Recently, Phoenix contributor Mitch Krpata expressed some concern about Rock Band 2 on his personal blog, Insult Swordfighting. To summarize: Krpata was concerned that a sequel to Rock Band coming less than a year on the heels of the original would function more as an expansion pack - meaning plenty of new songs, venues, and character customization options, but few genuine innovations. As such, the whole thing could be downloadable (a sentiment I agree with.)
Today, the AV Club's Chris Dahlen (also a one-time contributor to the Phoenix) reports on a visit to Harmonix that resulted in some hands-on time with the game. And while he does describe some neat things, he also doesn't completely allay the fears expressed by Krpata and others.
Rock Band 2 does feature some almost necessary refinements, like customizable setlists, online tour mode, and non-linearity. And the drum lessons sound really cool. It will not, however, feature any user-generated content, which is a bit of a disappointment, particularly considering that feature's existence in Guitar Hero World Tour.
Harmonix's Greg LoPiccolo did tell Dahlen about something else cool, though, that would enable up and coming independent bands to use the game as a platform to release their material to the world:
"We have a very ambitious indie initiative that’s cooking now. It’s
not really ready for any detailed announcement. But long-term, we see
that as a significant component of the Rock Band universe, that gets
used actively by the independent music community to debut new material.
We think that it’s an ideal way for people to explore new music."
Now that is an idea with potential. That could be a real boost to both game and band. And it sounds preferable to the idea of millions of teenagers trying to create "TEH HARDEST GUITAR SOLO EVAR OMGZZ!!1!", which is what some (okay, me) believe GH:WT's create-a-song will result in. Contrary to popular belief, writing a song isn't exactly easy, and there's only so much you can do with a five-button guitar. So, despite surface appearances, it's possible that Harmonix is ultimately taking the better path here. That said, LoPiccolo's statements also would seem to suggest that none of this will be ready to go when this version of the game launches. Presumably we'll hear more about this and other things at E3, though.
None of this changes the central concern - that all of this would
be almost preferable as downloadable content. If for no reason other
than to allow people to say "thanks, but no" to the long-rumored appearance of Linkin Park. And perhaps the most disappointing news? There still won't be any Zeppelin.