Christmas coming to us a bit early this year it seems.
So there’s this little group you may have heard of. You may have thought to yourself, “They need keyboards. They need harmonies. They need RB3.”
And now they have it. HMX will give it to us one more time.
In not one, but TWO packs.
Queen Extravaganza Pack 01
Queen RB3 Enhanced Pack
+ = pro-guitar/bass tracks available
As you can see, the first pack is new stuff (mostly), and the second is upgraded stuff (upgrades denoted by “(RB3 version)”). If you’re not sure what “upgraded” entails, I refer you to this post, the first to introduce “upgraded” DLC. But here’s the high points:
* Updating songs adds keyboards and harmonies, where present.
* The “RB3 version” of the song is $2, whether you bought it first time around or not.
Obviously the cost is a rather hot button issue, but remember that you don’t have to upgrade; existing songs will continue to play as they always have with your standard guitar/bass/drums/vocals parts. Each person will have to decide for themselves whether or not it’s worth $2 to them to add in keys and harmonies.
For me? For Queen? It’s a resounding “YES.” With one very notable exception, which I’ll get to momentarily.
Now to the songs!
Let’s start with the new stuff. At first, given my state of tired and the guessing game my husband had me play to figure out the new songs, I admit that I was a little disappointed. My cloudy half-asleep brain was grabbing blindly in the fog to snatch the songs that I most wanted to see; I gave up after about fifteen minutes of being dead wrong in every instance. What did get picked initially left me a touch cold, but now I’ve woken up more and thought about these choices, I’m feeling much better. Yeah, it’s not “Don’t Stop Me Now” or “Let Me Entertain You” or “Bicycle Race” (I really love Jazz) or “Brighton Rock” or “Radio Ga Ga” or “Stone Cold Crazy” or even “Spread Your Wings” … but it’s Queen and really you’re hard pressed to go wrong.
Probably the choice of new songs that disappointed me the most was “Hammer to Fall”. It’s a good song and all, but much more a “straight” rock song from Queen, and in my opinion there are ones that do it much better. Still, it’s probably the most accessible song from a new pack which consists largely of deeper cuts. I do like the song, and very much so. Really, there’s not much to not like here. It’s very anthemic, and in an interestingly dichotic way in that the music makes you feel like it’s a call to arms, whereas the lyrical content is really more about the inevitable loss of any battle you fight. Thinking on it, my lukewarm feelings toward “Hammer to Fall” for Rock Band likely stem more from my own immersion in Queen’s catalogue, which makes it my issue alone. There may not much here that’s overly challenging, at least not as compares to other Queen songs, but the song is solid and should still be fun to play.
In complete contrast, I’m really happy to see “Keep Yourself Alive” in the list for next week, as I pegged it as a top Queen choice to be in Rock Band back before we even knew the full setlist for the first game. Upbeat with simple but engaging harmonies, a smoking drum solo, smooth cool bass doing its own thing, and the very essence of Brian May’s guitar dripping from every note. Gameplay-wise, like “Hammer”, this one won’t be out to break you, but each instrument has its place and shines. I suspect this will be extremely satisfying every time you play it.
“Now I’m Here” is a personal favourite (I also really love Sheer Heart Attack), and I’m extremely interested to see how they chart the vocals in the beginning of this one. Two Freddies to start? Seems the best course. Anyway, this song is just fantastic, and the exact type of Queen song that I most wanted in the game: musically intense and interesting. However they do it, this one will be awesome for vocals. And seriously, I consider myself a plastic guitarist first and foremost, but I cannot wait to tear this one up on drums. Probably the new Queen song I’m most excited for.
Doing a 180 we have “Play the Game”. I’ve just never been that big into this song for whatever reason. It should be a toughie to play though – we’re looking at devil tiered harmonies here for sure. Very strong vocals and keys on this one. Just as a song, it never clicked with me for whatever reason.
Now we get whiplash as I spin around back to the other direction and get really excited about “Tenement Funster”. I was so surprised to hear that it was coming for DLC, I at first thought I must’ve been thinking of the wrong song. But no, here it is! A special treat indeed to get a Roger Taylor song, and this one was probably his best. It’s gritty and powerful, as are most of Roger’s, with a thread of youthful rebellion. Listening to it now with an ear toward RB3, I again have to say it’s a good choice. The guitar and drums usually drown out everything, but there’s a constant piano banging going on there, and some seriously fun harmonies too (“young and you’re CRAY-ZEE!”). A left of field but exciting choice, even if you know there’s no way it’s going to just magically become “Flick of the Wrist” afterward (and then magically become “Lily of the Valley” … but man, wouldn’t that be freaking awesome??)
And with that, we’re technically done with the new songs, however there are two songs added to that pack in the form of “We Are the Champions” and “We Will Rock You”, which previously appeared in LEGO Rock Band. They are, hoewver, the “RB3 Versions”, meaning we get harmonies and keys.
For “We Are the Champions”, this totally makes sense. I think when Mike had me guessing the updated songs, “Champions” was my second guess (right after “Killer Queen”). The piano is strong and center, and the harmonies got a lot going on too. As it will consistently be with “updates”, each person is going to have to decide the worth. For me, this one is an easy “yes”, particularly when you consider that “buying” it for the first time was just a fraction of the cost of LEGO+import.
But then we have “We Will Rock You”, and I’m having serious problems in justifying any extra cost for this song. Oh, I love it, sure. That’s not a question. But for Rock Band it’s like half a song. In the LEGO charting they put the “stomp-stomp-clap” in there for guitar and bass as a pity move, to give them something to bloody do for the first minute and a half. So for keys … are they gonna do the same thing? Because there’s certainly nothing else. But there are harmonies! Sure and they’re “we will we will rock you” ad nauseam. I’m truly at a loss for why Harmonix even bothered with this one, save perhaps to stem the tide of inevitable stupid from people who only want to play songs that they know, and the screaming bitchfests of people who seem to be under the mistaken impression that if you have “Champions” you must have “We Will Rock You” WHEN THEY ARE NOT ONE SONG DAMMIT STOP LINKING THEM STUPID RADIO STATIONS. Point is that I can’t think of any way in which “We Will Rock You” justifies a $2 update. We’ll probably wind up with it because it’ll be cheaper to buy the pack and get this one “free”, but if you’re cherry picking from the “Extravaganza”, skip the update here. Totally worthless.
Luckily “totally worthless” does not at all describe the update for any of the other offerings.
As each of these songs has already been in Rock Band for some time, I’ll focus on the additions that your $2 will get you: keys and harmonies.
“I Want It All” starts us out. The harmonies are very strong and crazy tight throughout, especially in the chorus. Though probably the part I’m most anticipating is the Brian/Freddie split during the bridge. The bridge is also where the keys really stand out (wherein they sound impossible), but otherwise they’re pretty much nonexistent. If you listen carefully you can hear some synth chords, and I imagine that’s probably the role that keys plays for the bulk of the song. The harmonies are definitely the main attraction for this upgrade.
Flipside to that coin is “I Want to Break Free”; harmonies here are little more than the standard backups. For keys though, there’s quite a bit going on, with a fairly dramatic opening to rhythm sections and power chords. The instrument break though, I admit I’m having some trouble figuring out which bits of that is synth and which is guitar; maybe it’ll be charted as both? Ultimately, of the upgrade tracks, I think this one is probably the weakest choice, though that’s probably relative to your skill and interest in keys. I don’t think it’ll offer too much of a challenge beyond a certain skill level, but it’s pretty constant and sounds varied enough maintain interest. (Aside: that video is made of so much wtf, but I can never get enough of how much Roger’s enjoying being a naughty little school girl.)
“Killer Queen” is a much better inclusion however, delivering strong in both keys and harmonies. The piano is as much a stand-out as the guitar here, and the harmonies thread though the whole song with the distinctive Queen sound. If you wanted an upgrade but could only get one … well I was going to say it’d have to be this one, but honestly there’s still some fantastic stuff left to talk about. But I’d definitely tie this one as a top three that “needs” updating.
What would not be in that Top Three is “One Vision”. Again I have to say that I adore this song, but as an upgrade, I don’t think it offers quite as much as some others would’ve. Keys are or at least sound to be relegated to almost an afterthought, occasionally popping out but mostly seeming to be suck on power chords. (That said, I could very well be mishearing. This song is extremely busy and very electronic. There were a couple of times where I was getting my instruments confused, so a chart review would probably be wise if you’re on the fence.) As for harmonies, there’s no shortage of them to be sure. They’re thick and full in this track, although almost constantly with the main vocal line, which should make it a little easier but still fun. I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to get this update if it was all that was offered, but it does well to round out the pack and when you consider that HMX is also bundling these packs to appeal to new players in the Rock Band franchise, its inclusion makes a bit more sense. I mean, if you like drums but don’t have the track at all yet? Here you go, you’re welcome.
Next is your no-brainer of the pack, “Somebody to Love”. It’s Queen’s gospel-style song, and that should tell you all you need to know. The fact that this song was ever released without keys and harmonies support is the real puzzle. If ever there was ever a song that “justified” the upgrade price tag, it’s this one. If you bought this song the first time and you have Rock Band 3, you already know you’re buying this again.
Last but never ever least is “Under Pressure”, and if you know me then you probably know of my love for both Queen and David Bowie and thus have not even an ounce of surprise in you when I say that I will gladly give Harmonix another two of my dollars for a properly split vocal track. Oh, wait, you want something in the song besides Freddie and Bowie singing? Okay yeah, there’s some piano in there too. Mostly you’re going to hear it in the same two notes, but dude. You get to have two people sing distinctly as both Freddie and David Bowie. Harmonix could have a bundle deal whereby I buy this upgrade and they send someone over to my house to kick me repeatedly in the head and I’d still buy it right this very second if I could. Love’s such an old fashioned word.
Even with a few bumps and a bit of criticism (and a hi-yuge WTF for “We Will Rock You” on upgrade), this is yet another fantastic week in a string of post-RB3 release fantastic DLC. Queen was pretty much my benchmark go-to group on upgrade pricing; I can’t say that every group would get me to rebuy a song I already bought, but Queen was the very first that came to my lips whenever I talked about the possibility. Now I’m faced with the reality of them, sure enough I find not even a moment’s hesitation standing between me and my wallet. Rock Band 3 was made for Queen.