Geek Out 

Virtual Stardom

After the release of Guitar Hero II, the series' creators, Harmonix, left the cash cow and teamed up with MTV to develop a rhythm game to end all rhythm games. The result of their efforts is the much-ballyhooed Rock Band—and while the game doesn't render the recent Guitar Hero III totally obsolete, it's still a damn impressive package.

Sadly, the game is not perfect. The biggest issue with the whole thing is that the full package costs $170 (assuming you can even find it in stock). Justification for that hefty price tag comes in the form of a set of faux drums, a faux guitar, and a microphone, and the game itself—but that's still a lot of scratch to spend on something you can't have sex with.

The addition of these new instruments, though, is also Rock Band's greatest success. Where Guitar Hero has you heroically playing guitar, Rock Band expands on that concept by giving you the chance to virtually strum, sing, or drum your way to rock stardom. Plus, if you decide you're above playing bass, you can assign any (or all) of the unused instruments to up to three of your friends. Played with more than one person, Rock Band becomes something like group karaoke, only less embarrassing.

The most crucial part of any rhythm game is always the included songs, and Rock Band doesn't disappoint in that regard. Its 50-plus songs don't quite match Guitar Hero III's in terms of number or quality, but since each track can be played four different ways, there's much more versatility. The tracks range from OK Go's ubiquitous "Here it Goes Again" to Metallica's "Enter Sandman," and after only a week of existence, the game already had more downloadable content than Guitar Hero II ever saw.

The most daunting part of Rock Band is definitely its large price tag—but if you can handle the cover charge, it's the most entertaining party game since binge drinking met fireworks.

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