I managed to get my hands on Rock Band 2 a bit early, and spent the entirety of the evening playing. What a drastic improvement over Rock Band 1 on the Wii! This is identical to the Xbox 360/ PS3 versions of the game, and I was even more impressed than I anticipated. I was having a blast before I even had a chance to play a single note: The character creator tool was such a blast! You create a band and members, and then you hit the road. It was a really satisfying experience! This is really the first time that a Wii game has been truly competitive with other Next-Gen console games.
The World Tour mode is now available locally or online, and there are also challenges and battle-of-the-bands. There was a "Wii pre-release" battle available for the select few who managed to snag the game early, and I was able to compete head to head with other bands (there were only 3 other bands online since the game was not yet available @ most stores).
There are sure to be plenty of lengthy reviews, so I will just note some of my observations:
*Band Members - once you create your band-mates using the Character Creator, when you play a gig, there they are! I knew this feature was present, but I had no idea how exciting it would be the first time my character (who happens to look JUST LIKE ME!) appeared on stage! It was really satisfying! This feature was really well done. My first order of business was to create characters for my wife and all our friends. Whenever they come over and play from now on, they can use their characters. Also, these characters can be moved around, dropped etc. Also, whenever you select a character to play a gig with your band, they get a "cut", earning that character money which can be used to buy clothes, accessories, instruments, etc. Of course, my wife blew all her money on some designer jeans, some pink driving gloves, and some shoes before she even played one gig! Typical... =)
*Online - Some of the online features haven't been enabled yet, but I was able to play in the online battle of the bands. I was playing during a weather storm, and my internet connection was suffering. I had a hard time checking my email from my computer in fact! But, much to my surprise, the game chugged along, and I didn't see any problems with the online interface. The whole game is played "connected", so you don't have to keep logging on and off if you switch between local and online play. The interface was really polished and well done, unlike other Wii games that seem to tack on the online portion after the fact. A+++.
*Updated instruments - The new guitar and drum look and feel really good. The drums are sturdier, and also the pads are quieter. Other than that, not much of a change here, but I had no complaints about the previous generation of instruments.
*Music - This game seems to have a much more varied mix of music. Much like when I began playing RB1, I only knew a handful of the songs that I initially was able to play. A few of the songs that I initially played were somewhat familiar, but some were way off the radar for me. Still, what I have heard so far is great! As you may already know, there is a Music Store built in the game where you can use Wii points on your system to buy new songs, so there will be no shortage of great music to be played! I was also surprised to see that details about the band and even album art appear on the song selection screen. The interface is really clean and polished; it really doesn't feel like a "game" at all. There is really no end to this games replay value. There are already close to 500 songs available in the DLC catalog (and all of this will come to the Wii shortly), and new songs are added weekly. Guitar Hero: World Tour can't even begin to compete in this area!!!
Do yourself a favor and go buy this game. I loved RB1 on the Wii, and really didn't think I was missing out on much... as it turns out, the additional features in RB2 are really astounding! The solid gameplay of Rock Band 1 is there... the great music game is completely intact. RB2 adds the "Band" experience: Touring, Band-mate selection, losing fans if you quit a "set" prematurely, battle of the bands, never-ending amounts of fresh content to play, expansive leaderboards and band data, even the ability to order posters and figurines of your band!!! Rock Band 2 for the Wii delivers!!