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Green Day: Rock Band (PlayStation 3) artwork

Green Day: Rock Band (PlayStation 3) review

"Some of that personality is censored, unfortunately (or fortunately, if you're of the proper mind). When Harmonix released The Beatles: Rock Band, the company had the luxury of working with musical selections that the Vatican itself has endorsed. Green Day, in contrast, is comprised of three band members who like to talk about procreation in its most vulgar terms and who frequently protest organized religion and politics."

Until I played through Green Day: Rock Band, I didn't fully appreciate just how much of Green Day's music I enjoy. I'd listened through most of their albums a few times, but something had never quite clicked. Green Day: Rock Band changed that, and for that reason I consider it a success.

Like The Beatles: Rock Band before it, Green Day: Rock Band eschews the multi-artist approach to the rhythm genre that has produced some of music gaming's most endearing releases. Instead, every song on the soundtrack is taken exclusively from Green Day's library of music. While some people might not consider Green Day the logical progression after The Beatles--and may even find the choice of artist insulting--the fact remains that there are a lot of fans who have been rocking out to Billy Joe Armstrong's compositions for around twenty years now. Some of the people who play and enjoy this game might not even have been born when the group began touring.

Green Day: Rock Band caters mostly to the younger generation, which means that it doesn't always feel as comprehensive as The Beatles: Rock Band did with its beginning-to-end look at Britain's finest. There's nothing available here from Green Day's early Kerplunk album, for instance, and even some of the premier tracks from 21st Century Breakdown, the band's newest studio release, are missing in action. Their absence can likely be blamed on the fact that such songs are and have been available for purchase on the Rock Band store for months, but the lack of content from the Kerplunk album very likely comes down to a perceived lack of interest. Green Day didn't truly break through to the mainstream consciousness until Dookie made itself impossible to ignore.

What the omissions wind up meaning is that the points in its history where Green Day had the most impact are energetically represented in the video game, but other songs that made a splash at the time of their release (including the eternally endearing "Good Riddance") now find their influence minimized. A better sense of place and time would have been most welcome. Even the video content that players can unlock by unlocking and completing challenges doesn't help a lot, since there's a lot more concert footage than there is interesting stuff like the clips from MTV that show the Dookie-era band members being interviewed in their makeshift tour bus.

If such content isn't always as effective as perhaps it could have been, though, at least it's more enjoyable than the two-minute interview with Aerosmith that was passed off as a series of interviews in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. Green Day: Rock Band also does a better job of making it feel like you're watching one of several actual concerts throughout the band's career. If you actually take some time to watch the stuff that's happening on-screen as you strum on your plastic guitar, you'll probably be impressed by the close-up shots of your band members romancing their microphones, drumming like crazy or rushing the audience. They have personality.

Some of that personality is censored, unfortunately (or fortunately, if you're of the proper mind). When Harmonix released The Beatles: Rock Band, the company had the luxury of working with musical selections that the Vatican itself has endorsed. Green Day, in contrast, is comprised of three band members who like to talk about procreation in its most vulgar terms and who frequently protest organized religion and politics. That's not very Catholic of them. Rather than leave the music intact and earn an "M" rating, the developers made the tough choice and included white noise where you'd typically hear the profanity. I'm not sure how that decision helps anyone, but maybe the ESRB knows best?

Whatever the case, censorship isn't new to this type of game. The good news is that the only thing you really have to do without for this newest Rock Band title is the cursing. Everything else that you know and love is still here.

Perhaps the most welcome element to return is the variety of difficulty levels. The "Easy" setting provides a safe environment where failure is impossible even for the most novice player, while at the same time providing five-star rating scales so that amateurs will be tempted to practice until they improve. That system also rewards players with unlockable content so that players will feel inclined to keep trying even if they don't have to. "Medium" difficulty settings remove any safety nets and require the player to press more buttons, which can sometimes prove too much for someone like me. I have short, fat fingers. As much as I love a good rhythm game, I doubt that I will ever manage a perfect performance at that tier. The "Hard" and "Expert" settings, meanwhile, can bite me.

Multi-player options add a welcome competitive element to the experience, and can do so even if two players are unmatched. It's possible for individuals to choose difficulty levels independently of one another, a handicap of sorts. If two people are playing with guitars (though drums and microphone are also supported), one gamer will be assigned the standard guitar portion and the other one will handle bass guitar. As far as I could tell, which section goes to who is determined at random, though I could be wrong about that. It's a fair setup that makes the game easier to enjoy in a group setting. If you find yourself playing with a total noob, he can either select the "Easy" setting to avoid getting disqualified, or you can occasionally bring him back into action over the course of a performance as you build up a high enough score to activate an Overdrive. That's a nice touch.

Green Day: Rock Band ultimately doesn't feel much like the sort of game that even needs a review. It's a Rock Band game with Green Day music. If you've played previous installments in the series and you're happy with the songs that are included on this bundle, that's all that you really need to consider. If you haven't tried the Rock Band franchise in the past but you're tempted to do so now that so much Green Day music is collected in one place, well, don't fight the temptation. Give it a try and you might be surprised. You might just might have the time of your life.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (December 14, 2011)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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