Game companies are nothing if not predictable. Once they've got a winning formula, you can expect to see it milked and imitated, usually until it's a shadow of its former self.
So far, while the Rock Band / Guitar Hero genres have certainly been milked, they show no sign of wasting away. Indeed, they seem to be getting better and better (and next week I can tell you a lot more about Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and trust me, you want to know).
One of the more interesting innovations has been the "single act" title and, after the success – and all round excellent execution – of Beatles Rock Band, it was inevitable Harmonix would find another popular beat combo who'd willingly have their back catalogue converted to console gaming.
The list of contenders was / is huge. You need, what, a fan base, at least one guitar in the band and a decent number of albums under your belt? SO you've got Queen. Oasis. The Rolling Stones. U2. Kiss. An almost infinite number of 70s and 80s metal acts. Excuse while I salivate - and worry about my fingers - for Led Zeppelin Rock Band. Perhaps more fitting for a gamer of my, ahem, maturity would be the two chord delights of Status Quo... Ho ho.
And so step forward... Green Day? Sorry? Green Day? Really?
Actually, when you think about it in more detail, Green Day is a very sensible choice. The Californian sort-of-punks have eight studio albums under the belts and a career that's spanned a remarkable 20 years (yeah, where DID it go?).
Also, for all their heavy make-up and black clothing and sticking-it-to-the-man attitude, the tunes are really quite melodic and perfect for this format.
And look at the demographic! What sort of music do a lot of gamers listen to? There we go, there's your logic right there. You might think this rules out the older gamer or makes the title a less-than-essential purchase for non Green Day fans, and to some extent you'd have a point. But you will also know more of the songs here than you realise, even it was only as background music on American TV shows.
In an entirely reasonable "if it ain't broke" philosophy, Green Day Rock Band is effectively Beatles Rock Band with a punk lite makeover and lower production values. Whether that's a financial thing or a deliberate move - we don't need those capitalist animations, dude, we're sticking it to the pixellated man - it's not a biggy and the basic details are fine. The animated band look like their breathing counterparts and the lack of fancy trimmings doesn't detract from what is, predicably, a very solid game with a structure that closely follows the Beatles' title.
Career mode is the main event, which traces the band's rise to global domination via their three biggest albums and three key venues, from grungy bar to international stadium. Rather excitingly, one of the latter is Milton Keynes Bowl: this is surely the first time anything from Milton Keynes - outside of their "borrowed" First Division football team - has ever been celebrated in a video game?
Sorry. Ex-Wimbledon season ticket holder. The bitterness just won't go away... Sigh. Anyway, play well (on lead or bass guitar, drums or vocals) and you earn stars. These, as with the Fab Four's version, unlock photos and videos and additional content, and earn you Cred points which you can spend on unlocking further challenges. As with the Beatles game, you can also score points here with vocal harmonies if you happen to have a couple of extra microphones kicking around - which you probably do judging by the sales of karaoke games. Handily, for all the band's punk attitude, the songs are actually easier to sing than you'd expect.
Handily, for the more experienced player teaming up with novices, the very handy “no fail” mode can be assigned to individual players. Given the challenge of some of the guitar lines – anything above Easy mode is surprisingly testing – this is a very good thing.
Elsewhere, it's rhythm-based genre business as usual, with a Quickplay mode, Duel and decent online play (plus a pretty good, thorough training set-up). Slightly annoyingly, there's still no Guitar Hero-esque drop in / drop out facility. I know it's not a major flaw but, as a gamer who occasionally needs to take the odd phone call, have a beer or visit the smallest room, it would be a useful addition.
- The usual Rock Band pick-up-and-playability
- 47 songs that are fully exportable (for a fee) to your other Rock Band games.
- A surprisingly decent challenge
- Is there enough here for the non-Green Day fan to shell out 40 quid or so? Possibly not.
- No drop-in / drop out facility
- Less special than the Beatles venture
The Short Version: You generally know where you stand with Rock Band games, and this one is business as usual. Green Day Rock Band is as solid as they come, decent value (if you're a fan) and a whole lot of fun.