Yearly installments in the music genre may be a thing of the past, but most of the world considers this a good thing. After all, besides the track list there wasn’t much all that different from year to year. Sure there have been various instrument improvements and such, but the genre has been on hiatus for awhile with only new songs to tide fans over. Come Wednesday, however, this will end and a new flurry of content will hit your consoles with Rock Band Blitz.
Blitz is not your traditional music game. In fact, it isn’t played using any instruments; it’s actually played using your controller. By default each thumbstick acts as a strum, stroke, or hit, while the triggers switch which track your playing. There’s also a scheme called “Freakie” which utilizes the triggers as note hits and instead uses the thumbsticks to change tracks. I found it more intuitive and easier to adjust to but it does limit your skill as it requires much more effort and taxes your wrists quite a bit.
You may have noticed that I said “change tracks”, and that’s exactly what I meant. Instead of sticking to one instrument, you’re allowed and encouraged to swap between all four or five of them. Each track has a multiplier which can be increased up to four times per segment. It’s a balancing act, and if you don’t reach the fourth new multiplier on each track by the time the section ends, you’ll only boost your multiplier by the factor of the lowest ranked track. For example, at the end of the first segment, if the drums are only at a 2x multiplier, but everything else is at a 4x, your max multiplier would now be six and not eight.
There are also more arcade-y elements to Blitz that come in a variety of categories. Overdrive powerups are earned by hitting the white notes that scroll down the highway, some of these are simple like the Point Doubler, while Shockwave sends a wave of energy down the highway, earning you bonus points for every note it hits. Note powerups are the rarer counterparts of the white notes. These purple notes instantly unleash an action such as Blast, taking out all the notes around it. Instrument bonuses on the other hand are rather rudimentary, instead giving you a slight bonus for a certain instrument or rewarding you for switching tracks at an appropriate time during the track.
As you complete songs, you earn both “Cred” and Coins. Cred is the equivalent of XP and is used to unlock all the power-ups in the game while Coins are used to pay per-use for your power-ups. Since these power-ups, in turn, allow you to score higher and earn more Coins, it’s a risk versus reward situation. As release date has approached I’ve noticed this system working better and better, but initially I found myself inexplicably losing coins. Even more frustrating is the fact that you don’t know when or why the power-ups you buy expire, forcing you to go out of your way to earn more coins before you can continue.
While there may not be multiplayer per se, Blitz features a mode called Score War which is sure to get competitive gamers going. Through the “Recommended” screen, you can challenge friends to these battles to see who can achieve the highest score over the span of three days. Therefore, you don’t have to be on at the same time to duel it out for hours on end. Amazingly enough, it doesn’t get old, even when you’re repeating a song upwards of ten times in a row in an attempt to make up those few points between yourself and your rival.
Of course, all of this is complete with most of the tracks that released with the original Rock Band, Rock Band 2, Green Day: Rock Band, AC/DC, downloadable content, and the Rock Band Network (assuming you’ve purchased them previously). As long as you’ve exported the songs from the previous games, just like RB3 required, you will have a tremendous amount of content at your fingertips. If not, you’ll have a decent 25 songs on your hand with a good amount of variety from Iron Maiden to Maroon 5. This alone would be equivalent to $50 in DLC for Rock Band 3, and the included songs are backwards compatible. However, since the third installment doesn’t have an export feature at the moment, none of the content from that is included.
It’s a refreshing change of pace, as it requires less energy and concentration than the series usually calls for. With only two different buttons to push, even new players can quickly learn to nail a solo and fall into that classic groove. This is perhaps where Blitz shines the most: anyone can play a song on the same level that the best players do, and do so on hundreds of tracks that you might already own (a wonderful deal, really). For someone who isn’t necessarily the best at the physical instruments, Blitz is a welcome change, that allows you to play whatever instrument you want whenever you want. You might not score the highest, but you will have fun; how long it lasts depends on the amount of money you’ve invested in the past.
Rock Band Blitz was developed and published by Harmonix. An Xbox 360 copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.