Following the huge success of the first Rock Band, Harmonix began work on Rock Band 2, along with publisher MTV Games and distributor EA. It was released as a stand-alone game (i.e. not bundled with instruments) on September 14th, 2008 for the Xbox 360 in North America. The PlayStation 3 version was released as both a stand-alone game as well as bundled with the new instruments on October 19th, 2008, as well as the Xbox 360 bundle, containing the game disc, guitar, drum kit and microphone. The PlayStation 2 and Wii versions were released at later dates.
Naturally, Rock Band 2 features full band gameplay similar to that of its predecessor, allowing up to four players of different instruments to play together as a band. Rock Band 2 shipped with the largest on-disc setlist for a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game yet, featuring 84 songs, all of which were master recordings. Some notable inclusions on the set list include AC/DC's first song in a rhythm game with "Let There Be Rock" and Guns N' Roses "Shackler's Revenge," off their newest album Chinese Democracy. Purchasing the disc also grants buyers a voucher that allows them to download twenty free songs, with no additional charge.
Basic gameplay remains the same as the original Rock Band title; players play solo or as a band in order to complete songs and get high scores by hitting notes and singing in pitch to the tune of rock songs of all years and genres. Rock Band 2, however, features many tweaks to the gameplay modes.
Either as solo or a group, Quickplay allows players to play songs with ease by simply selecting songs to play off of the list of all songs that have been unlocked. Rock Band 2, however, features a way of creating a setlist of many songs to play in order without having to stop to select a new song after completing another, which allows for a quick transition from song to song. Quickplay can be played with players locally on the same console, online with players across the console's mutliplayer service, or a combination of both.
Contrary to Rock Band, the Band World Tour mode acts as both the single and mutliplayer career-like mode. Rock Band 2 no longer offers a single player mode that simply progresses the player through each difficulty of songs down the list. Instead, Band World Tour
can now be played with any combination of instruments, including a single person. The need for a band leader has also been eliminated, so any player can jump in at any time and play. The core of Band World Tour has remained in tact: players form their own fictional rock band, name it, choose a hometown from a small selection, and progress from city to city around the world as they unlock new venues. Setlists start with simpler songs, but eventually grow into long, difficult sets as the band reaches its final stages of success. Setlists also feature downloadble content, as opposed to only on-disc songs. Throughout their career, players will unlock new cities by earning new methods of transportation, staff members that help them earn more money and fans, and new instruments, clothing, and accessories for their characters that they buy with the money. Band World Tour mode is also able to be played online now, allowing for the creation of online bands, and players are also able to assign the premade characters or their own to fill in the empty spots in a band if there are not four people playing.
Another new feature of Band World Tour mode are Tour Challenges, premade setlists that have an underlying theme, such as songs from a specific decade, that players can complete to earn achievements, songs, or other unlocks for their characters.
The last new sub-mode of Band World Tour is the Battle of the Bands, which lets players compete in weekly challenges that compare their scores to others'. The challenges range from a variety of goals, such as obtaining a long streak to simply getting the highest score on the board, and also have certain requirements, like being required to have a vocalist or play on a certain difficulty. Each battle has a leaderboard that compares your score to other player's. Battles can include downloadable content, and are often ideas contributed by the players of the Rock Band community.
Rock Band 2 offers a mode in which players can attempt to teach those having trouble keeping time on the drums with a new drum trainer. It has a series of different drum beats ranging from basic patterns to more challenging rhythms, of which players can choose to play on different speeds to increase their skills, as well as a variety of common drum fill patterns. It also contains a freeplay mode, in which players can simply play whatever they want, or even play along with songs from an MP3 player or on their system's harddrive. To get the full effect of playing on a real kit, the cymbal expansions are ideal. All three modes also allow players to choose between a small variety of drum kits to "play on", including the standard Rock Band (1 or 2) kits, electronic, etc.
To help make the game more accessible to everyone, No Fail Mode can be turned on so that players cannot fail out of a song if they are performing poorly. This can make the experience more enjoyable for inexperienced players, or for anyone who just wants to play through a tough song without having to be limited to playing it in practice mode.
The Hyperspeed Mode from the Guitar Hero games is back. You can double the scrollspeed of the fretboard for all the instruments, excluding vocals. This makes the notes more spaced out as they come at you, however as a result you cannot see as many notes at a time as you could without Breakneck turned on; it's all a matter of preference.
Like its predecessor, Rock Band 2 will be available in a bundle featuring all new instrument peripherals. The new Fender Stratocaster guitar, while functioning nearly the same, has a number of improvements from the last and features a new sunburst finish. This new Strat improves on the original Rock Band guitar by having a more reliable strum bar, quieter and more responsive buttons, and a new calibration system that allows you to calibrate the audio/visual lag directly from the guitar. The guitar once again features an effects switch with five effects and the high neck solo buttons. All versions of the guitar are wireless.
The new drum kit is improved in terms of functionality by offering more responsive pads with better rebound. The pads are also quieter and velocity sensitive, meaning the volume of the notes will be determined by how hard you hit the pads. The kit also includes a new kick pedal that will be reinforced with metal plating, offering a far more reliable and longer lasting pedal. Additionally, the kick pedal can now be attached to the bottom of the drum set so that it doesn't drop when the set is lifted. Expansion plugs are also located on the back of the kit which allow you to plug in optional cymbal additions (sold separately). These cymbals can be used to play yellow, blue, and green notes, allowing up to three cymbals on a drum kit. While there is no visual indication of when a cymbal is being played as opposed to a tom or snare, players can enhance their musical experience by using their own judgment to correctly play both on the cymbals and pads. With all three colored cymbals plugged in, the yellow, blue, and green pads will act as toms during freestyle fills, and the cymbals will all act as cymbals (yellow high hat, blue ride, and green crash - players, however, can still use the green pad to hit the fill-ending crash cymbal to activate overdrive). Like the guitar, the drum kit wirelessly connects to the console.
Ion Audio has also developed a premium drum kit that can function both as a Rock Band peripheral and an actual electronic drum kit by purchase of a electronic drum module, or "drum brain." The Ion kit, like Rock Band's sports four pads and a bass pedal, as well as two cymbals, with the option of a third.
The mic offered for Rock Band 2 is the same as its predecessor aesthetically wise, however included an upgraded phoneme detector that increases the accuracy of the atonal "talkie" bits of a song's vocal part. Additionally, any microphone can be used.
All Rock Band instruments are compatible with Rock Band 2, and vice versa. Additionally, for the Xbox 360 and PS3, all other instrument peripherals from games such as Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Revolution are compatible as well. This is not the case on the Wii due to technical differences. The Lips and Sing Star microphones are compatible on the Xbox 360 via a title update released on September 25, 2009.
All 84 on-disc songs in Rock Band 2 are master recordings. Additionally, 55 songs may be imported from the original Rock Band setlist after downloading a $5 export key from either the PlayStation Store or the Xbox Live Marketplace. You may also export the 45 songs from Lego Rock Band to Rock Band 2 for $10. The exporting feature does not work for the Wii.
Bonus Artist "Bonus Song Title" - Decade
The Rock Band 2 DLC Page shows songs currently available. The official Rock Band website also contains an up-to-date, sortable list of all available songs, as well as an embeddable widget so that fans can search for specific songs. All DLC is cross-compatible between Rock Band and Rock Band 2.
New copies of Rock Band 2 come with a key that can be redeemed for 20 free downloadable tracks. They are as follows:
Rock Band 2 received universal acclaim, much like its predecessor. Much of the praise was focused on the improvements in the World Tour Mode, the excellent setlist, and the ability to create a band online. A major criticism was that the game was a little too similar to the original Rock Band, and that some of the songs were not fun to play on certain instruments.
The Rock Band Network functions as a means of players posting user-generated content to Rock Band. Although from a glance it appears to be a response to the song creation tools found in some of the latest Guitar Hero titles, RBN is an incredibly robust service. At its core, the Network allows for any music owners (be they the artists themselves or legal owners of the intellectual property) to add their song to the Rock Band store. Subscribers to the service can submit a song and create a note chart and background performance using a combination of some of Harmonix's tools, as well as an XNA development kit.
At present, the service only exists for Xbox 360 Rock Band 2 owners with a membership to the XNA Creators Club. Songs published via the Rock Band Network will be sold in the Xbox Live Marketplace as well as the PlayStation Store with a portion of the proceeds going to the music's creator. RBN has enormous potential for essentially everyone involved: Independent artists will have a way to gain exposure and profit from their music, while established, mainstream artists who somehow aren't yet featured in the game will have another method of submitting their creations.
Several artists have already announced plans to post music for Rock Band Network including Evanescence, Creed, and Jonathan Coulton. Additionally many of Harmonix's in-house bands (Bang Camaro, etc.) have gone on record saying they will be making contributions.
Gamers can only download songs released on Rock Band Network, if they have access to XNA in their country. As a result, locations such as Australia are unable to partake in the Rock Band Network at this time.
Rock Band 2 requires 6.3 GB of space to be installed on an Xbox 360 HDD.
Due to feedback and demand from Rock Band players, a star system was implemented into Rock Band 2 by a patch. It allows you to sort the songs by how many stars you have received in a song. Note that it clears the songs you have already played, so you won't see your star progress unless you play the songs again. The sorting is similar to how you sort by genre, band, etc. The patch was released for the Xbox 360 in summer of 2009 and released on PS3 early 2010.
Rock Band 2 has patched in access to Harmonix's third party content system, Rock Band Network. This was the first Rock Band title to have this feature, although it was patched in. It allows for third parties to create their own music tracks without going through a Harmonix approval process. The system has over 1300 songs available to download.