First, the new guitars not only look better, but they will include some welcome hardware tweaks. The new axe includes an optical sensor that will make syncing the game to your display a breeze. Rather than go through that annoying tap..tap...tap synchronization scheme, all you'll need to do is hold up your controller to your display and it will figure things out with you based on your screen's refresh rate. In addition, the new guitars have been updated with slicker fret controls that make it easier to slide from one to the other. Meanwhile, the strum bar has been tightened up a bit. No clicking, though -- the guys at Harmonix say no one "dreams of playing a metronome" anyway. A dig at Guitar Hero? Perhaps, but if you're looking for some click feedback from your controller, look elsewhere.
Rock Band 2 Hands On and ImpressionsSee all photos
Speaking of drum kits, the sold-separately and uber-tech Ion "Drum Rocker" kit was also on display. This is the same kit that can be attached to a real drum sound module for those of you who want to take your Rock Band chops and turn them into an actual, stand-alone act. The kit looks very solid, plays like a dream, and for $300 is almost worth it.
On the software side, Harmonix promises 500 songs by year-end. Song browsing has been made to mimic the current music store, and set lists are now officially a part of the game. World Tour mode adds some sim options like choosing a manager or even letting your mom set up your gigs all the while cleaning your underwear. Really. We wouldn't make that up. There are also some new venues to check out, including Tokyo and Tijuana. Finally, a "no-fail" mode has been added for those moments when you have some less-than-coordinated guests over and don't want to embarrass them. And don't forget, Harmonix has stated that "most" songs from the original game can be ported over to the new one barring any licensing issues though which they're currently working.
So there you have it, kids: Rock Band 2 in full gory glory.