There’s simply no escaping the unstoppable juggernaut that is the modern rhythm/music game. While the genre has existed for many years, it was with the arrival of Guitar Hero and latterly, Rock Band, that the masses took notice. With fake plastic instruments to hand, would-be rock gods the world over freed their inner metal monsters, and the face of gaming hasn’t been the same since. Love them or hate them, they’re here to stay.
Luckily, I’m a fully paid up member of the armchair rocker society, and, while I love the guitar action the games produce, it’s the drums that I’m more at home with, an experience that both RB and GH deliver with huge amounts of enjoyment, so much enjoyment that I’ve since started to play the real drums.
Still, while I’m now eager to play for real, I still regularly venture onto RB and GH, and have a wail of a time. So, when Konami, the granddaddy of the rhythm game, announced it was going to return to the forefront of the genre with its own take on the format, I was suitably pleased, hoping that we’d get another well-produced and slickly put together title. Oh, how wrong I was…
Rock Revolution is the name of Konami’s foray into the world of GH and RB, and it’s perhaps one of the most ludicrously poor and haphazard games I’ve ever had the misfortune to play. In fact, I find it hard to believe a company with the calibre of Konami could even begin to think about releasing such a shoddy effort.
I should probably start with the core problems of the game, with the music selection being of particular importance. The game features over 40 titles, and the track list does actually feature some great inclusions, such as Korn’s Falling Away From Me, Metallica’s Am I Evil, Detroit Rock City by Kiss, Run To The Hills by Iron Maiden and Walk by Pantera. This all sounds great, until you realise that almost all of the songs (bar a couple) are covers, not the original recordings, and to be frank, not particularly good covers either. They’re not awful, but just can’t cut it when the competition has full track lists of master recordings. Granted, this is perhaps not entirely Konami’s fault, as many bands will be tied into deals with EA and Activision, but you do get the feeling that the company didn’t really try.
So, what about the all-important instruments? Well, that’s the kicker. Rock Revolution doesn’t actually come with a guitar or microphone (in fact, the game doesn’t feature a vocal option at all), but, strangely, it can be purchased with its own drum controller. However, said drum set has, apparently been designed by someone who’s never even seen a real set of drums, let alone played them. I could be wrong, though; they may have just been on hard drugs at the time.
The design is, quite simply, horrendous, with no thought spared for any realism, or natural drum playing. All the pads are flat on the unit, even the cymbals and hi-hat, meaning it’s practically impossible to play as you should. They’re also all different shapes and sizes, adding to newcomer’s confusion. This abnormal layout is just plain wrong, and results in pure frustration for anyone who’s played similar games before. They also sound terrible when struck, much louder and jarring than ether the GH or RB offerings.
The drums do actually allow 5 or 7 lanes, which seems like a good deal, until you realise that one lane is used for the bass drum (instead of the tried and tested bass drum marker used by RB and GH). The red pad, used in other games as the snare, is actually the hi-hat (which is usually yellow), and due to the unit’s design, it’s almost impossible to cross stick, leaving you to play the hi-hat with the wrong hand. On-screen, each drum is represented by a different, non-standard colour (silver and purple?!) and the bottom of the chart not only has the different colours, but each indicator is a different shape. This all contributes to a headache inducing, confusing mess.
Thankfully, you can use drum sets from GH and RB, which should help remedy the situation somewhat, but because of the non-standard, bonkers colour-coding, you’ll still find the experience lacking, and a letdown.
Quite why the devs deemed it necessary to deviate from the now standard and familiar system used by other games is not clear, but in doing so, they pretty much destroyed Rock Revolution‘s appeal for would-be drummers.
Luckily, the guitar aspect of the game is far better, partly as you have to use an existing controller from RB or GH, and partly as the devs haven’t played with the formula too much and have kept the same note layout and colours. Instead of the 3D aspect of the note charts used in other games, RR instead uses a flat, vertical chart (this also applies to drums). This isn’t the best option, but once you get used to it, isn’t all that bad. You still have to wonder though – why change it?
Another problem lies with the actual note charts themselves, which aren’t as well arranged as either GH or RB, and some songs feel totally unintuitive. Compared to the tightness of the placement in both RB and GH, RR comes a cropper. Some tracks are better than others though, and there are actually a few songs that offer quite a decent challenge, and feel as if you’re playing the song to some degree.
The basic gameplay elements seen in RB and GH are present in RR. Keep playing the correct notes and you’ll amass a combo and increase your multiplier, earning you higher scores. Do well for long enough and you’ll build up your star power, which can be released for even greater points. Play well and the crowd will love you, but keep messing up and you’ll crash and burn and be booed off stage. It’s all familiar stuff.
Graphically RR isn’t bad, but is nowhere near as good looking or appealing as RB or GH, with totally uninteresting character design and some awful on stage animations. In more than a couple of songs I thought the lead singer was reciting a science lecture rather than belting out a rock anthem, as they were stood perfectly still and showed no emotion whatsoever.
There are several modes on offer, including quick play, career and multiplayer. Career isn’t great, and certainly not as enjoyable as RB2‘s offering, although it does include some varied challenges for variety. I seriously doubt multiplayer will take off as no one will want to play it instead of the competition, pure and simple.
The game does have a slight trump up its sleeve though, in the form of a music creator. This is undoubtedly the game’s only highlight, and it actually not that bad. Unfortunately, the interface is a bit of a mess, and will no doubt infuriate some users. GH‘s music studio is a far superior option for those wanting to create their own tracks.
As you can clearly see, I’m no fan of Rock Revolution. All in all it’s a stunningly poor release from a company that really should know better. It’s almost as if the folks at Konami are blissfully unaware of the existence of RB or GH, and are still stuck in the 90s. It’s dated, poorly conceived and the cover-laden music selection is a real problem. I’d even go as far as to say that this isn’t even worth a bargain bin purchase. If you’ve played RB and/or GH, avoid RR like swine flu. If you’ve never even seen, let alone played, a rhythm game, then go buy either RB or GH instead. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.