Top Ten Week 2014 – Top 10 Rock Band Songs

Rock Band 3 CoverContinuing the theme for this week of doing countdowns each day, today I want to look at one of my all time favorite series – the Rock Band games. While the series may currently be dormant, I hold on to hope that Harmonix will bring back the games on the Current-gen platforms within the next couple years. Until then, we still have the huge music library, with tons of super fun songs to play around with. I thought I’d offer up my ten favorite songs to play. I’m looking at them mainly from a guitar/bass perspective, but a lot of these are good full band songs still.

10. RIDE THE LIGHTNING – METALLICA
Starting off with one of the oldest downloadable songs in the series, becoming available November 20, 2007. Ride the Lightning is off of the 1984 album of the same name. It’s a song from when Metallica played fast, complex thrash metal songs – this is no different. There are a couple distinct riffs that rotate throughout the arrangement, each of which plays really well with the chart Harmonix went with. And of course, smack in the middle is a kick ass Kirk Hammett solo. It’s a difficult solo to nail, thanks to the intro tapping section, but does have sections that feel super awesome to hit. The only problem at this point is that the license has run out for this track pack, meaning if you don’t already have it downloaded, you’re out of luck.

9. PEACE OF MIND/MORE THAN A FEELING/FOREPLAY-LONG TIME – BOSTON
Really cheating with this pick, but honestly, any song off of the first Boston album is a ton of fun to play. Foreplay/Long Time is an on-disc song from Rock Band, so it’s pretty easy to come across, while Peace of Mind and More Than a Feeling are still available to download. Each are classic rock standouts, with different feels to each. More Than a Feeling has a bit softer feel to it, with a good guitar lick; Peace of Mind is a bit more of a rocker, with a killer lead line; and Foreplay/Long Time is the proggiest of the bunch, with a solid bass line, tough drumming and a nice solo in it. Each song is also a challenge for singers, thanks to Brad Delp’s unmistakeable voice.

8. CHIRON – ALL THAT REMAINS
Going back to my bread and butter of Metal, this offering off of the album The Fall of Ideals is a pretty damn solid metalcore offering. With a really heavy triplet riff for the verses, contrasted with a more melodic chorus, along with a truly kickass solo, this song is pretty much a total winner for guitar players. Drummers also will be challenged, thanks to double bass drum sections – bassists and vocalists, not so much. Even still, shredding the solo is always a super awesome feeling, plus it’s still available on the marketplace.

7. WELCOME HOME – COHEED AND CAMBRIA
There are a couple Coheed songs on the setlist for the game, but in my opinion, there isn’t a more fun game than Welcome Home, which appears on the first game in the franchise. Coming from 2005’s Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV: Volume 1: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness; this is a great example of modern prog rock. The intro acoustic guitar riff is a really memorable one, and the song weaves it’s way through a few different riffs on it’s way to an epic final minute or so. The dual guitar solo at the climax of the song has some somewhat difficult licks, but when you nail them, it’s really satisfying; not to mention it’s a really awesome sounding song.

6. RAINBOW IN THE DARK – DIO
This classic from Ronnie James Dio’s classic album Holy Diver appears on Rock Band 3 – and doesn’t pull any punches. It’s got a classic main riff, solid keyboards, and one of the hardest solos on the disc. This song was in fact the last solo I needed to get to 85% for the achievement, which I finally got around doing within the last year. It’s a challenging song from start to finish – every player has a few tough spots to navigate, but guitar and vocals definitely are the stars of this song. It’s truly a fantastic song, a classic metal tune by one of the best singers ever. And since it’s on disc, it’s easy to get hold of.

5. PEACE SELLS/HANGAR 18/HOLY WARS…THE PUNISHMENT DUE – MEGADETH
Another cop-out here, it’s hard to point to one Megadeth song and say it’s the best one to play. So I picked three. Peace Sells is off of the album Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying, and appears on Rock Band 2 – it’s a really well known song, thanks to the intro bass line being the theme for MTV News back in the 90s. As is the case with any Megadeth song, it’s fast, has a crazy solo, and requires a lot of precision to nail. My other two picks, Hangar 18 and Holy Wars…The Punishment Due both appear on Rust in Peace, and are also classic thrash metal tunes. Hangar 18 also appeared on Guitar Hero 2, and is loaded with solos, especially in the second half of the song. Holy Wars really features two distinct sections – each with a different feel – and a crazy technical solo.

4. INDESTRUCTIBLE – DISTURBED
Maybe not an obvious pick, but this song off of the album of the same name really has all the parts that makes for a great Rock Band song. The verse riff is a heavy hitter that translates really well to the buttons on the controller. Drumming has a great chart, that keeps you pounding the bass pedal, while also moving all over the drum heads. And to top it off, there’s a killer solo in the middle of the song. Disturbed might not be the most obvious choice for a technical song, but the solo will quickly change your mind.

3. RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER – IRON MAIDEN
One of Iron Maiden’s longest songs, and also one of the most recent additions to the downloadable library, this 13 minute epic is exactly what you want in a Rock Band song. It’s got a really solid guitar line throughout, killer drumming, soaring vocals and Steve Harris on bass. Each player has moments throughout the song where they can really shine, and since it’s so long, scores can shoot up above 7 figures in no time. Plus in terms of bang for your buck – it’s a 13 minute song you can grab for $2.

2. SELKIES: THE ENDLESS OBSESSION/OBFUSCATION – BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME
Another twofer, in this case both are actually songs that come from the player curated Rock Band Network. Both are prog metal masterpieces, with guitar work that is relentless, bass lines that challenge you throughout and drumming that might be the hardest around. Selkies is off of the album Alaska, and features one of the band’s best guitar solos in their catalog – super technical, but also full of emotion, it’s a ton of fun to play. And Obfuscation, off of The Great Misdirect, has the same qualities that makes any song fun. Guitar work that moves all over the neck, bass lines that follow the guitar, drumming that’s relentless and a blistering solo. Even non-metal fans can respect the musical mastery of Between the Buried and Me.

1. GREEN GRASS AND HIGH TIDES – AS MADE FAMOUS BY THE OUTLAWS
The only cover song on the list, and perhaps the only one that is worth playing (that isn’t a cover by another professional band) this song from Rock Band has long been one of my very favorites to play on guitar. It’s very similar in arrangement to another classic – Free Bird – but to me, it’s a more engaging song. The softer intro section is more up-tempo than Free Bird’s which translates to a more engaging guitar line to play in the game. Plus I think the solo sections measure up with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic just fine. Even though it’s a cover version, they actually do a very good job – it sounds very close to the Outlaws version.

And with that, we’ve reached the end of our list. This isn’t even close to scratching the surface on the setlist of awesome songs available for the Rock Band series. There are tons of awesome songs – some incredible guitar songs, other killer bass tracks, some thunderous drum songs and others that put the spotlight on the ivory keys. Even though the franchise is dormant right now, there’s no reason to not hop online and grab a few songs to jam to. I will also post a list soon on my picks for songs that really should have appeared on the series – and who knows, they might some day.

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Top 10 Week – The Top 10 Halo Multiplayer Maps

Halo Master Chief CollectionI’ve been in a countdown frame of mind, thanks to watching a bunch of videos on YouTube, so with that in mind, I thought this week I would come up with a few countdowns of my own. Since I’ve been playing Halo a lot still with my friends, I thought I would go through my picks for the ten best multiplayer maps in the series.

10. BATTLE CREEK/BEAVER CREEK
Starting things off with an old map, Battle Creek goes all the way back to Halo: Combat Evolved. It was such a popular map, that it was brought back as Beaver Creek in Halo 2. the only real changes between the two versions really is the removal of the ladders and additions of ramps that lead up to the sniper perches. At its core, the map is a symmetrical, small box canyon with two identical bases. Each base has three points of entry, not counting a fourth on the roof that is only accessible through some jumping. It’s a map that functions really well with CTF and Oddball, and Slayer of course always works. It’s a fast paced map, thanks to the placement of the warps behind the bases, and multiple routes that players can take.

9. HEADLONG
Halo 2 brings us a perfect example of a huge asymmetrical map that works for pretty much any kind of game – multiflag, one-flag, oddball (with a high score count), assault, snipers, SWAT – plus the addition of vehicles really helps keep it fresh. Since it’s a really big map, there are plenty of different ways to get around, including warps, grav lifts and plenty of multiple level structures. The sightlines are awesome, with plenty of long range fights, that a good sneaky player can get behind the enemy to disrupt.

Halo 3 Guardian

8. GUARDIAN
The first entry from Halo 3 is one of the smaller maps in the series, with close range fights being typical. That said, there are still some longer sightlines, including some that criss-cross the open central arena. It works best for games of oddball, multi-team games, and infection or swords variants. And with Halo 3 having Forge, there’s plenty of options to turn the map into whatever you want. It’s a map that makes flankers shine, with two main levels that you need to keep eyes on, and thanks to the presence of active camo, close range weapons can swing a match.

7. MIDSHIP/HERETIC
One of the more popular maps in Halo 2 for arena matches, I’m actually in the minority with this one. I get why Midship is so popular, but I’m not the biggest fan of it. To me, the spawns have never been kind. But regardless, it’s a really great small team map – multiflag is fast-paced, oddball is hectic, and slayer is always close. Heretic, the updated version from Halo 3, plays pretty similar, but with the new mechanics some weapons play different. For example, sword clashes are more common, the shotgun’s smaller clip means you have to show a bit more control with it.

6. LONGEST/ELONGATION
A bit of an under the radar choice, Longest has always been one of my favorite maps from Halo: CE. The basic form of the map is essentially a giant figure 8 – just a bit boxier. The two long hallways are great for the original pistol and shotgun in Halo, and in the Halo 2 remake, Elongation, it plays phenomenally with the battle rifle. Oddball is great, CTF is fun, and Infection can be pretty tense. Even with long sightlines, which in the remake are broken up with the boxes on conveyer belts, close range weapons excel. All around a really fun map.

5. CHILL OUT/COLD STORAGE
My personal favorite map from the first game, Chill Out is one of those asymmetrical maps that still plays perfect in CTF games. Custom variants using the shotgun as the primary are fast paced, insane and totally fun. Taking the shield off makes it even quicker. The Halo 3 remake is pretty similar in pacing, but with changes to the shotgun, there are other game modes that are better to play. King of the Hill, with a focus on close ranged weapons is fun, and Infection is also a pretty good fit.

The Pit

4. THE PIT/PITFALL
Perhaps the best map in Halo 3, it’s a symmetrical map that works for almost any game mode. CTF, oddball, King of the Hill, VIP and Infection all work – as do Slayer variants. And of course, thanks to Forge, it’s possible to tweak the map around in all sorts of ways – closing off sections to redirect flow totally changes the matches. The updated Halo 4 version includes a couple changes that help make the sword spawn harder to lock down and camp, which is actually a good thing, just play with classic settings and no ordinance drops.

3. HANG ‘EM HIGH/TOMBSTONE/HIGH NOON
Another standout that has become a series main-stay, Hang ‘Em High features a semi-asymmetrical layout, with the two bases identical to each other, and a large open expanse between them. All sorts of games work – CTF, with lots of weapon variants are fun, straight pistols is a classic, and snipers is also a really tense one. The updated versions, from Halo 2 and Halo: CE – Anniversary, make use of the newer mechanics. In Tombstone, they added in grav lifts to open up new ways around the map, and the BR totally adds a whole new way of playing the matches.

2. BLOOD GULCH/COAGULATION/HEMORRHAGE/BLOODLINE
There’s a reason this map has been remade so many times, and also served as inspiration for Halo 3‘s Valhalla. It’s giant, so bigger parties work well, and vehicles add another dimension. Since it’s symmetrical, CTF games are great – any variant really work well, and even games like oddball work. Even with the long range, it’s important to keep an eye on weapons like rockets and the shotgun to help keep the base safe. With the update in Coagulation, they added a whole new dimension by adding the Banshee. Just adding one level of the base and one vehicle made the map have even more depth.

Halo 2 Lockout

1. LOCKOUT/BLACKOUT/LOCKDOWN
My pick for the best map in the series is Lockout from Halo 2. Hands down, it plays the best in the series and has the smoothest flow of any map. Even with the changes they made to the map with Blackout in Halo 3, it still plays solidly. But overall, the Halo 2 version plays better. The sightlines are clearer, the weapon balance is a bit better, and the jumps are a bit easier to manage. CTF works, oddball is fun, infection is fast paced, king of the hill is hectic and the slayer variants that play well are numerous. The Halo 2: Anniversary version adds in destructible icicles that hang over three major points, which can help prevent camping.