Rock Band Blitz Review
You can’t keep a good plastic guitar down.
Since the Music genre is dying a slow death with each day that goes by, Harmonix looked for a way to breathe some new life into it, instead of just releasing Rock Band 4, trying to force people to buy new plastic instruments and figure out how to make the game better than the last. What they came up with is Rock Band Blitz; a new, fast-paced, arcade game that’s not just about hitting the right notes, but about beating the high score.
Forget what you know about Rock Band, because Rock Band Blitz throws most of it out the window and turns the rest of it on its head. Instead of playing with plastic instruments, you use the standard controller. Instead of playing only one instrument, you play them all. Instead of trying to hit 100% of the notes, you use power-ups to increase your high score. It sounded strange the first time I heard it too, but the more I played it, the more fun I had. Before we get into the whole controller situation, let’s take a look at the gameplay and soundtrack.
Similar to previous Rock Band games, each song in Blitz is played in vertically scrolling note patterns, but instead of just one instrument track on the screen, you have all of them including the guitar, bass, drums, vocals and even the keyboard if the song features it. The goal is to play the correct notes for each instrument as you increase its multiplier, switching back and forth between instruments to increase all of them, which will increase the overall multiplier cap at each checkpoint. After each song you will earn Cred (EXP) and Coins. Cred is used to unlock new Power-Ups, which are then bought with Coins before each song. Power-ups come in three forms: Overdrive, Note and Instrument.
Overdrive power-ups are used once you hit enough glowing white notes to initiate Overdrive, Note power-ups are scattered throughout the track for extra bonuses and Instrument power-ups give you extra points when playing a specific instrument. As awesome as the power-ups are, the downside is that they are pay-per-play, which means you have to buy new ones before each song (unless you didn’t use them on the last song), which really sucks if you don’t have any coins. However, even if you can’t afford a power-up before a song, Blitz mode is always available. As you consistently hit notes you’ll fill the Blitz meter and once it’s full the track speeds up and you earn bonus points for every 10th note you hit in a row. It’s not quite as good as having a few power-ups but it’s better than nothing when you’re broke.
One of the most important parts of any Music game is a great soundtrack, and while I don’t like the majority of the songs in Blitz, it does have some really cool features to make up for it. Not only does it come with 25 new songs from artists such as the Foo Fighters, Kelly Clarkson (I’m sorry, but there’s nothing rock about Kelly Clarkson), Elton John, Blink-182, Living Color, Iron Maiden, My Chemical Romance and Soundgarden, but it’s also compatible with every song that’s ever been released as DLC (3500+ songs), and all the songs that you can export from almost of all of the previous Rock Band games. You can’t export songs from Rock Band 3, but RB3 fans aren’t getting left out as the 25 new songs from Rock Band Blitz can also be played in it, so RB3 owners could look at this as a 25 song DLC pack at a much lower price. So even though it only comes with 25 songs, when I loaded it up for the first time, I instantly had over 200 songs ready to go.
Take a look at some of the Power-ups in the game in the video below.
When Harmonix first announced that you would use a regular controller instead of plastic instruments in Rock Band Blitz I wasn’t all that excited because I love my plastic guitar and have never found it very fun to use the controller while playing a music game. Even though it doesn’t feature the exact same gameplay as the three previous Rock Band games, I was still a little worried about how much fun it would be to use a regular controller. Once I actually played the game I was right to have been worried, as it wasn’t as much fun, and I found it awkward to use a regular controller. I just couldn’t get used to using the controller, so I had an idea. I went down in my basement and dusted off my trusty Aerosmith guitar (from an unnamed rival franchise) to see if I could get it work with Blitz. After going through the controller settings I found that using the Typewriter configuration it would allow you to press A and B to hit the notes and I knew I was on to something. Sure enough, once I started a song, the guitar worked! Pressing the green and red fret buttons worked just like pressing A and B and the D-Pad worked to switch from track to track. Now, we were in business.
Using the guitar to play Rock Band Blitz was not only much easier and comfortable for me, but it was way more fun. There’s just something about playing a plastic guitar that I find particularly entertaining and can do it for hours. It’s not exactly the same as you don’t have to strum the notes, but my fingers just work so much better with a guitar than my thumbs do using the analog sticks, which is the default controller setting. Even using the other controller presets it just wasn’t working nearly as well for me, so the guitar it is. Now this is tricky from a review standpoint because Harmonix didn’t create the game for the guitar, but rather the controller which I didn’t particularly enjoy, and if the guitar hadn’t worked I wouldn’t have had as much fun as I did. Does that mean that the game isn’t as good? Should I hold it against them?
In the end I based my decision to not hold this against them 100% because the game offers more than one controller preset so it’s your personal choice which one to use, there are other games that let you use more than one type of controller, and the gameplay was the same with either controller. There are always going to be people who prefer one way over the other and with Rock Band Blitz I prefer to the use the guitar over the controller, whether it was meant to be played that way or not. You don’t have to do much to get the guitar to work and from what I’ve heard there are plenty of people that do enjoy using the controller in Blitz, so it may just be me, which isn’t necessarily Harmonix’s fault.
Rock Band Blitz does not feature any standard multiplayer or cooperative modes, which is a bit unfortunate as I think it would be pretty fun to play with some friends, just like the previous Rock Band games were.
That being said, you can challenge an oppponent to a Score War which gives both of you three days to play the song as many times as you want and at the end of the time limit the player with the highest score wins. The winner earns extra Cred and Coins, while the loser only earns a small amount of both. The problem I have with Score Wars is that your opponent is always random and there is no way to challenge one of your friends unless you login to the Rock Band World facebook app, but that feature should have also been included in-game as well. I don’t have anything against them having a facebook app, but I don’t like when I’m forced to use it for certain features that should be in the game as well.
Rock Band Blitz creates a fast-paced, musical frenzy that can be addictive, challenging and quite fun. Even though I didn’t like using the standard controller and preferred using the unofficially supported plastic guitar instead, the core of the game (minus the lack of local or online multiplayer) is the same high-quality that we’ve come to expect from Harmonix at this point. Even if you never play Rock Band Blitz, buying it for $15 would save you $35 compared to buying all of the songs for Rock Band 3 individually at $1.99 a piece. That’s a pretty good deal if you have Rock Band 3 and still enjoy pretending to be a rock star.