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Unboxing 'Rock Band 2'

Checking out the drums, guitars, and songs from Rock Band 2.

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Mock rockers around the country will be warming up their fingers this week for Rock Band 2, the sequel to last year's hit music game. Both Rock Band and rival game Guitar Hero are banking on high-power holiday entries, with competing set lists of classic and new rock, from The Who to Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix to Metallica.

We got our hands on the new Rock Band 2 game disc and hardware, and gave the setup a quick run-through (purely in the name of journalism, of course).

It's worth noting that in fact, it's the Guitar Hero franchise that gets the biggest upgrade this year, with Guitar Hero: World Tour (expected in October) adding drums and a microphone for the first time, while Rock Band 2 is mostly content to make some general improvements to its existing peripherals.

The new drum kit looks almost exactly like last year's, but has a wireless connection (removing the need for a separate USB hub) and the drum pads each have a thick rubber cover. The original Rock Band drum kit had hard plastic pads, which made a fairly annoying clacking sound when hit with a drum stick. As a result, many users either bought after-market rubber dampening pads or even glued cut-up mouse pads on top of the drum surfaces. The new wireless drum kit also has a reinforced kick pedal with a metal plate on top. The original one was known to snap in two occasionally under the heavy feet of overenthusiastic gamers.

The new guitars are finally wireless on all the major platforms (last year's Rock Band guitars for the Xbox 360 required a USB connection). While keeping the Fender Stratocaster branding, they're cosmetically different, with a traditional sunburst design that will be familiar to real-life guitarists.

After setting up the drums and guitars, we whipped through a few songs as a test drive. The interfaces, menus, and basic gameplay seem very similar to the original Rock Band game, and the secret code for unlocking all the songs (without playing through the game's story mode) is even the same as last year's.

The game includes around 100 songs on the disc itself, and publishers EA and MTV Games promise a steady stream of new downloadable material throughout the holiday season and into next year. The game disc ($59), drum kit ($89) and wireless guitars ($69) will all be available separately this week, with bundles coming sometime in October. Of course, anyone who shelled out for a full setup last year will still be able to use their old hardware with the new game.