The most influential band in the history of popular music was always going to be a tough act to follow. Conceived as a carefully crafted tribute to the band, The Beatles: Rock Band was crowned as one of the most refreshingly diligent music games to date, but despite it being universally praised, it was not as commercially successful as the developers had hoped. So who would you presume was going to be the next iconic group to be given the coveted band game treatment? The Rolling Stones? Queen? Iron Maiden? Nope you’re wrong, because it is in fact a band who named their most successful album after a juvenile term for fecal matter.
Many have been openly cynical about Harmonix’s decision to grant Green Day a game of their own. Afterall, going from the Fab Four to three middle-aged degenerates who once sung about profound topics such as masturbation and who still think they’re 18 by wearing copious amounts of eyeliner was bound to scorn some. And yet it actually makes sense.
Love them or hate them, there’s no denying that Green Day has a massive following of troubled teenagers and youthful adults alike, and are most notable for their sizeable influence during the punk rock phase of the 1990s. From a commercial standpoint, Green Day is far more relevant to current consumers in today’s music scene, so there is a higher potential for game sales. But does this latest Rock Band incarnation give you the Time of your Life or does it trail into a putrid pile of Dookie?
Whereas The Beatles: Rock Band presented the Fab Four’s rise to fame through an elaborate narrative that gave you a truly in-depth and unique insight into the band, Green Day’s approach is much less ambitious. Instead, you play through a setlist of 47 songs divided into three distinct eras of the band’s discography, namely 1994’s breakthrough Dookie, 2004’s rock opera American Idiot and 2009’s anthemic 21st Century Breakdown.
Each era is represented by a small selection of venues – Dookie’s era is situated in a low-key warehouse setting representing the band’s early basement grunge days, whereas the remainder of the track-list plays out in a set of more grandiose, real-life stadiums as the band reaped in mainstream success.
Milton Keynes Bowl is the scintillating set-piece for tracks from the American Idiot-era, which represents the band’s first foray into headlining a stadium tour in 2005, and the Fox Theatre in Oakland is the setting for songs lifted from 21st Century Breakdown, which happens to be the first venue the band performed the album at. It’s unfortunate that there are only three venues available however, as you will soon crave for some variety after continuously playing in the same surroundings.
Having seen the band perform during their 21st Century Breakdown tour last year, I can vouch that Green Day: Rock Band replicates the ambiance of a Green Day gig particularly well, with stadium pyrotechnics and crowd interaction implemented to great effect. It’s a far cry from The Beatles’ vivid dreamscape sequences, but it achieves its desired effect nonetheless.
Each band member’s on stage antics have also been faithfully recreated thanks to the wonders of motion capturing, from frontman Billie Joe Armstrong’s snarls to Tre’ Cool’s animated drumming performances. While the character models look a tad basic, they are instantly recognisable, and as each era is completed the band receives a notable visual transformation representing the period – Billie Joe goes from blue haired renegade rocker to emo superstar in an instant. In fact, the presentation as a whole is unreservedly Green Day, right down to the slick menus that closely resembles various album artwork.
Wonderfully, the three aforementioned albums are available to play in their entirety, building on from Rock Band’s continuing push for delivering full albums. This is with the exception of 21st Century Breakdown however, which criminally requires you to purchase the previously released DLC content if you want to own the remaining half of the album.
Those pining for more of Green Day’s vintage works may feel left out, since the focus is really on their contemporary offerings, but all of the band’s major hits are duly present in this compact package. It’s just a shame that Insomnia, Nimrod and Warning, the band’s follow-up albums between Dookie and American Idiot, appear all too sparingly, with just 7 songs in total including Geek Stink Breath, Time of your Life and Warning.
Then there’s the initial independent records 39/Smooth and Kerplunk which don’t even get a look in at all, but then this isn’t surprising given their obscurity. There is another downside too, and that is the ludicrously enforced censorship found in a number of tracks, which can really disrupt the flow of a song. Still, at least there is the option to export every song to Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and the upcoming Rock Band 3.
The comparatively narrow focus on the three most notable albums and lack of any insightful narrative cripples the career mode into a less compelling experience overall when compared to its predecessor, playing more like a glorified track pack than a compassionate homage to the band. You just cannot shake the notion that Green Day: Rock Band did not receive the same ample attention to detail that The Beatles received in spades.
Another gripe is that the simple song structures can harm the enjoyment of actually playing the game – playing hordes of monotonous power chords doesn’t make the guitar portions particularly fun when applied to a video game, for example. While this can be largely blamed for the genre itself, many of the songs simply don’t feel satisfying to play as a result, particularly if you only have a passing interest in the band.
There are certainly a few standout challenging tracks to master (the endurance test that is Jesus of Suberia is a definite highlight), but it’s a fairly easy ride overall – if anything, you will more than likely end up with chronic repetitive strain injury from the samey [sic] strumming. A similar concept broadly applies to drumming, and Billie Joe’s vocal range isn’t the most diverse, despite the fact that the vocal harmonies from Beatles: Rock Band make a return.
Bonus photos and video content featuring live performances of the band are also unlockable for the fans, but they are only accessible by completing separate score challenges, meaning you will have to repeat the same setlists multiple times if you want to complete the career mode and also unlock the bonus content. The live performance videos serve as a nostalgic look back at the band in its heyday and are a welcome addition for the hardcore demographic, even if they have probably already seen them all on YouTube several years ago. Again, Green Day’s extras pale in comparison to The Beatle’s myriad of exclusive content.
In the end, Green Day: Rock Band delivers precisely what it says on the tin: there may be a shortage of extra material and detail, but the hardcore Green Day enthusiast will still be overjoyed at the prospect of playing the best the band has to offer on an unwieldy plastic instrument. For casual listeners however, this might be a bit too much Green Day to stomach, a fact that isn’t helped by a diminishing difficulty level and sometimes unengaging song structures. But let’s face it, if you still enjoy Rock Band and you’re a manic Green Day devotee, then this will be an instant no-brainier. And if you fall into the latter, then you wouldn’t have bothered with reading this review anyway.
The likenesses are instantly recogniseable, but there is a sore lack of variety when it comes to the venues.
|How does our scoring system work?|
It's the same tried and tested Rock Band gameplay you've grown accustomed to over the years, but with Green Day in it. Whether or not Green Day's song structures are well suited to a music game is debatable, however.
The songs sound exactly as they should, and the novel crowd touches evoke the lively atmosphere found in a Green Day gig.
With 47 songs, Green Day: Rock Band contains more than enough material from the band to satisfy the fans, but the focus on the more recent albums may deter some.
As a band tribute, Green Day: Rock Band falls considerably short of The Beatles: Rock Band’s lofty ambition and execution, but hardcore fans of the band are safely catered for by its mammoth bulk of musical content spanning Green Day's most notable hits.