Publisher: EA Games/MTV Games
Developer: Harmonix/Pi Studios
Release Date: May 19, 2009
Rock Band has become a very successful franchise for Harmonix. Spread out over four systems, the game has been a great way to get multiplayer cooperative gaming happening without the need to blast someone in the face with a shotgun. One of the keys to this winning formula has been an ever-expanding catalog of songs via downloadable content. Big and small name bands have lent their content to the game to create as diverse a musical soundtrack as possible. Few games could tout a soundtrack with '60s songs from The Monkees and The Zombies mixed with some '80s stuff from Blondie joined together with Nirvana and The Grateful Dead.
While this downloadable content is great for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners with either Rock Band or Rock Band 2 as well as Wii owners with Rock Band 2, Wii owners of the original title and PS2 owners are left out in the cold due to the lack of a manageable storage solution for the content. The need to please any fan of the game, regardless of the system, gave rise to the Rock Band Track Pack series, where some of the downloadable songs come together in one compilation disc. This time around, the team decided to do a themed disc based on classic rock songs, and the result is Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock, a game that can be labeled either superfluous or necessary, depending on which console you own.
Like the full games, this track pack follows the same gameplay principles that have governed the series for quite some time. After picking a song, you watch as colored bars come down the note highway. Once it reaches the bar at the bottom, you hold the corresponding colored button and strum the guitar or hit the pad if you are on the drums. If you're singing, you simply match the pitch indicated on the highway. Points are rewarded for playing the song correctly, and you lose energy for playing notes incorrectly. Lose all of your energy, and you lose at the song. If you are playing multiplayer, however, you can be brought back by someone else in your band. Fail three times in a song, however, and the whole band loses unless the end of the song is reached before the meter is depleted.
The game is built on the engine of the first Rock Band game. Everything, from the menus to the locales and the characters, are from the first title. The obvious difference here is the lineup of songs. The disc contains 20 songs from the 1960s to the 1990s, and the bands range from The Who to Lenny Kravitz to Dead Kennedys, making it a varied collection of tunes even if they all qualify for the classic rock moniker. All of the songs are also unlocked from the outset, preventing you from having to play through most songs if you just want to get a particular song.
The list of differences doesn't end with just the songs, however. For starters, there's only Quick Play available for both bands and single instruments. Considering that people just want to get to the songs immediately, this isn't necessarily a bad move. There is no online mode at all, though, so don't expect to play with or against anyone unless they're in the same room with you. There are no online scoreboards, either, so you have no idea how other people did on any song you played. Finally, there are no customization options present. Unlike the original title and sequel, you can't make up your own band, characters or even import the ones you have from those games. While this is a huge step back for Rock Band players on the current-generation consoles, those on the Wii and PS2 are used to this by now.
As many differences as there are in this title, there are still some good traits that it carries over from the other games in the series. The controls are still spot-on, and the difficulty seems balanced out no matter what level you choose. The graphics are still clean and retain the style nicely, though it still seems odd that both the bassist and guitarist in any music game don't have any straps on their instruments. The locales look great, and the crowds all seem vibrant whenever a song plays. This goes over well when you are at the top of your game since they'll start singing along. All 20 of the songs are master tracks and sound great. While the companies involved could have beefed up the song selection a little more, it's nice to see that they'd rather make sure everything is a mastered original instead of simply making do with song covers instead.
Is Rock Band Track Pack: Classic Rock worth your time and money? If you're interested in the classic rock selection, then it all depends on your gaming console of choice as well as your online situation. If you have a PlayStation 2 or Wii with no plans to upgrade to Rock Band 2, then this is a fine choice because you lose nothing and gain 20 songs in the process. If you have the other consoles and have no plans to connect them online, then this is also for you. If you have them connected online, however, then this will only be appealing if you really want to hunt down every Rock Band-related Achievement or Trophy out there, since this pack contains no exclusive songs. The score relates to a fully connected console, so if you fit in one of the former categories, then you should add a couple of points to the score.