz is also a strictly single player experience, so if you’re looking for a party game, this isn’t it. Outside of competing on the leaderboards, you can challenge others to Score Wars, which are just a one off competitions to see who can score the highest on a particular song. You can also link your Facebook page with the game to keep up to date with all of your challenges, if that’s your thing.
One last issue that I feel is worth mentioning that might sway people one way or another is the lack of difficulty choice and the inability to fail. This isn’t a deal breaker because there is plenty of challenge in trying to get the best score possible, but having the option to crank up the difficulty at times would have been nice.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, if you have a collection of Rock Band songs already on your hard drive or you own Rock Band 3, then it’s almost a no-brainer to purchase Rock Band Blitz. It will not only give your DLC songs new life, but will add 25 new songs to your library. If you are more of a casual fan or new to the series, you may not get as much out of your purchase, but there is still plenty of fun to be had.