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Anus Mcphanus avatar 12:58 PM on 04.14.2010  (server time)
Have Harmonix/MTV Games dropped the ball with Green Day: Rock Band?

It wouldn’t be a stretch to claim that Green Day are currently one of the biggest bands in the world and have enjoyed all the success, turmoil and criticisms that come with an illustrious career such as theirs. Formed in 1987, Green Day have produced eight studio albums (not including the greatest hits and B-sides/rarities compilations), won four Grammy awards (being nominated multiple times and for many other awards) and sold over 22 million records in the US alone. A quick look at their discography which includes iconic albums “Dookie” and “American Idiot” and it’s easy to see why the band is so revered and why they deserve their own Rock Band game. Recently Harmonix has divulged information about Green Day: Rock Band including the games entire track list and the venues used within the game. Fans have praised some choices but have voiced disappointment in others which begs the question “are the fans being unreasonable and are these disappointments justified?”

Green Day: Rock Band will feature 47 tracks which include the albums “Dookie” and “American Idiot” in their entirety and together with the songs already available as DLC the whole of “21st Century Breakdown” will also be playable (the whole track list can be seen here). Any Green Day fan will champion the inclusion of either “Dookie” or “American Idiot” if not both albums. These two albums are the current lynchpins of Green Day’s career and for many, the basis of their popularity. While these inclusions are fantastic and exactly what the fans have been asking for and will probably be the reasons why many will buy the game, it’s also where the track list fall apart.

Despite the fact that Green Day rescinded and now owns the rights and master tapes to their first two albums “1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hour” and “Kerplunk” back on the 1st August 2005 from Lookout Records, there is not a single track from either album on Green Day: Rock Band. For a game that is supposed to chronicle the bands entire history this is a huge oversight. Looking at the track list, it’s not hard to argue that its skewed towards Green Day’s more recent material; a decision lamented by long term fans. One can hardly fault Harmonix for this decision as “21st Century Breakdown” has given Green Day their highest chart positioning across the globe however, this doesn’t make the move any less disappointing. It almost seems that Harmonix believe that the whole of “Dookie” and “American Idiot” are all you need for the complete Green Day experience, which simply is not true.

The fact that only 17% (8 tracks) of the songs featured on Green Day: Rock Band come from the albums “Insomniac,” “Nimrod” and “Warning” and not to mention nothing from the albums “International Super Hits” and “Shenanigans” proves that if Harmonix designed the game to be an all encompassing account of Green Day’s history, then they have provided a half hearted one. Here’s a short list of notable omissions from Green Day: Rock Band:

From the album “1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hour”
• At the library
• Going to Pasalacqua

From the album “Kerplunk”
• 2000 light years away
• Christie road

From the album “Insomniac”
• Stuck with me
• Walking contradiction

From the album “Nimrod”
• Redundant
• King for a day

From the album “Warning”
• Waiting
• Macy’s day parade

From the album “International Super hits”
• Maria
• J.A.R.

From the album “Shenanigans”
• Ha Ha you’re dead
• Don’t wanna fall in love

Other notable tracks
• The saints are coming (featuring U2)

It’s worth pointing out that all these tracks are singles, fan favourites and/or songs that Green Day play live at their concerts on a regular basis.

What’s arguably more of a disappointment with Green Day: Rock Band is the lack of venues being used in the game. The Beatles: Rock Band featured several unique venues based on real world locations (approximately one venue per five songs) and then followed up with customised dreamscapes for the period when The Beatles ceased touring. Green Day: Rock Band features only three venues despite having a similar number of tracks to The Beatles: Rock Band. These venues are “The Warehouse,” “The Milton Keynes National Bowl” and “The Fox Theatre” in Oakland California. To be frank, this is highly uninspired. While it’s reassuring to see the Milton Keynes Bowl and the Fox Theatre, Green Day have played many varied venues throughout their career and Harmonix has failed to capitalise on this and show a comprehensible account of their career.

Here are a few venues/locations that could have been used although one could argue that some of them would look rather similar:

• 924 Gilman Street
• The Boston Esplanade
• Lollapalooza
• Woodstock 1994
• Warped Tour 2000
• The main stage headline show at the Reading/Leeds festival
• The Louisiana Superdome

It’s highly disappointing to see that one of the venues, the Warehouse is a completely fictional venue. If Harmonix were willing to create original venues, then why not make more? This would give the game a much stronger sense of progression and variety throughout the career mode. The fact that there are only three venues is simply lazy.

As mentioned before, The Beatles: Rock Band features individual dreamscapes for the songs when the band stopped touring. The Green Day albums “American Idiot” and “21st Century Breakdown” are rock opera concept albums with distinct themes, characters and an overarching story and narrative. This type of album lends itself perfectly to the dreamscape styled imagery seen in The Beatles: Rock Band. Harmonix could have created truly unique and interesting visuals which follow the characters and story of “American Idiot/21st Century Breakdown” to accompany the songs from these albums. This can only be described as a colossal missed opportunity.

Overall Green Day: Rock Band still has a solid track list and while the lack of venues is a disappointment, they are just the icing on the cake. Perhaps what’s interesting is the possibility of Harmonix’s lack of focus on Green Day: Rock Band or on games that focus on just one band. While The Beatles: Rock Band sold well, it still underperformed which is unfortunate because it’s a fantastic game but perhaps this has led Harmonix and MTV games to reassess single band games and perhaps Green Day: Rock Band has a smaller budget as a result.

Harmonix are also reported to be working on Rock Band 3 and so have handed the development of Green Day: Rock Band to Demiurge studios who have previously brought the Rock Band Track Packs to retail. Does this further prove that Harmonix has Green Day: Rock Band lower on their priority list if their core team is not working on it? Does this explain the lack of extra detail and features in the game including the lack of future DLC? The existence of Green Day: Rock Band also apparently comes from the number of requests for Green Day songs via the Rock Band website. Did Harmonix think that putting the most widely requested songs/albums on a game with a few extra band related bonuses would be enough? If so, then does that relegate Green Day: Rock Band to a glorified track pack status rather than a fully fleshed out game in its own right like The Beatles: Rock Band?

There’s no doubt that fans of Green Day will still love Green Day: Rock Band for its inclusion of “Dookie” and “American Idiot” alone and casual listeners of Green Day will still find a highly enjoyable game. It’s just a shame that as it stands, Green Day: Rock Band could be so much more and the fact that there is no DLC planned suggests that it’s not the open love letter to Green Day fans that we are lead to believe.

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