Rock Band Blitz Review

By Miguel Concepcion - Posted Aug 27, 2012

Rock Band Blitz is a spin off to Harmonix's Rock Band series, and is a downloadable title that doesn't let players use Rock Band instruments. The goal is the same: play well on multiple music tracks. The twist is that you have to perform as a one-man band.

The Pros
  • Compatible with over 3500 available Rock Band songs
  • Requires a level of strategy not seen in Rock Band or Guitar Hero
  • New found replay value in even the most familiar Rock Band songs
The Cons
  • Online connection required to use power ups
  • Incompatible with Rock Band 3 disc songs and The Beatles: Rock Band
  • No difficulty settings

Rock Band Blitz Review:

Many didn't anticipate it, but the likes of Rhythm Heaven Fever to Dyad have proven that 2012 has become the year of the music game. From Theathrhythm Final Fantasy to Sound Shapes to PixelJunk 4AM, these music-driven titles range from the classic rhythm game to those where actions have musical consequences. So it seems fitting that this year also sees a new release from one of the more familiar names in music gaming, namely Rock Band. It's not Rock Band 4 nor is it a game that would make you dust off your plastic instruments.

With 25 songs out of the digital box and at a reasonable price of $15, the downloadable Rock Band Blitz might merely seem like a stripped down version of previous Rock Band games. It's actually more than that; while it's addicting in its control simplicity, it's also a music game that requires strategy not seen in previous music instrument-based video games.



It’s Been Such a Long Time

The gameplay has as much in common with the console Rock Band titles as much as it does with the portable Rock Band Unplugged and Harmonix's earlier efforts, Amplitude and Frequency. You hit notes like in any Rock Band game but since this is a single player game, you cannot merely focus on playing the most challenging instrument to score well. A multiplier is assigned to each instrument and increasing these multipliers depends on tending to all the respective song's instruments.

Within each song are various checkpoints and it's there that new multiplier benchmarks are set, determined by the instrument with the lowest multiplier at the time the track passes the checkpoint. This is important because each instrument can only go up three multiplayer levels in each section.

Rock Band Blitz uses the regular Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 controllers. By today's standards, using only five buttons in Blitz is positively simple: two buttons to switch tracks, two to hit the left and right notes on each track, and another button to activate power ups.

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These power ups are key variables in helping Rock Band Blitz become more than just an enhanced score attack game. They add another layer in scoring well and can mean the difference between earning an extra 50,000 points or being just another player in the middle of a song's leaderboard. The '2X' power-up is a multiplier to add on top of the existing multipliers in the game. An equally useful power-up is an A.I. bandmate that can play on one track while you focus on others.

Other power ups such as a note-hitting pinball (which you can continually deflect) or a bomb require more finesse and familiarity with a song's layout. You can also toggle a power up that multiplies points on a specific instrument, helpful if you want to take advantage of the drum intensity of Duran Duran's 'Rio' or Nine Inch Nails' 'March of the Pigs'. Adding further milage to the game is the fact that it'll take many hours before you can unlock all the power ups. One minor drawback is that these power ups are only available when you're online so the benefits of practicing is limited if you have a bad connection.

Rock Band Blitz

Living In The Limelight

The trick that Rock Band Blitz pulls is by breathing new life into the over 3500 songs that are compatible with the game. Its multiplier benchmark system ensures that you'll score poorly if you stick with just one instrument. A single song in this game presents a wealth of choices and forces you to reanalyze a song you might know from muscle memory having played over a hundred times in past Rock Band games.

At times, it may not be worth it to max out the multipliers on all the instruments and instead focus on an note-intensive drum section that can yield a lot of points. Some songs like A-ha's 'Take On Me' and New Order's 'Blue Monday' have significant sections where an instrument or vocal isn't used, so it often pays to plan ahead and play those tracks early (where possible) to establish a high benchmark.

Just like the 3500+ songs, the 25 tracks included in Blitz (23 new to the series) do not all use the keyboard tracks. This is fine since four tracks for one person is more than enough to work with. There's so much going in fact that Rock Band Blitz doesn't even offer a range of difficulty settings to choose from before each performance. It's a passable issue since the true challenge lies in mastering the multipliers and using the best combination of power-ups. On the downside, songs from Rock Band 3 [Editor’s Note: This applies only to the songs from the physical disc, not DLC songs] and The Beatles: Rock Band are not compatible with Blitz.

Rock Band Blitz

Wanted Dead Or Alive

With such a heavy emphasis on scoring, Rock Band Blitz is also one of those rare games where you'll be checking leaderboards often, especially when it comes to songs that you and your friends own. This addicting competitive aspect is driven home with a real-time progress bar that shows you how behind or ahead your are from your friends' score as you're playing your current song. Furthermore, the adversarial Score Wars works as a 'throw down' mode where players challenge each other with added stakes through social visibility on Rock Band Blitz's Facebook integration.

The background visuals of Rock Band Blitz are themed as a road journey to a music venue. They're all urban themed whether it's traveling through streets alongside parks or on elevated train tracks. These backgrounds aren't especially interesting, which is okay since you have more visually intensive matters to attend to. Each instrument track has its share blooming light and other effects to stimulate the pupils without distracting you from hitting notes. If you find yourself playing a dozen or more songs in a row, the perpetual stream of notes might make you feel like you're hitting pins in a psychedelic music box.

Unlike say, Burnout: Crash, Harmonix managed to deliver a downloadable standalone game befitting the series name that it spun off from. Rock Band Blitz is actually not a standalone game in the purest sense since it can utilize and benefit from thousands of songs. Considering this game spun off from a series that rewards diligent accuracy, the studio should be applauded for delivering a title that encourages strategy and a mild form of improvisation while still being a worthy Rock Band game.