Nov 052010
Rock Band DLC

Hey folks! Looks like we’re making up for last week’s slim DLC pickings (Rush’s “Subdivisions” – which I forgot to post about, so … here you go) with a whole heaping mound of new stuff. Stuff like the three Gamestop preorder songs and a twelve pack of Bon Jovi.

Three of those twelve, however, are upgrades to the Bon Jovi songs we already have in the Rock Band library.

And there’s a bit of something you should know about that, so that’s where I’m going to start today.

As noted in the “upgrade” part, these three songs are the first to be updated to include the new RB3 features of keyboards and harmonies. HMX had said that they were going to be going back and doing this with select songs in the Rock Band library, and I was both surprised and excited to see them starting to do that so early.

I was also surprised – although less excited – to see that they were going to charge the standard DLC price for this.

That version of “Wanted Dead or Alive” you’ve been playing since Rock Band 1? It’ll cost you two bucks to add keys (both pro and standard) and harmonies to it. (And that’s me assuming there are keys in it – I can’t for the life of me remember off the top of my head, but it’s still early for me here, cut me some slack). Also it’s important to note that if you want to get the pro-guitar and pro-bass charts (an extra $1), you must buy the upgrade. So yes, “Wanted Dead or Alive” – a song you already have for the game – could conceivably cost you an extra $3 if you want it all.

***(ETA: HMXHenry has clarified and said that, going forward, you’ll be able to purchase the pro-G/B charts without updating the track itself to “RB3” level. Meaning that it will just cost you the expected $1 for those and not, essentially, $3 for every pro-guitar chart. Very good news, and will allow for quite a bit more cherry-picking among your instrument preferences.)

Like I said, this was a bit of a surprise. While HMX never said, never hinted, what their price point would be for updating older tracks, in my head I was thinking, you know. 50 cents. Since new DLC is coming out with both keys and harmonies built-in for no additional cost, I thought 50 cents seemed a fair enough starting point. But that was my ideal, and knew that if it was a buck per upgrade I’d be fine with that too.

Here it is, and it’s four times my ideal, and double my “upper limit” pre-expectation on price.

So, my thoughts on that? Well, obviously I’m disappointed. I’m also finding myself wondering exactly what is going into that pricing structure to set the cost right back at “full” again. Mike and I were talking about it this morning and his best theory is that given the file format differences between RB1/2 and RB3, there was simply no way to “patch” the old file, so they have to release the whole thing. It may also have been a decision with thought/hope to catch the attention of new fans to the franchise who may not have or could even find the older game discs. Then there’s the fact that with a small pie cut into a TON of pieces (record companies, artist royalties, publishing rights, Microsoft, chart production, etc etc), it might’ve been necessary for Harmonix to charge full price so they didn’t actively lose money on each track upgrade.

I don’t know. All guesses of course. I’m willing to give HMX the benefit of the doubt and say that while $2 may feel high for an update, it was probably the lowest price they could reasonably give us and still remain profitable – something which is very important to me if I want to keep getting games and DLC I love. Maybe they’ll explain their decision on pricing at some point. Maybe they won’t. I suppose it ultimately doesn’t matter, since the price is what it is, and all we can do now is react to it and proceed accordingly. (Though we all know that there’s going to be a very vocal contingent of the Rock Band community that’s going to take their screaming ranting into overdrive because hi, they’re already there; this is just sweet nutritious fuel.)

As it stands, this price point will definitely influence my buying decisions. At 50 cents, or even a buck, an upgrade to any song that isn’t one- or two-lightered would likely have been a given. At $2, however, I will definitely be picking and choosing.

My disappointment aside, when you get down to it that’s really the beauty part of all this: We do have that choice. “Wanted Dead or Alive” is going to keep working just fine, whether I pay extra or not. But it’s great to know that if I’m jonesing to have Sambora’s “WAHHN-TAY-EE-ED!” charted, it’s now an option.

This is what’s really important. At the end of the day, I’m all about options.

That said, I think I will not option to upgrade Bon Jovi, at least not immediately.

Luckily there’s lots of other stuff this week with keys and harmonies built right in – along with all the regular awesome – for your standard $2 price tag.

Bon Jovi – “Bad Medicine
Bon Jovi – “Blaze of Glory
Bon Jovi – “Have a Nice Day
Bon Jovi – “I’ll Be There For You
Bon Jovi – “It’s My Life
Bon Jovi – “Lay Your Hands On Me
Bon Jovi – “Livin’ on a Prayer (RB3 version)” +
Bon Jovi – “Runaway” +
Bon Jovi – “Wanted Dead or Alive (RB3 version)” +
Bon Jovi – “We Weren’t Born to Follow
Bon Jovi – “Who Says You Can’t Go Home
Bon Jovi – “You Give Love a Bad Name (RB3 version)” +
Deftones – “My Own Summer (Shove It)” +
New Order – “Blue Monday” +
Talking Heads – “Burning Down the House” +

+ = pro-guitar and pro-bass upgrade available

“Bad Medicine” is where we start this week. I’m not the hugest Bon Jovi fan in the world, but I have to admit that when they make a song I like, I really like it. So it with “Bad Medicine” (which, point of possible interest, was one of the first tape singles I ever bought). This song has just about everything you could want in a rock song, from the catchy guitar riffs and smoking solo, the dominant drum line, fun vocals – and hey, now we can consider the harmonies and keys, both of which are extremely prominent. As soon as the news about an upcoming Bon Jovi packed emerged, I hoped that this would be included. Absolutely a no-brainer purchase. Also, man, that video? Good lord, I’m 13 again.

My other “please be in the pack pleaseohplease” song was “Blaze of Glory” (which is technically just Jon Bon Jovi, but I’m not arguing). Loved this song when it came out, love it still. I like the poetry/storytelling in the lyrics and Bon Jovi definitely has the ability to pull off the soul in it. The harmonies are awesome and haunting. The assorted guitars all come together to evoke different atmosphere at key moments of the song. Plus I really loved Young Guns. My god, Keifer Sutherland’s Doc? Weak. Knees. (shut up)

With “Have a Nice Day” we’re well beyond the point where I was paying much – okay, any – attention to Bon Jovi. I’ve heard snippets here and there, but this is the first time I’ve actually sat down to hear the whole thing. And it’s not a bad song. Clearly everybody involved still “has it”. It won’t be on my instabuy list though. It’s possibly because I don’t have nostalgia talking in my ear, but I don’t feel any immediate attachment to the song. It’s solid enough and it sounds like there’s plenty for everyone to do, but now more than ever, there’s so much in Rock Band that lines must be drawn. Between the new world of keyboard, the back-library updates, RBN, and my eventual and inevitable sojourn into the world of pro-guitar, just being “not a bad song” isn’t good enough anymore. Barring interest from my husband, I’ll pass on this one.

“I’ll Be There For You”. This song … My friend Muna LOVED this song. LOVED. That’s really all I can think about when I hear this thing. Pre-teen me had no room in her hard rockin’ life for these ridiculously overwrought ballads. Admittedly, adult me is sorta still there. This song lays it on thick. The main draw for me is the harmonies, but I just don’t see me pulling this out for fun. It’s a good song if you’re into that sorta thing. I’m just not so much.

Back to the more recent stuff, we have “It’s My Life”. Although not as hard as “Have a Nice Day”, it’s a lot more interesting. As an anthem it resonates more true; maybe feeling like they aren’t trying quite so hard? (Though the call back to “Livin’ on a Prayer” is pretty cheesy, gotta say.) Overall the song comes together better for me, with no one instrument standing out especially (except, oddly, the keys), but all blending well. I’ll add this one to my buy list.

“Lay Your Hands On Me” was another not-so-much a favourite. (I think overall I just liked “Bad Medicine” and “Born to Be My Baby” and you could keep the rest of New Jersey.) That said, listening to it again, for the first time in like twenty years, it’s a better song than I gave it credit for when first released. It has a good riff, pretty damn awesome solo, catchy chorus with a call-and-response feel, moves well, and sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun to play. I originally discounted this one based on old memories, but I think I’ll have to move it back into the “buy” column. (P.S.: What is with Bon Jovi and concert videos? Jeebus.)

Next is our first updated song, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, from Rock Band 2. One of my favourite Bon Jovi songs (isn’t it one of everybody’s favourite BJ songs?), its purchase would be definite if I didn’t already have it. Given the update pricing … I dunno. I’ll go up to a “maybe”. The keys definitely have a lot going for it, as do harmonies. It’s a tough call. I think I’ll probably wind up skipping for now (unless Mike likes enough songs that the pack is the better deal) and pick it up when I’m itching for a new song to play on keys.

“Runaway” goes waay back there, but it holds up pretty well. It’s got an awesome keyboard riff, along with some impossible notes that JBJ hits at the end there, which should be great for anybody who wants the extra entertainment value of mocking their vocalist. In truth, overall, it’s probably one of the weaker songs in the pack, but the keys along with the lyrical flow and fun harmonies make it a purchase. (This video is hilariously bad though.)

Our second “RB3 version” song comes next, with “Wanted Dead or Alive” (originally in RB1). A bit more rock heresy on my part when I say that I never liked this song all that much. Obviously Bon Jovi has a keyboardist so I’m guessing that there are keys in here somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I can hear them. Then there’s the harmonies, which are prominent, yeah, but they’re so prominent that it’s pretty much a main part of the song by now. Is anybody playing this song not going to wail “WAAANTEEED!” just because it’s not charted? Plus – and this is seriously going to sound silly but bear with me here – I love the RB1 crowd singalong for this song. Since it seems like there are no singalongs in RB3 native songs, the question is, was that a design decision or necessity? And if it’s a necessity, does that mean there won’t be singalongs in the updated version? Because really, I think I’d rather have those.

Next is a song I haven’t heard before, “We Weren’t Born to Follow”, which comes from their most recent 2009 album. I really like the guitar in it a lot, but otherwise I find it falls flat. Again, it’s very anthemic, but the group has done it a whole lot better, and lots of those better attempts are right here in this pack. I don’t find a whole lot new being offered with this one. Skip for me.

“Who Says You Can’t Go Home” is another of Bon Jovi’s country-styled songs, though perhaps a bit too much so for my tastes. Again, this one falls into the “it’s just okay” zone. There’s no hook for me, not even an instrument part I can latch onto. It’s a feel-good song, but nothing special enough to make me want to play it in my game.

The last updated song, and the last Bon Jovi this week, is “You Give Love a Bad Name” (originally in LEGO RB). Of all the updates, this is the one that most calls to me to spend the money to update – but that’s purely the nostalgia/emotional pull (very strong memories with this song); I think “Livin’ on a Prayer” will offer the better update value. And if for whatever reason you don’t have LEGO RB, you have every reason to pick this up. (Of course, if you don’t have LEGO RB … seriously, just go get it. The thing’s going for $15-20 new. It’s a really cute and fun game in its own right, and you can export all the songs into RB3 for $10 more. Just get it.)

Now (finally) the three singles. As mentioned, these were given away at launch as a preorder bonus from Gamestop, but are now coming to us all.

I hadn’t listened to the first, “My Own Summer (Shove It)” by Deftones, until just now. And. Yes. There it is. So! It’s nu metal, which will start you off in the right frame of mind. It is, as such things are, a very angry song; perhaps it had a Stage Kit and tried to hook it up to Rock Band 3. I am going to assume that, being launch day bonus DLC, there are keys in here somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I can hear them. Other than that, this song lacks that necessary musicality that helps make my nu metal go down. As such, I will pass on this track.

Much more exciting is “Blue Monday” by New Order. New Order, if you don’t know them, are the post-punk band that used to be Joy Division until Ian Curtis hung himself. They helped define dance, synthpop and new wave, along with an entire decade of music, and this song will kick your ass on keys. I’ve been excited for it since it was first rumoured to be in RB3. An immediate purchase for me.

And finally we have Talking Heads with “Burning Down the House”, which is probably one of those songs that, if you don’t like it, you seriously hate it. I’m luckily not in that category, though I will admit that it’s far from my favourite Talking Heads song. While not sounding like it’ll be too much to write home about in the keys department, it has some pretty fun harmonies, and it wasn’t until listening to it again right now that it hit me how sweet those drums sound like they’ll be to play. Another one in the buy column this week.

Overall, a fantastic week of DLC. Assuming Mike doesn’t want to add anything (and going with no back-catalogue updating), I’ll be picking up: Bad Medicine, Blaze of Glory, It’s My Life, Lay Your Hands on Me, Runaway, Blue Monday, and Burning Down the House.

Plenty here though, and lots of stuff to show off your shiny new game. Like I said at the beginning, not the biggest fan, but I think Bon Jovi was a really great choice in these inaugural RB3 weeks.

  • Nova

    Ian Curtis … is he the one who sounded an awful lot like Jim Morrison?

    • Jet Wolf

      Hm, I can’t say that it’s a comparison I would make. I definitely wouldn’t mistake the two and don’t personally hear a lot of similarity.

      • Nova

        I may be thinking of the wrong person then. In all honesty, I don’t know a lot about either Joy Division or New Order, just thought I recognized the name and it sparked a comparison in my memory.

        • Jet Wolf

          Check out “Blue Monday” I linked above, that may jog a memory. Joy Division’s biggest song was probably “Love Will Tear Us Apart”.

        • Jet Wolf

          And somewhat related, a really good film I’d recommend dealing with the music scene in and around Manchester during this time is 24 Hour Party People. Great movie.

          • Nova

            Is it available on instant?

            • Jet Wolf

              I just checked, and it doesn’t appear to be, no. It’s on disc though!

              • Nova

                Yeah…but player don’t work :(

                • Jet Wolf

                  All the more reason we need to do something about that!