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Rock Revolution
Score: 15%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Konami
Developer: HB Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 3, 2 - 6 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
In a music game, music comes first. For this reason, it's a bit surprising that all of the music in Rock Revolution is performed by cover bands. It's also a bit hard to fathom that vocals aren't supported. What you do get is a collection of rock songs that haven't yet shown up in the other games, for the most part. Songs that haven't appeared in other "band" games yet include: All My Life, Heading Out To The Highway, Am I Evil?, Diary of Jane, Given Up, Stone Cold Crazy, Youth Gone Wild, The Spirit of Radio, Kiss Me Deadly, No One Like You, Holy Wars... The Punishment Due, Last Resort, Pain, Somebody Told Me, Paralyzer, Sk8er Boi, Still of the Night, The End of Heartache, We're Not Gonna Take It, White Room, Falling Away From Me and Walk. These twenty-two songs haven't been on a band-genre game before, although All My Life was on an earlier Guitar Hero (guitars only) game and, quite frankly, some of these covers are so bad that, if you're a fan of one of these songs, you may wish it hadn't been included in Rock Revolution. A prime example of this is Paralyzer, which is a perfect song for a band genre game, especially for singing... but, wait... Rock Revolution doesn't support vocals. Ah, well. Hopefully, having a cover of a song included in Rock Revolution won't preclude that song from being made available as a download for one of the other games.

The quality of the performances is, in a word, sad. I found myself scrolling down through the list of songs and being physically hurt when I heard some of the songs that I like being butchered to the point of being nigh-unrecognizable. They literally sounded like rejected American Idol tryout submissions. My wife didn't even recognize some of the songs which, again, were some of her favorites.

The graphics leave me puzzled, as well. The characters are not customizable, which in this day and age is, basically, unforgivable. Get beyond that and just play and you will be absolutely amazed to find that the audience is composed of hundreds of... the same dude, waving their (his?) arms in unison, in what looks like three to four frames of animation. I am... speechless.

With a small set of stock characters, you'd expect a bit of detail, no? No. Sorry, but once you get past the fact that the girls are dressed provocatively, you'll begin to notice that certain details, including faces, are a bit fuzzy... the first girl's shoes literally look like the straps are painted on. It's the little things that can make or break a game, at times. There simply aren't any little things that help Rock Revolution out in the graphics or sound departments.

First, there was Rock Band, then there was Rock Band 2, then Guitar Hero: World Tour. The drum kit for gaming consoles was introduced in Rock Band, with four drum pads and a kick drum for a total of five drums. Guitar Hero: World Tour cranked it up a notch by adding an additional drum pad (counting cymbals), with three drums, two cymbals and a kick drum for a total of six drums. Rock Band 2 was not to be outdone, with four drums, a kick drum and expansion ports for the addition of up to three cymbals, for a total of eight possible drums. The latest band game on the scene, Rock Revolution, by Konami, the makers of the Dance Dance Revolution and Karaoke Revolution series, pushes the envelope yet again and introduces a drum kit with seven drums. Well, it might be one less than the total possible expansion of Rock Band 2, but the Rock Revolution drum kit ships with all seven drums, by default, so there. This drum kit looks a bit funky, with its drums arranged in sort of a circle in front of you, but I can't really comment much on the drums, as we didn't get a drum kit in house for review.

There are some things in Rock Revolution that leave me, well, completely baffled. First off, when trying to go up against the established competition of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, whose latest entries both allow for four players, including a vocalist, why in the world would Konami not include the ability for a vocalist in Rock Revolution? Remember, as you ponder this question, that Konami is the same company that makes the Karaoke Revolution series, which is, far and away, the best karaoke videogame on the market, complete with fully customizable characters. Which, without explanation, is also missing from Rock Revolution. Perhaps Konami thought that what the rock band genre really needed was fewer vocalists and non-customizable characters. This comes at a time when even consoles themselves now have customizable characters to represent their owners. Again, I don't get it.

Rock Revolution does have a music editing studio, something that Rock Band doesn't feature. However, Guitar Hero: World Tour does, and World Tour has a much easier to use studio. The only thing Rock Revolution has over Guitar Hero: World Tour in the studio department is the fact that it doesn't have to make excuses for not allowing vocals to be recorded or lyrics to be entered; not even the songs included with Rock Revolution allow for vocals. Guitar Hero: World Tour doesn't allow vocals in the editing studio, due to copyright issues, but supports vocalists with its non-user-created content. The studios in these two games are different as to purpose, however. While both allow you to use them for "jam sessions," the purpose of recording a song in Guitar Hero: World Tour is to add a new song that you can attempt to play in the game and (in World Tour) you can even share with others via the online functionality, as free song downloads. In Rock Revolution, your song creations in the studio can be recorded as songs for you to listen to, instead of being playable tracks in the game. Again, I just don't get it. Instrument controllers are great for playing these types of games, but they are very awkward for actually performing music.

Konami's entry into the rock band genre is not entirely without innovation, however. For example, it features something called "Shred Boxes," which are bubbled bars that show up on your Guitar Lane and, if you rapidly strum, will give you extra points. This same concept is available for drummers, but is called "Roll Boxes." You basically perform a drum roll in these boxes for increased points.

Also, some of the challenges that are presented in Career mode are novel and interesting. Poison Notes Challenge will attempt to trick you into playing the wrong notes by throwing in notes that are visually different to indicate that they are wrong. Avoid being tripped up to beat this challenge. The Crank It Up challenge is another interesting challenge that actually moves upwards through three difficulty levels during the course of a single song. There is a prompt on-screen that indicates when you are about to crank up the difficulty level, but it can still catch you off-guard. The In The Zone challenge speeds the display of the notes up as your multiplier increases, giving each note less time on-screen before you have to play it. This means that in order to maintain a high multiplier level, you will literally have to stay "in the zone." Band Practice Challenge and Studio Recording Challenge are essentially the same thing, and both require you to memorize part of a song. Band Practice requires you to play the piece well after two run throughs, while Studio Recording requires absolute perfection. Sadly, these somewhat interesting gameplay modes are only available in Career mode and even then, as specific challenges with specific songs. These should be more readily available.

As for online play, there are modes to support it, but there simply aren't gamers out there playing this game up and playing it online. I was unable to find anyone online to play against me, in either Ranked or Unranked matches, and after playing through two records, I found that my Career ranking on the leaderboards was around 270... not to mention that there were a few pages of "0" scores down there at the bottom.

Equally deflating is the "Downloadable Content" feature. The game supports downloadable content, but there was nothing available for download, despite the fact that Wikipedia claims that there are seven songs available. It seems Rock Revolution doesn't get better... at least not as of this writing.

We were told that the game could be played with other PS3 drum kits, and, for the most part, it could. However, according to the manual, you activate your Power Meter by hitting red, purple and the kick drum pedal at the same time. This is not possible with any drum other than theirs, as purple is the color they add to the drum kit. So, know now that your score will suffer if you don't use the drum controller that is made especially for the game. Also, without that controller, you won't likely be able to work past some of the events in Career mode that require a certain target score to be achieved, as you won't be able to up your multiplier enough without the ability to activate your Power Meter.

Nevertheless, I evaluated Rock Revolution using the Guitar Hero: World Tour drum kit, which required me to set the drums to a six drum Drum Lane setting, so I won't be evaluating Rock Revolution's 7-drum drum kit's difficulty.

In general, the Beginner difficulty level is ridiculously easy, and the Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert seem to be about right on the money. That is, if you can manage to get the calibration settings right. There is an auto-calibration option in the Options menu, but it does a horrible job, in my experience. I found that I was better off using values I had gotten when I used the auto-calibration option in other games. After tweaking the calibration by hand a bit, the timing was more manageable, but still something I had to fight with.

There are some interesting challenges in Rock Revolution. Poison Notes Challenge could be difficult if you're not quick with processing the differences between the look of the notes, although the "poisoned" notes are added around the normal notes, and the normal notes use repeating patterns in most songs, making it a little easier to ignore the poisoned notes. The Crank It Up challenges are a neat feature that increase the difficulty of the song twice (through three difficulty levels, total) during the song, ramping up the challenge in the course of playing one song. Not only does the song get more difficult, but the change can catch you off guard. In the Zone Challenge is a novel twist; the rate that the speeds enter the screen increases as your multiplier does, so the better you do, the harder it gets. You literally have to be "in the zone" to maintain higher levels of multipliers. Band Practice challenge is an interesting challenge that requires you to memorize a specific section of a song during two play-throughs with the music notation, then requires you do play it well without the music notation. The requirement of memorizing the changes is a novel challenge whose difficulty will vary based on the players memorization and rhythm skills. Studio Recording challenge is like the Band Practice Challenge, except your margin of error is gone; you simply have to get it correct.

Game Mechanics:
Rock Revolution is truly a mystery. Why would someone try to go up against the existing two heavy-hitters and bring so little to the table? Why does it seem that every possible question that could have been asked during design was answered by holding a public poll and selecting the least favorite answer? Why no customization? Why cookie-cutter audiences? Why cover band performances and why, oh why do they butcher some of the songs beyond recognition? Why does this game have fewer songs out-of-the-box than Rock Band, Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero: World Tour, and absolutely no downloadable content?

Guitar Hero: World Tour ships with 86 songs - all master recordings. Rock Band 2 ships with 84 songs. So, the question has to be asked, "Why would a game step into the ring with less than half the number of songs, at a mere 41 songs - and all of them covers, to boot?!

The lack of vocal support is shocking and unforgivable. The fact that the studio feature neither creates "tracks" you can play in-game nor saves your music as an MP3 or other format for taking with you, means this feature is pointless. Rock Revolution falls a long way short of a revolution, merely managing to be somewhat revolting.

All things considered, I can't even suggest giving this one a rental. You wouldn't be able to even play it unless you already had controllers for another game and, if you have another game, I would suggest playing that instead. I have said repeatedly that I simply don't get it; my suggestion is that you simply don't get it either.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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