When Guitar Hero: Aerosmith was announced, there was a bit of concern about how well it would sell because it focused on one band. However, the game did a few things to try to bring in people who might not have considered getting a Guitar Hero game based on a single band. For those who are Aerosmith fans, they added extra touches like band member interviews, venues based on where the band got their major breaks, and songs that influenced the band.
Now Harmonix has done something similar by releasing the AC/DC Live Rock Band Track Pack. All of the songs are from a 1991 concert in Donington, UK. Eighteen songs have been remastered to create this package. While Harmonix claims you don’t need either Rock Band or Rock Band 2 to play as AC/DC Track Pack includes both a tour and quick play mode, is this game worth the $40 asking price?
When you load up the AC/DC Track Pack, it’s easy to tell that this is based on the original Rock Band engine. If you have seen what Rock Band looks like, then you know what to expect. One of the obvious differences is the lack of custom characters. This means you and your band have characters to represent everyone in your band, they are created at random. When I saw my doppleganger as a petite woman and my wife saw her character as a KISS star wannabe with a skull vest on it broke the immersion of the experience.
When playing a tour in Rock Band you see several different stages because you play in different cities. With the AC/DC Track Pack you get one stage. While this makes sense because you are supposedly playing the same songs as a single concert, a few more changes and a bit of creativity would be appreciated.
You may have noticed that live recordings, especially older concerts, sound like they were taped through a bad microphone. Harmonix has done a great job cleaning up the audio. The music sounds clean without any background noise. It sounds like it could have almost come from the master tracks.
As far as the music goes, if you like AC/DC, you’ll probably like the music included in the Track Pack. It’s easy for Harmonix to just pick a concert and use that track list for an album instead of trying to pick and choose songs from their library. While you get several tracks that are familiar to even the most casual music listener, some of the tracks will only be recognizable to hardcore AC/DC fans. Some of the guests who I had with me while I played this took a look at the name of the song and were confused, not having any idea what the song was. You’ll need to take this into account before you pony up the cash for the game.
While the AC/DC Track Pack is based on the Rock Band engine, most of the calibration system from Rock Band 2 has made its way into the package. I feel like the calibration is much better and creates a more accurate timing. If you have accurate calibration, the game works well. If you don’t, then the experience can be frustrating.
If you’ve played Rock Band or Guitar Hero, you know how the game plays. Markers scroll down the screen, and you strum on the guitar with the correct fret buttons held down when the markers hit the target areas. With the drums, you hit the proper drum pad. With the vocals you sing and correct your pitch with the arrow on the screen. The Track Pack works with the Rock Band and Rock Band 2 instruments, as well as the Guitar Hero III wireless guitar and X-Plorer GH II guitar. It shouldn’t be difficult to find some plastic instruments that you can play this with.
This is where the AC/DC Live Track Pack starts to fall apart. Since you can play this without Rock Band, I’m taking a look at this as a stand alone game. Some might not think that this is fair, but that is what is advertised on the box.
When you start up the game, you can go into Quickplay and select any of the songs included. They are all unlocked. That might be great for those who are interested in specific songs but don’t want to slog through some of the less popular songs. It was a bold move by Harmonix, but it was the right one. The track list includes the following songs:
“Shoot to Thrill”
“Back in Black”
“Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be”
“Fire Your Guns”
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”
“Whole Lotta Rosie”
“You Shook Me All Night Long”
“Let There Be Rock”
“Highway to Hell”
“For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”
There is a “Tour” Mode, but that title is misleading. When you start a tour you choose your band name and get your friends to choose which instrument they want to play. As I said before, there isn’t any way to customize the members of your band. Some people will be incredibly disappointed in this revelation. While the Rock Band band member customization isn’t as robust as some create-a-player systems, it does give you a good number of options to create the character you want.
Once you get into the Tour Mode, you see one song on the playlist. As you play through each song, you unlock one more song. If you were hoping to play the songs in sets, then prepare yourself to be disappointed. The Tour Mode really needed something a bit more robust than just one song at a time.
If that wasn’t bad enough, you really don’t want to play this game straight through in one sitting. Sometimes people joke (or complain) that all of a certain band’s songs sound the same. This could be said of the AC/DC Track Pack. After a while all the songs started to blur together and you got a certain sense of deja vu after a while, making you wonder if you had played the current song already.
The note charts are done well, but that doesn’t mean that they are interesting to play. The drums are fairly standard fare and match up with their difficulty level, but several of the songs seem to have the same pattern. The bass is boring to play though, as you’ll be strumming your way through songs using one fret button throughout several passages. The guitars on the other hand are a bit more difficult. AC/DC is a guitar-driven band, and a live performance usually means that there are additional solos and more impressive playing by the guitar. This might be great at a concert, but not so much when playing a game. Some songs drag on as well because of this.
Big rock endings are great in Rock Band, but there is a good balance between the number of songs that use them and those that don’t. Since this is a live concert, almost all of the songs have a big rock ending. Some are short, but others are much, much longer. There was one big rock ending so long that all of us who were playing started laughing because it seemed comical how long it was going. A little bit of editing by the Harmonix team could have created a happy medium.
There were some complaints, and rightfully so, when Guitar Hero: Aerosmith came out as a full priced game. However, you basically got a fuller expansion of Guitar Hero III without requiring GH3. After seeing the AC/DC Track Pack selling for $40, I fully believe that GH: Aerosmith is a much better deal.
While local co-op play is included, there aren’t any options for playing online. The only way to do that is to export the songs with a code to Rock Band and/or Rock Band 2. Most CD packs in the Rock Band store are about $10, so this would usually be worth about $18-20. Unless you are a huge AC/DC fan, there are only about half the songs that most people will be interested in. Instead you pay $40 and hold onto a disc where the most attractive feature of the disc, the exporting of the tracks to the Rock Band library, is no longer available. While I can understand the reasoning behind this, you have to be a huge fan of AC/DC to purchase this at that price.
The AC/DC Live Rock Band Track Pack is a bare bones attempt to cash in on the recent release of the new AC/DC album. Quite frankly, I’m quite disappointed with how the package turned out. It almost feels like this could have been an extended demo that you got as a promotion with the purchase of a Rock Band game or tracks that should be available through the Rock Band Music Store. The real onus is placed upon yourself on how big of an AC/DC fan you are. If you are a huge fan, then this might be worth the price and the trip to Wal-Mart, since they are the exclusive retailer of the AC/DC Live Rock Band Track Pack. If you are a casual fan, then you might want to hold onto your money and see if these become available at other retailers besides Wal-Mart. If you don’t have Rock Band, then don’t even bother wasting your time with this.