Developer Harmonix has a near perfect track record when it comes to the Rock Band series, from the main games to the band specific Beatles and Green Day editions, gamers know that when they pick up anything with the Rock band label that they are about to experience a quality title. With the third instalment on its way in a few short months, I got a chance to see the game at a behind the scenes demo at E3 and, let me tell you, the king of the music genre is back.
The team behind Rock Band 3 set out to make a game that is bigger, better and more badass than anything currently seen in the industry. The game features a plethora of new modes, tweaks and extra goodies that add to the already great Rock Band experience. The biggest new addition is the implementation of keyboards to the line-up. With the new peripheral the developers have added a new and fun way to play Rock Band, but the keyboard can do much more than simply play a few keys. The controller can also play guitar and bass lines, also it’s possible to use any keyboard with a MIDI output and use it as a Rock Band 3 controller.
The next big thing for the series is the creation of the Pro mode for keyboard, guitar and bass. So what is Pro mode? Well it’s the most accurate representation of actually playing an instrument ever seen inside a video game. For the keyboard controller the standard scrolling notes are replaced with the actual keys from the song. As cool as that is, it is the guitar Pro mode that really stole the show. Here you can connect either a MadCatz Mustang Pro or a Fender Squire Stratocaster (Rock Band 3 compatible version), for some real life shredding. Both are fully functional six string guitars that accurately track the player’s hands on the neck of the guitar and shows the player what frets to play and where to strum. On the easiest difficulty setting the game will only show one octave, but on expert the songs are the real deals and as one member of the development team put it: ‘people complained about the guitar in Beatles (Rock Band) being too easy, well now we have Crazy Train, on expert, on a real guitar, so fuck you’. But the coolest feature of this is that if you have enough of playing the game for a bit, you can simply plug these controllers into a guitar amp and rock out in real life. It’s an amazing feature and one that makes Rock Band 3 a great tool for those looking to learn how to play the guitar for real, instead of on plastic instruments.
The developers have also made several refinements to the Rock Band experience to help streamline the experience even further. For one, you can now search through your songs in order to find the one you want to play. Also, you can rate your songs from one to five, with songs rated low appearing less frequently on set lists and the higher rated songs appearing more often. Speaking of set lists, you can now create a set list that is saved to the game and can even be shared with friends via Facebook, Twitter or rockband.com. In-game it is now possible to change the difficulty setting on the fly, without having to restart the song, as well as to have up to seven players (one guitar, one bass, one drum, one keyboard and three vocals) rocking out at once, which from the live demonstration I witnessed makes for one hell of a fun time.
The Rock Band team has also changed the ‘party’ aspect of the game. This time around you can drop a player (most likely the drummer) that is slowing down the game by hitting the keys while still in the menus and re-add those offenders after the selections have been made. The developers have also promised to streamline the online match-making, allowing users to simply jump into the game. The game will feature 82 songs on the disk, and will boost the total number of playable songs (via the Rock Band store and importing from disks) to around 2000 (currently at around 1500).
A very strong showing at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo has me very excited to play the final build of Rock Band 3. It’s evident that the developers have poured their hearts into making the best music game possible with so many new features it’s hard to keep track of all the things being introduced in number 3. Look for Rock Band 3 to hit stores this holiday.