Rock Band might very well be the best co-op game available today. There, I said it. I wanted to avoid all possible hyperbole, but the fact is that my previous statement could be true. As I discovered this week, Rock Band has some serious co-op chops.
The central thing that makes video games fun is the fact that they enable you to do things that you couldn't do in real life. I will (likely) never race a BMW M3, or fight off the Covenant. However, thanks to video games, I can at least simulate that experience. However, the great thing about Rock Band is that it (and music games like it) bridges the gap between the video games and real-life. You aren't just hitting a button to make music appear, you are actually playing a (rough) analogue of an instrument. That is what makes music games (and Rock Band in particular) so brilliant. I know that Rock Band is not the only game of its kind, but it was the first game to emulate a...well, a rock band. But something else about the game made it stand out. Let me preface my remarks.
I've had plenty of free time this past week and spent most of it playing with my friends. There are three of us, me and my two buddies (who are also brothers), so some co-op games are a no go. We needed a four-player co-op game, and Rock Band fit the bill. However, we had a few variables to take into account. We only had one working controller (the reliable X-Plorer from GHII), and the guitar was the strong suit for all of us. Also, none of us could sing that well. I was the best candidate, only because I listen to a lot of music. But then, Rock Band worked it's magic.
While one of the brothers went to get some food, I decided (on a whim) to try vocals. One of the brothers, who is a guitar/gaming savant, backed me up on guitar. And a crazy thing happened: I was decent at vocals (even though I have at best an OK voice) and had a ton of fun. Then, on another whim, the other brother decided to try drums,even though he didn't think he was that good. And with that, the supergroup "Three White Dudes" was formed.
I actually love to sing, but I really don't have a great voice or even a decent range. However, I signed on to the be the lead singer of Three White Dudes, so I had to try. The cool thing was that my knowledge of music lyrics and pitch helped me a hundred times more than a good voice would have helped me. And so, the first sign of Rock Band's brilliance was revealed: you don't have to be a good singer to have fun and do well in Rock Band. The second sign of Rock Band's brilliance was followed shortly afterward, as our drummer, who didn't think he was that good, actually did decently, better than I could've hoped to play. So, after a few songs, our group was actually rocking. And, we were having a blast!
It didn't take us that long to function as a band. We chose our songs based on what we were all good at. We skipped songs that were as of yet too hard for one of us, and jumped on songs that we knew we could rock at. Also, we developed our own styles as bandmates. I became particularly good at rap-style songs, like "Epic" and "Sabotage." Our drummer also became very good at drum sections with few bass beats, and our guitarist became great at conserving star power so that he could revive us if we failed. Amazingly, even though we were just playing some video game, we became a band. We decided to choose fans over money, picked our style of music, and congratulated each other after a particularly good jam session.
There was one final observation that I made while playing the game: you don't have to play on Hard or Expert to have fun and function as a group. For example, our group ran the gambit. Our guitarist played on Expert, I played on Medium, and our drummer played on Easy. We all played on very different difficulty levels, and all had an equal amount of fun. In fact, I would wager that the drummer and I, the two with the least skill, had the most fun.
My three "signs of Rock Band's brilliance" essentially center around the idea that you don't have to be great at something to have fun. My knowledge of music helped me more than my ability. Our drummer did his best, and had a blast. And, regardless of how good or bad we were, we were able to work together and have fun. Rock Band is a decent analogue to real rocking, and it even does things better. You certainly spend less money, and unlike in real life, if one of your bandmates is only so-so, you can still rock together (and you don't have to replace him/her with a better guy just so you can make $$$). Based on my experience and my "three signs," I feel comfortable saying that Rock Band is the best co-op game of this generation, and one of the best of all time. Plus, I had a massive amount of fun playing a video game, so that's gotta be good, right?