Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I don’t love Green Day. I don’t dislike Green Day, either. In fact, Green Day is one of the first bands I ever listened to that didn’t come from my parents’ music library. I had the Dookie cassette tape in fifth grade just like everyone else in 1994, and I still have plenty of songs from the band’s catalogue on my iPod. However, I haven’t really followed Green Day over the last ten years or so, and most of their newer songs are completely unfamiliar to me. Despite this, I went into Green Day: Rock Band somewhat optimistic. After all, I was really impressed by Harmonix’s last single-band game, The Beatles: Rock Band, and the franchise as a whole has provided me with hundreds of hours of entertainment. However, after spending a few hours with Green Day: Rock Band, it seems pretty clear that this band is really not ideal for its own game, though Harmonix made the best of what they had to work with.
Like many gamers, I was confused and a little disappointed when Harmonix announced that they would be following The Beatles: Rock Band with this Green Day title. Sure, Green Day has been around for two decades, and they’ve sold millions upon millions of albums, but they are in no way comparable to the legacy of The Beatles. Furthermore, a handful of Green Day songs were already available in Rock Band via downloadable content, making it seem even more unnecessary to put a full band game on the market. To the band’s credit, I did notice a progression in their music library, and there’s more diversity later in their career. Unfortunately, their early and arguably most popular songs are completely lacking in variety and depth when it comes to Rock Band.
Unlike The Beatles: Rock Band, which showcased many of the venues and studio albums the band was famous for, there are only three locations in Green Day: Rock Band. These each have multiple setlists and represent the band in the mid-1990s, 2005, and 2009, and it seems odd that there is nothing else in between. The first venue showcases tracks from their early years, including the entire Dookie album, which is sure to delight hardcore Green Day fans. Sadly, while it may be a great album to listen to, the songs don’t translate as well into Rock Band. There’s very little variety in the gameplay, particularly on the guitar. Since that’s the instrument I play the most in Rock Band, I actually had more fun with the songs from 2005-2009, even though they didn’t have the same nostalgic value as the earlier tunes did. However, this gave me a chance to really listen to songs I had previously ignored, and I definitely noticed how the band’s songwriting skills have matured over the years. Furthermore, the return of vocal harmonizing, first introduced in The Beatles: Rock Band, allows more people to play at once and adds some fun to the vocal portion of the game.
On the whole, several issues arise during Green Day: Rock Band that further made me question why the band’s musical library needed to be turned into its own game. As mentioned before, the repetitive nature of their early songs can be tedious, and the Dookie album challenge, requiring the player to complete all of the songs from that record in a row, is a bit of a drag. Other tracks have no parts for certain instruments, including one that was vocals only. Also, since many of their songs are filled with expletives and the game needs to adhere to its Teen rating, there are times when the vocals awkwardly go silent. Sure, if your singer knows the words nothing is stopping him from dropping F-bombs anyway, but squeezing a bunch of albums with Parental Warning labels on them into a T-rated game is an odd fit.
Whether you love or hate Green Day, it’s hard to argue that the game’s production values are excellent. Harmonix once again crafted this product to suit the band, and it’s very impressive. The opening cinematic is fantastic, though a bit short, and I was disappointed that their were no transitional videos between gigs. The game has a grittier look to reflect the band’s pop-punk style, and the representations of Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tré Cool as punk kids and somewhat serious adults are great. There are also plenty of unlockable extras that can be gained by completing special challenges, like videos and still photos of the band throughout the years. However, some of these bits of media were already widely available, such as Green Day’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards a few years ago. Fans of the band will really love the less familiar content, like a home video of the band in their tour bus early in their career. Overall, though, this was clearly a game crafted with care and attention to detail, and any Green Day fan should be pleased with the final result.
Ultimately, you probably already know if you are going to like this game. If you love Green Day and have followed their career from the beginning, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re a fan of Rock Band with only a passing interest in Green Day, there’s some enjoyment to be had here, but it doesn’t have the same lasting value as The Beatles: Rock Band. Unlike Beatles, however, these songs can be exported into Rock Band 2 and the upcoming Rock Band 3, though it will cost an extra ten dollars to do so (which is still less than you’d pay for 47 downloadable tracks). I still question whether or not Green Day was the band most deserving of its own game, but what’s done is done, and Harmonix made the most out of it. It may not have the legacy of The Beatles or the variety of a full-blown Rock Band title, but Green Day: Rock Band is still a very solid game that should, at the very least, whet your appetite for Rock Band 3.