Review: Rock Band Blitz
Let me preface this review by saying that Rock Band is one of my favorite series this generation. I have probably put more money into buying DLC and hours into playing it then most other games combined. So when I heard that Harmonix would be releasing a controller based downloadable Rock Band game I instantly got very excited. While I was unsure how the game would play after watching the announcement video I am happy to say that Rock Band Blitz offers great gameplay that is awesomely addictive.
Rock Band Blitz is quite a departure game play wise compared to its console editions. First of all there are only two notes per lane instead of five, a single difficulty per song, and no way to fail out. Also instead of rocking out with a plastic instrument all of the action is controlled with your regular PS3 controller. While this makes the game sound radically different one major thing has stayed the same: trying to get the highest score possible while playing good music. Instead of playing one instrument lane, such as the guitar or drums, you are in control of all the instruments and you need to switch between the lanes to try to achieve the best score. As in previous games the way to get the best score is to build up your multiplier by hitting notes, but in Blitz it’s a little different since it’s possible to go over the standard x5 multiplier and it doesn’t reset when you miss notes. But of course there is a catch. When you start a song there is a level cap of 4 for each lane but periodically you will pass checkpoints that can increase the cap by 3 above your lowest lanes multiplier. So in order to maximize your scoring potential you need to switch lanes frequently to manage your time playing lanes with lots of notes, collecting overdrive and hitting special power notes (more on these later), and increasing the multiplier of all lanes before the next check point to get the biggest level cap increase. Oh and you also need to try to do all this while not missing notes to fill your Blitz meter. Once this is filled your viewing angle changes slightly and the notes speed up but keep the same beat (similar to how breakneck speed worked in past Rock Band titles) and you will collect bonus points for every 10th note you hit. It can overwhelming at first and gets pretty hectic at times but that is all part of the enjoyment of the game and you quickly get into the groove of things after playing for a short while.
When you start the game up you are shown the recommendations screen which suggests different songs to play such as ones you have never played before, songs to play again to try to get more stars on, or songs your friends have recently played (and for you to try to beat their score). As someone who has spent a lot of time just going through a list of songs in previous titles trying to figure out what to play getting constant song recommendations is a wonderful addition. Speaking of songs, Blitz comes with 25 brand new ones ranging from classics like Great White’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy” and Queen’s “Death on Two Legs” to modern favorites like Foster the People’s “Pumped up Kicks” and Fun.’s “We are Young” (and of course Dave Grohl makes an appearance). As an added bonus all 25 songs can be played in Rock Band 3 and your whole Rock Band library sitting on your hard drive can be played in Blitz (excluding Rock Band 3’s songs for now since there has been no song export for that title yet) along with any future DLC you purchase. Blitz taking advantage of your library is great for adding value and play time to the game but one major thing is missing from this iteration: a career mode. While there is an asynchronous multiplayer mode, Blitz is still a single player game and it would have been nice to have a career mode to play through instead of just trying for gold stars and high scores.
After playing a song you are awarded Blitz Cred and coins based on your performance. Gain a certain level of Cred and you unlock new power-ups which can be assigned before a song using coins. Power-ups come in three different types and one from each type can be used per song: Overdrive, Notes, and Track. Overdrive is built up while playing white glowing notes the same way you did in past Rock Band games except instead of letting you double your multiplier for a limited time it’s used to activate an overdrive power-up. These power-ups range from having a track auto play so you can concentrate on a different one to sending out a familiar looking van down the note highway to take out gems. Scattered on the lanes are purple notes that when played activate your Note power-up, which does such things as exploding all the notes around you and sending a pinball down the highway to knock out gems that you need to switch lanes in order to keep in play. Lastly you have the Track power-ups which are mostly passive bonus that doubles the note values for one instrument. While playing good will net you a decent amount of points, taking advantage of the power-ups is the real way to earn the best scores. With 15 different power-ups to choose from you will be constantly experimenting with combinations to find your favorites and just by switching one for another you may find a big difference in the scores you can achieve for a song. The power-ups also add a lot of fun and variety to the game since different power-ups will have you playing songs differently. Because it takes coins to be able to use the power-ups though there may be times when you don’t have enough, which means you probably won’t achieve the highest score you would be able to. While that is annoying the amount of times I ran out of coins was very low, especially once I started taking advantage of the Rock Band World companion app.
Rock Band World is a Facebook app that connects to Rock Band Blitz and adds two really neat features to the game. Yes it does use the dreaded Facebook that everyone seems to love to hate and I myself had my doubts about it when it was announced, but it’s actually quite good. Also for those of you worried about spamming your friends news feeds you can customize who sees posts form RBW or have them not post at all. The first feature that it adds is goals. Each week Harmonix will be adding goals that you can join and by completing the goal requirements you will earn coins to use in Blitz. These requirements can be specific things like getting 30 stars playing 80’s songs or a bit ambiguous like having to play five specific songs that contain parentheses in their titles. Having these goals to complete each week is a fun extra way to play Rock Band Blitz and they can be addictive the same way that Trophies are. You can also partner up with friends to complete some of the tougher goals and there are community goals, like getting 500,000 stars playing Classic Rock songs, which take input from every Blitz player. While a lot of the initial goals can be completed with the base songs that come with Blitz you will need to have specific DLC to complete others so this feature really caters to those who have or are willing to purchase a fair amount of DLC. The second feature that RBW offers is the ability to set up asynchronous Score Wars with friends. In a Score War two people will try to set the highest score on a certain song over the course of a few days. This tends to lead to a lot of fierce competition going back and forth and maybe even a little trash talk here and there. The one problem I did experience with Score War though, and also the individual song leader boards, is that there seems to be an (upwards of an hour!) delay with your scores getting updated in your competitor’s game. While both Goals and Score Wars are some of my favorite features of the game I am a little disappointed that you need to use World, an optional app, in order to use them. Especially since you are recommended a non-customizable Score War, either with a friend or another Blitz player, in the recommendations tab which shows that these can be set up within the game itself.
As I said above I have spent a lot of time playing Rock Band games and, if the last few days have been any indication, Rock Band Blitz is just going to keep adding to that amount. Going back and forth on the leaderboards with friends and competing in Score Wars is a blast and is something that is going to make me load up the game regularly. The fact that Harmonix found a way to offer a fun new experience that takes advantage of the money that players have invested in the franchise is outstanding and the game really offers the most to long time Rock Band fans. I can see the game losing its addictive quality though with no career mode and without having new songs to play so people who haven’t or are not willing to purchase DLC might not get as much out of it. But really the best thing I can say about the game is that when I should have been writing this review I was playing Blitz and when I was writing this review I wished I was playing it.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Unique (and fun) twist on the familiar Rock Band gameplay
- Recommendations Screen
- All Rock Band DLC and exported songs can be played in Blitz
- Constantly knowing while playing how you are doing compared to your rival
- Score Wars and Goals offered through Rock Band World
What I Dislike:
- The fact that you have to use Rock Band World (even though it works) to customize Score Wars and access Goals
- Leaderboard delay
- No career mode