Game Review: Green Day
Release: June 8, 2010
Developer: Harmonix, Demiurge Studios
Available Platforms: PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Players: 1-4, online play
ESRB Rating: T
Rock Band returns for it’s second band-centric title, bringing punk rockers Green Day to the forefront, in an almost bipolar move from the older, clean and iconic Beatles focus. 47 tracks from the band’s history, including all of their breakout Dookie and recent American Idiot (and depending on your version of the game, all of 21st Century Breakdown) are available to rock out. With guitar, bass, drums, and even harmonic vocals available, Green Day: Rock Band is the by-the-numbers approach for a band-centric title. Much like The Beatles: Rock Band, your enjoyment of the title is based purely on your interest in the band.
The music industry has definitely exploded when it comes to video games. Rock Band and Guitar Hero are in a constant struggle with gamer’s dollars, both one-upping each other (Rock Band introduced drums and vocals, Guitar Hero: World Tour followed, Guitar Hero introduced band-focused titles with Aerosmith, Rock Band brings up The Beatles). If, somehow, you’ve never played the standard gameplay of any of these titles, it’s pretty basic; you take up an instrument and try to replicate it with the cues on screen. Match the pitch and tone of the vocals, hit the notes for bass and guitar, and drum at the right times. This time, Green Day takes center stage. Play well on song, unlock credits. Spend those credits to unlock challenges, which lead to awards, such as videos and pics.
Mathematically, the game is great. Harmonix has been solid with their music games, and once you get everything calibrated, the only thing holding you back is your own skills, cultivated over years of playing the same game engine. What the game loses in customization (you’re locked into playing the game as Green Day, and you’re locked out of playing any other band’s tracks… therefore, you don’t end up with Johnny Cash and three Kurt Cobains rocking out to Flava Flav… which has happened), it gains in visual solidity. Characters don’t have the “robotic” mouth movements that other games have when forced to take any character model. Certain songs are modern rock classics, and can easily stand out from the crowd. This leads into the greatest problem that the game faces; the game is Green Day and Green Day only.
The worst thing that can be said about Green Day: Rock Band is that the title basically explains it all. Green Day, while a popular band, has nowhere reached the legacy of Aerosmith or The Beatles, other bands to receive the title treatment. While some tracks, such as American Idiot and Boulevard Of Broken Dreams are recent hits, Time Of Your Life and Welcome To Paradise are classics, the rest of the set list is mildly forgettable, at best returning to “hey, I remember that from the radio” bits. Outside of unlockable pictures and video, the game feels like a re-skin of any of the other Rock Band titles, with the character creation mode ripped out, a limited location selection, and the menus to get to the beats reorganized into sets. The gameplay is solid, true, but Harmonix hasn’t released a poor Rock Band title, and it’s almost at the point where songs feel like they could be automatically imported; there’s no new and exciting level design and no real gameplay mechanics to explore (the vocal harmonics are interesting, but we’ve seen them recently and most players will never notice, especially if they go the single-player route).
Outside of the actual gameplay, Green Day as a band has definitely changed, and the fans they had in the ’90s are not always the same fans they have in the ’10s. Many will point out that the band had a “sell out” point, when eyeliner and more pop-like songs entered their routine. Sure, every band’s fan will claim there’s a sell out movement or album or design, but repeatedly, people have brought this up with regards to Green Day in my personal research. This is up to personal discretion, of course. If you’re the kid that just heard American Idiot and decided it summed up your life, go full tilt; you’ll learn of their original hits. If you’re the adult that bought Dookie to play in your Sony Walkman, go revisit the classics and try something new.
Green Day: Rock Band is one of the few games that can be summed up as “the exact sum of it’s parts”. It’s Rock Band with only Green Day tracks, at least 47 (the “Plus” version features six more). Green Day fans will most likely love it, those indifferent to the band will not care. The game could definitely have improved a few things in the game’s unlockable setup, but the gameplay itself is the traditional solid expected from Harmonix. You’ve already decided, from the title of the game, if you’re buying it or not.