It’ll probably come as a massive surprise to many, but stands as the finest Rock Band release yet. It (obviously) doesn’t feature the most diverse selection of tracks, and it isn’t quite as overwhelmingly polished as The Beatles: Rock Band was, but the visuals have taken a surprisingly hefty leap in quality, and Green Day’s largely punchy back catalogue of abrupt punk-pop keeps the experience from becoming even slightly tiresome. It really accentuates the core appeal of the Rock Band franchise, and whether you’re the kind of person who wants to go solo in order to rinse the game quickly to gain Achievement points or Trophies, or are simply looking for the next bundle of content for your next Rock Band house party, this is a formidable proposition either way.
What it does best is to completely nail the exuberance and energy of the band’s live performances. The fab four were uncannily reproduced in their game to be sure, but there was a certain stiffness to their execution, and here Green Day have been fully motion-captured (albeit by a trio of actors who directly imitated them) and the results are extremely impressive, with each performance differing vastly from every one of the others. Fully mo-capped stage divers also materialise frequently, and although their appearances are occasionally hilarious, they never distract. This is easily the most vivid approximation of a band in action that any music game has yet pulled off, and it endures as a genuine coup.
Harmonix have also definitely scored another palpable hit with the music itself. Whilst the Beatles game never tried to undertake the fruitless task of being comprehensive (and instead appeared to be tailored – skillfully – to the whims of the band and the development team) does feel genuinely extensive, even though tunes from the band’s first two albums are completely absent. The group’s transitional journey between their three ‘big’ albums is expertly conveyed by the art direction (which both recreates Green Day’s perpetual stylistic transformation as well as expertly depicting three very different venues, one of which is fictional) and in addition to being music that will appeal much more readily to Rock Band’s primary demographic than the Beatles’ did, its brevity does truly bring out the best in the Rock Band format.
Fans of the band will probably have already picked this up, but those who exist out of the band’s loop (or even those who are resolutely staunch haters) will find much to enjoy too. Those who aren’t familiar will probably be surprised not only by the quality of much of the music, but by how much of it breaks through the band’s perceived pop-punk boundaries. Whilst Rock Band: The Beatles sometimes felt like a history lesson that wasn’t primarily designed with the player’s enjoyment to the absolute fore, the Green Day iteration is an excellent exemplar of precisely what made the series so compelling in the first place. It’s down to the looks, it’s down to the brevity of many of the songs, but it’s more down to the quality of Green Day’s back catalogue than to anything else.
Sure, some of the songs teeter a little too close to the brink of heinous prog-rock (like the lengthy – but excellent – Jesus Of Suburbia) but they never come close to undoing the tone of the whole experience, which has all the aggressive, smash-mouth immediacy of punk music itself. The peripheral-based music game genre – in its current incarnation anyway – may not have the blistering mass-appeal that it used to, and with the enticing shake-up of Rock Band 3 hovering just around the corner, this may be the last of the old-school Rock Band games to arrive before the format drastically evolves. If so it’s one hell of a finale, and such is the quality of everything in this truly excellent package, don’t be surprised if you end up joyously hurling your murdered preconceptions out of the window early, and find yourself clamouring loudly for an encore.