When it comes to my level of excitement for the release of a game, not many games in my life matched the hype I felt the original Rock Band. I was in the apex of my Guitar Hero love around the time when rumblings of a full-band music game from the developers of Guitar Hero II appeared on the Internet. When the rumblings finally turned up this initial video for the Rock Band proof of concept, I was sold. So sold, that I was the first person to pre-order the full Rock Band kit at my local EB Games and was even the first to pick up my kit because I showed up at the same time as the guy who was delivering the Rock Band kits to the store.
Three years, four Rock Band branded games, hundreds of hours played and hundreds of downloadable songs bought later, I’m kind of burned out on the plastic instrument formula. I forced my way through Lego Rock Band for the achievements and can’t find the motivation to even begin the career mode in Green Day: Rock Band. Rock Band 3 looks to revive the genre with new features, new songs, and for those who want it, a pro mode that takes the genre into realistic new heights. Are these changes enough to bring me back in?
For me, I’m not really concerned about all of the “extra” stuff they’re adding to Rock Band. I’m not excited to play more music or have new challenges and sorting features. They’re nice improvements, but at its core, Rock Band 3 in “regular” mode is going to play like Rock Band 3, which I couldn’t care less about.
The real x-factor for me are the keyboard and pro mode. Having an all-new instrument could really spice things up, especially since keyboards are an instrument I’ve wanted to see in music games for awhile now. What makes keyboards and the other instruments more exciting though is the implementation of “pro mode”. In this mode, the game is no longer an abstraction of playing music. You’ll develop real instrument skills to the point where you’re playing songs note-for-note. On keys, you’ll be playing all of the notes. On guitar (when using one of the two pro guitar models), you’ll also be playing songs note-for-note. On drums (when using the cymbal expansions or a hooked up MIDI drum set) the cymbals will have different notes associated with them rather than sharing notes with other sounds.
As someone who was able to directly transfer my Rock Band drum skills into real drum skills and as someone who was motivated enough by Rock Band to pick up a bass guitar and learn how to not completely suck at it, this is right up my alley. I’d love to find out if the game can help me become at least entry-level sufficient at keys and guitar.
My concerns though are two-fold: the pro instruments will be really expensive and there is likely to be a huge learning curve. The keyboard and game bundle is going to run for at least $129.99 while the 6-string guitar by itself is going likely to be more than $149.99. I’m going to have the keyboard in my house no matter what, thanks to a piano-playing brother with a job. However, will I want to throw down upwards of $200 for a guitar? I know in the grand scheme of things, I’m getting a decently-priced Squire guitar that doubles as a video game controller, so the price makes sense. But what if I don’t go all the way with the guitar skills? Would it then be a waste of my money if I can’t play any more than “Mary Had a Little Lamb” with it? Keys aren’t necessarily easy to learn, either, especially when you need to coordinate all 10 fingers and follow a 25-note highway.
For now, my anticipation for this game is lukewarm, if not a bit warm. I think my enjoyment out of this game totally hinges on the pro mode experience. I look forward to playing the piano parts to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, but will I ever build up the skills to make pro keyboards worthwhile? Will I end up dropping $200+ on the Rock Band 3 compatible 6-string guitar? If I do buy a $200 guitar and suck at it, will it be the most expensive gaming purchase mistake I’ve ever made?
I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. Rock Band 3 is due out on October 26th. It’ll be in my house one way or another, so I’ll let you know what I think about it when I get some hands-on time with the final game.