On one of the hottest days of the year in the summer of 2005, I travelled for four hours in a cramped mini-bus to see my favourite band of all time perform live at the Milton Keynes Bowl. That band wasn’t Green Day, but Jimmy Eat World, who were supporting alongside Hard-Fi and Funeral For A Friend. Even so, I’ll happily admit that Jimmy were outclassed by Green Day in all respects, and to this day remain one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live. The atmosphere in the bowl that evening was unlike anything I’d ever experienced at a gig before, or since. The power that Billie Joe Armstrong commanded over his audience was truly something to behold. Few bands are as captivating on stage as the trio that rejuvenated punk rock.
With Green Day: Rock Band, Harmonix has captured that same energy and emotion the band brings to their live performances. The very same gig I visited in 2005 is one of three shows the game has recreated, and they all look and feel incredibly reminiscent of the real thing. After Beatles: Rock Band last year, Green Day might seem like a strange follow-up act. While The Beatles transcend generations of music lovers, Green Day are very much a band for younger rockers, and certainly don’t have the same reputation as John, Paul, George and Ringo. That said, they suit Rock Band perfectly, and each and every one of their songs feels like it was written with the rhythm action genre in mind.
Unlike Beatles: Rock Band’s linear, story driven career, Green Day allows players to choose from The Warehouse (1999), Milton Keynes (2005) and the Fox Theatre Oakland (2009), with various set lists on offer at each. Any of these venues can be chosen at any time, creating a more free form band experience. Although the player now has more choice over their career, the sense of progression previous games achieved so well is lost. It no longer feels like you’re working towards an end goal; especially since you can play huge, sell-out gigs from the word go.
I’m sure you don’t need me to explain the mechanics of the rhythm action genre (if you do, Google is your friend), but it’s worth noting what new features Green Day brings to the series. The track list is obviously the most important change to the game, which spans Green Day’s 23 year career. Unfortunately, there are very few tracks from Insomniac or Nimrod, with a much greater emphasis placed on the more recent albums. While I have no gripes with the decent selection of American Idiot songs, there’s far too much from the recent 21st Century Breakdown album, which was – to many fans' ears – a big letdown.
New character models and venues are vital in giving the game its identity too, and it carries the same flair and visual charm as its predecessors. Billie Joe Armstrong, Tré Cool and Mike Dirnt all look fantastic, and although they might not be as iconic as the Fab Four, Harmonix has done a great job in bringing them to life. The way Tré Cool gives a cheeky look to the camera, or Billie Joe urges his audience to clap along, is hugely entertaining. Depending on the venue, the characters wear different costumes and sport different hair styles, reflecting the band's image at that point in their career.