Challenge Savant and why Rock Band 2 is my GOTY

I just unlocked the "Challenge Savant" Achievement for Rock Band 2, an Achievement I honestly never thought I would come close to popping. This particular Achievement, the loftiest of those relating to the game's Challenge Mode requires completing 25 separate Challenges on Expert difficulty. This might not sound that hard to the truly talented GH/RB veterans, but just two months ago I was barely able to play the easiest songs on Hard mode. Seriously, even the pedestrian "Eye of the Tiger" gave me fits on Hard mode. Expert mode seemed something reserved for true musicians and thirteen year olds with six fingers. It was something I only dared glance at via Youtube.

And it was hearing that oh-so-lovely Achievement Unlocked chime this afternoon that made me realize -- and I was struggling to come up with a choice, trust me -- what my Game of the Year pick would be: Rock Band 2.

The game's greatness has been sung on this site and countless others, but allow allow me to elaborate nonetheless. And if I sound like a broken record (antiquated pun intended), well you have my apologies.

See, here's the deal with RB2. I skipped the first one on account of the drum noise, the price, and the fact that Guitar Hero 3 had completely killed my joy for music games. I played it a ton, but seldom did I turn the game off wanting more. Instead, I typically turned it off uttering a spew of profanity and coming all-too close to throwing the guitar through the television. I can't tell you how many times Kristin had asked me why I continued to play the game if it always makes me so mad. And no, I never did have an answer for her. Short-term memory loss, perhaps?

So my first reason for GOTYing RB2 is that I never turn it off frustrated. Never. I turn it off because I either have to go out, get work done, or -- and this is the most common reason -- because my arm is going to fall off if I play another song. I've played the game for countless hours (hundreds, I'm sure) since the day it released in October and the fact that I have yet to even touch the drums (one 4-song set is all I've done) gives me goosebumps. This is the game that keeps on giving. Glancing at the Achievements list, I still need to complete an "Impossible" Challenge on guitar and vocals and, assuming I ever learn the drums, them too. But then there are still so many Achievements left to go after in Drum Trainer mode, not to mention the "Steel Bladder" Achievement which I'm still trying to convince my friend Allan to tackle with me (84 songs, no pausing, no failing). So the game has staying power.

Another reason I love this game is because of the DLC. At $170, RB2 isn't cheap, but Kristin and I have probably spent at least another hundred dollars on top of that in downloadable music. No other game gets me to do this. When the DLC for GH3 came out, I balked at the price and inflexibility of the song packs being sold. With RB2 I find myself anxiously looking forward to each Tuesday to snag another song or two or ten. Combine the never-ending supply of fresh music with the ability to import 95% of the music from the original Rock Band for $5 and you have a game that we can grow with for the life of the Xbox 360.

Lastly, and this is the most important reason, the game helps you get better. Sure, most games have different difficulty settings and have a curve that ramps up gently then a bit steeper, but they always plateau. Not so with RB2. The game is the porridge to my Goldilocks. No matter how skilled I am or aren't with an instrument there is always a song or a difficulty setting that is too hard, too easy, or just right. And that's so important. With most games, you basically get to a point where everything is either too easy or too hard. With hundreds of songs, four instruments, four difficulty settings, a guitar practice mode, and the drum trainer mode, there is always something too hard and, more importantly, a way to improve. Kristin likes to just play for the sake of having fun and says she doesn't really care about getting better, but I know from watching her that she was stoked to finally be able to play on Medium mode... just as I was to be able to play on Expert. And even though some may not agree, I like to be challenged by my games but I also like for there to be an obvious path to improvement. RB2 has it in spades.

It quite literally just may be the perfect game, and it's definitely the Game of 2008.

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