Rock Band 3

E3 2010: Rock Band 3 First Impressions - So You Wanna Be A Rock Star?

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Rock Band 3 excites me as both a gamer and a music fan. Not only does it introduce the much-loved keyboard – yes, I love it, so I can get away with saying that – but it’s trying something that will open up learning real life instruments to the masses with its Pro mode and series of guitars.

I know that there are some people out there that will ask, “Why don’t you just buy an instrument, you tool!?” but that’s not the point. Buying an instrument is easy, but learning a skill like playing a guitar is not only a lonely affair, but it also requires supreme amounts of dedication and patience. Doing that alone is tricky, but learning while Rock Band is there to help, assist and make the experience bearable – pro-tip: learning instruments can be frustrating! – what else can you ask for?

That doesn’t mean Rock Band is going hardcore, no way, it’s just broadening its horizons and it’s every bit as accessible or challenging, whatever end of the spectrum you sit.

As always, it’s all about the music and with close to 2,000 tracks said to be available in the Rock Band Music Store this holiday season, 83 on disc, fully confirmed backwards compatibility, it’s clear that Harmonix are on track to deliver on that front.  You can expect “songs ranging all the way from new bands like Rilo Kiley and Metric, to White Stripes and Them Crooked Vultures, all the way back to bands like The Doors, White Snake, Huey Lewis and the fucking News, Queen... we have Bohemian  Rhapsody in the game,” says Harmonix’s singing maestro, John Drake. Of course, we know all these already, right? And as expected, all your old instruments are compatible as well.

So what’s new from a feature standpoint?

Rock Band 3’s improvements seem to be subtle – but effective – tweaks for the most part. Not only will Rock Band 3 feature drop-in/drop-out support, meaning a friend can jump in and out of a song at any time, but also a filtering option, allowing you to choose genres, key support, length, time period, etc, meaning you can manage your collection effectively. The new “Overshell” will also give each player their in-game menu as well, meaning if someone wants to switch to lefty – weirdoes – you won’t have to back the whole thing up to the main menu just for one person and it stops them from getting evils all night from your cronies.

There’s also the ability to save setlists to your console and share them with your friends – you can even make them on the web so they’re ready to go when you get to your console – as well as Song Recommendations in the Rock Band Music Store and these things called “Road Challenges” which are 2-4 hour challenges for the veteran and hardcore players.

There’s even persistent careers as well with hundred of goals, achievements and character unlocks for the player that really wants to excel with their desired instrument – or all of them if you’re feeling up to it! No matter which mode you’re in, you’ll be progressing through your career goals.

Wait... there’s more...

That’s not including the vocal harmonies that are coming across from The Beatles: Rock Band and All Instruments Mode which is 7 players at once playing on one screen. Nothing game-changing, but like I said, subtle tweaks that make it a much more enjoyable experience... That is until you mention the all-new Pro mode and the new keyboard which smacks you in the face and says, “Innovation!? I’ll show you innovation you varmint!”

The keyboard looks every bit as impressive as I had hoped it would, with a few different ways to play it. The standard mode is traditional Rock Band stuff, known as “Keys” mode, which is a “representational simulation experience” and gives you the usual 5 lanes to play through. Ultimately that means if you don’t have the keyboard peripheral, you can use one of your plastic guitars to simulate it. If you have the keyboard, each lane will be mapped to your C to G keys.

More importantly I would say is the keyboard’s “Pro” mode, where the keyboard peripheral comes into its own. Giving you two octaves worth of notes, the keyboard’s Pro mode is pitch accurate and will offer one octave on screen at a time. Admittedly this does mean it will jump around a bit, but if you take the notes away with you to a piano, you’ll genuinely be playing that piece of music, which in my opinion, is quite mind-blowing. Learning an instrument through a game? Incredible.

Pro mode isn’t just confined to the keyboard either, oh no and every instrument, whether it be drums (with additional cymbals), vocals (fully pitch accurate) and of course, the guitar – which can be a proper guitar that is both amplifier and Rock Band compatible – will be supported. It does require purchasing new instruments though and as well as the drums with extra cymbals, the keyboard, there are also the Pro Guitars that come in two flavours: the Fender Mustang: a button based controller with 102 buttons and six strings and is a great in between for Rock Band players and guitar playing wannabes who haven’t mustered the confidence to make the step just yet; and the Squire Stratocaster by Fender, which is a fully functional 22 fret, real wooden guitar with built in technology in the neck that knows where your hands are and which string you’re strumming. Impressive! How does it work on screen though? Well, it’s your traditional Rock Band setup, but with the game giving you a string and a fret number instead – so the A string on the third fret.

Again, it’s fully pitch accurate and once you plug the Stratocaster into an amp, it’s a proper guitar. Yes, a real guitar! That means skills learnt when playing songs on your guitar within the confines of Rock Band can transfer to the actual guitar when you hook up your amp  - of course, you need to remember the notes or chords from the note chart. It’s the bridge between real music and music games which truth be told, signifies the next big step. Take that one Noel Gallagher!

Sounds complicated, right? Well, yes, with the Stratocaster especially, you are effectively playing a real life instrument and playing actual music – although two octaves on a keyboard won’t allow you to really simulate a proper chord and harmony piece. Thankfully Pro mode doesn’t drop you in at the deep end though (if you don’t want it to that is) and you can choose Pro mode on easy and it’ll select key notes instead – while staying pitch accurate of course – and ease you into the whole experience.

If the small tweaks to the Rock Band franchise weren’t enough to persuade you to part with your cash this holiday period, I have two words for you: “keyboard,” and “pro.”

Who said the music genre couldn’t innovate, huh? Here’s some humble pie. Eat it! Eat it!!! EAAATTTT ITTTT!!

Rock Band 3 is heading your way in holiday 2010.


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Game Info
MTV Games


US October 26, 2010
Europe October 29, 2010

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