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.
The game is a celebration of everything Green Day. As well as the songs, band members and Green Day branded menu screens, Harmonix has furnished the career mode with plenty of collectibles, such as photographs and video clips. Although I would have preferred a career mode that followed the band's rise to stardom, the collectibles do encourage you to play.
Just like The Beatles, this is a refined Rock Band experience that is ultimately as good as its set list. Get some musically like-minded chums together and you'll be hard pressed not to have a good time. Fast paced power-chord changes make for exciting guitar parts, and Mike Dirnt's fantastic bass-lines will have people actively asking to play bass for a change. Vocally, the track list covers a decent range of styles within the punk-rock genre. While some tracks will only appeal to those that grew up with the band, anybody will be happy to get up and sing the likes of Basket Case or Good Riddance [Time of your Life].
One of the few things that rubbed me the wrong way was the removal of swearing. Why choose a liberal punk rock band if you're going to ruin the lyrics with awkward stops? It really makes no sense to me, especially considering lyrics like "When masturbation's lost its fun" (from Longview) and other mature sentiments can still be heard. The aural 'ting' that accompanies earning a star annoyed me, too (it sounds just like my old microwave), although this is a very nit-picky point to make.
There's no denying that Green Day are a popular band, but are they the right band to front another iteration of the Rock Band series? The Beatles are an impossible act to follow in that respect, but have Green Day got the credentials to carry on the series? Has any band? And do we really want another branded Rock Band game anyway? It's always a hot topic of conversation when a new Rock Band or Guitar Hero game gets released, because games like these are so hard to review. They might be great games in their own right, but the genre as a whole is becoming so fatigued that with each 'new' (take note of the apostrophes there) game, the experience seems to lose more and more charm. It puts us games writers in a tricky position. Marking a game down simply because it's similar to its predecessors is incredibly unfair. A good game is a good game, right?
I've given this game an eight out of ten because most people have played numerous rhythm action games before. If, however, you're still eager for more strumming, tapping and singing, and you just so happen to be a huge Green Day fan, feel free to add an extra point. There's really little else to say - it's Rock Band, but with Green Day songs. If you like Green Day and you like Rock Band, you're going to like Green Day: Rock Band. Go figure.