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Playbook – Early Access Review

Rockband is still churning out DLC tracks almost every week and that has kept my rock related rhythm action fix satiated. However, Playbook is a new rock based rhythm game that intends on providing a different slant on things. It’s like MTV and Rockband has a lovechild.

Instead of placing you in a CGI environment, Playbook works more like a music TV channel, placing music videos for songs either side of the note charts we see in normal rhythm games. I really like this idea as it shifts the focus a little more towards the musical artist and promotes the bands artistic vision more. The game provides 20 tracks on launch and they cover a wide range of rock. Punk, grunge, alt-rock, pop-rock, death metal and emo. Its all here and whilst the artists are largely lesser knowns, I like this as a form of discovery. It also means Playbook costs less for expensive licence fees for labels.

Music videos are like TV screens in a sports bar and the note lane is really all you look at.

Once in the game, each track has three difficulties and two instrument note tracks – guitar and drums. Sadly, this is where all the excitement ends and the rough realities of Early Access hit Playbook. As a rhythm game that expects tight precision, the fact it lacks any sync options really causes problems. The audio and visuals aren’t aligned and so I had to press buttons slightly late. This then creates a cognitive dissonance. You aren’t in time with the music and when you are, its hit or miss as to whether you score. I also experienced repeated total drop outs of any notes being registered too. You use DFJK to hit the four note lanes and its just single presses or holds – very simple. Yet Playbook seems to get confused to stop registering button presses, especially D and K. The bugs are tied to certain songs too, rendering them unplayable. The music videos are small and dual screened too and it feels odd that they are kept so small on screen. So small in fact that you can avoid seeing them altogether if you are focused on the note lane. Playbook is also single player only locally. Online is available but seemingly tied to regions. I failed to get any games running in it so I have no idea of how it works but considering all the aforementioned options, you can’t expect something truly fun or bandlike.

I wasn’t able to get multiplayer to work but even if it did, the notes would have been out of sync anyway.

Playbook feels like a nice idea, oddly executed. Where are the bass note tracks? Why are the note tracks on guitar so rigid and unsatisfying? Why do all the menus always bring you back to the same song at the top of the menu? Why is the hook for using music videos then delivered in a way that doesn’t make it central to the experience? Why is the VR version also in production being delivered entirely separately as a different purchase? At least Playbook is priced competitively, but it does make me wonder if things will ever reach a standard where its worth not going for other rhythm games instead. Rhymetallica is a far better option.

Final Thoughts
A decent idea on rhythm action games but poorly implemented with tons of bugs and missing features. Hopefully can improve over Early Access.
Decent starting selection of rock music genres.
Having the music video available does give a nice nod to the artist and promotes a better creative ecosystem.
Lacks sync options for audio and visual delays and the timing is off as standard.
Note charts are very rigid and often unsatisfying.
On harder difficulties Playbook drops button presses and the track stalls out.

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