In terms of two-word phrases, there are many we could use to describe Rock Band. 'Musical genius' would undoubtedly be one - coming from the original creators of the Guitar Hero franchise, Rock Band's concept takes that single instrument framework and expands it into a massive rock experience by throwing drums and vocals into the mix. 'Awesome multiplayer' would be fitting too, because being able to gather four of your friends around for an extended drum-bashing, guitar-thrashing, vocal chord-mashing session is more fun than anyone's had since the invention of fun itself. But the most appropriate two-word phrase we can think of? Sadly, it's one that EA won't like one bit: 'missed opportunity'.
You see, reviewing Rock Band on the Wii as it is right now - namely missing a number of critical elements seen on other consoles, failing to work with the already-available Guitar Hero III Wii guitars and coming out just two months before the seemingly superior Guitar Hero: World Tour - leaves us with a serious dilemma.
The problem is, we love Rock Band. Seriously, truly, deeply love it. Or at least, we do on the Xbox 360. It's excellent fun, has a perfectly balanced difficulty level and makes for wonderful (if slightly drunken) evenings in with our friends. And yet as trusted reviewers, it's our job to tell you when a game isn't worth the price being asked for it, and to prevent you shelling out on something that ultimately isn't going to deliver. That's why, at a potentially whopping £140, we've got no choice but to admit that Rock Band on Wii just isn't worth the outlay.
Paper, Rock, Scissors
The reason why that's so difficult for us to say is because deep down, Rock Band Wii is still a brilliant game. Conversely though, it's a brilliant game that's not as brilliant as it should be for so much money. The vast majority of that is because Rock Band on Wii, modelled as it is on the equally-lacking PS2 game, is essentially a castrated version of the vision Harmonix originally created. For reasons that aren't quite clear (we can only assume it's down to lack of physical space on the disc), half of the decent elements of Rock Band have been stripped out here and that leaves the experience feeling decidedly light.
For example, are you eager to spend ages poring over your rock icon as you customise their clothes, hair, facial features and extensive range of tattoos? Well, you can't - the option to create your own characters has been taken out. Fancy going online and rocking out with your friends, simply because getting everyone together with all the kit is a pain in the backside? Nope, sorry, that's gone too. And as for World Tour Mode, which saw you and your friends playing a huge number of songs as you travelled the virtual world, earning fans and generally having a ball? Forget it.
Sadly, all that leaves us with is a straightforward set-list of 67 songs split into varying tiers of difficulty for each instrument, a couple of fairly average two-player competitive multiplayer modes and, of course, the chance to play any song in Quick Play with up to three friends in tow. And yes, 67 is a very specific number, because there's no downloadable content either. The additional nine European songs aside (five of which you won't know because they're in either French or German), you won't see any of the 200+ additional songs available on other consoles. Damn.
To be fair, it's still a very robust package when compared to, say, the original Guitar Hero game and there's no denying that even with all these elements missing, Rock Band still offers a great deal of enjoyment for those who aren't fussed about the bigger picture. But is that really enough? We don't think so. That Guitar Hero: World Tour is only just around the corner only serves to make Rock Band seem even more inadequate. What, No Encore?
True, Activision's effort will certainly be just as pricey - there's no avoiding that when you combine the extent of the peripherals with the way that the genre is currently being milked for all its worth. But even so, it appears to do most of the things that Rock Band doesn't, such as online multiplayer and character creation, and then throws a really in-depth Track Creator on top of that as well.
As it stands, Rock Band's belated European release feels like a rushed and overly-blasé effort on the part of EA. It could have just jumped straight to the superior Rock Band 2 instead of releasing an inferior and downright lacking effort like this. Instead, we're left pining for what could have been and impatiently awaiting the arrival of the next iteration of Guitar Hero. Disappointing, EA... very disappointing indeed.