previews\ Jun 17, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Rock Band 3 E3 preview

I’ll admit; my time with Rock Band 3 did not begin well. They piled a group of journalists into a room and broke into a seven-person rendition of “I Love Rock N’ Roll” by Joan Jett. The song doesn’t really bring about a lot of emotion, standing as a very boring, vanilla pop-rock track. To make matters worse, the preview build seemed to be under quite a bit of strain, as the screen slowed down and stuttered a couple of times, which is death to any rhythm game. The new keyboard peripheral seemed like a cool device but just seemed supplemental to the experience, and the charm of having seven people playing together quickly faded (who the hell wants seven people jamming around in their living room anyway?).

Things didn’t seem to bode terribly well for the game or for the rhythm game genre on the whole. However, by the end of the presentation, I was convinced that what Harmonix had to offer was the future of music gaming. The biggest thing that caught my eye during the presentation was the inclusion of the all-new Pro Mode. Pro Mode literally allows you to play music, and there’s really no other way of putting it. Allow me to explain; Pro Mode is the toughest difficulty, changing all of the note charts into accurate representations of what you can expect while actually playing the song.

Using the new Mad Catz Pro Controller for guitar or an actual specially made Fender licensed model (which will be released later), you can play tablature as it rolls down the note highway, which tells you where your hands need to be on the neck of the guitar as well as what strings you need to be holding down. Even more impressive is that you’re playing the actual notes of the song, and if you were to plug your guitar into an amp as you played along with the note chart on screen, you’d hear the actual song.

Additionally, you’d get the same experience from playing the drums or keyboard in pro mode. The game has added support for cymbals, and will separate between cymbal notes and pad notes on the highway. Keyboards require you to hit the right keys while also paying attention to where you are on the keyboard itself, bumping you up or down and octave when necessary.

While the fact that the game finally manages to bridge the valley between music games and actual instrumental performance is indeed the biggest change to hit the rhythm genre since they first introduced tiny plastic guitars, there are some other additions and retooling that the developers did in order to make sure that this isn’t only the most impressive Rock Band game, but also the easiest to get into. The new menu interface is now set for each player, allowing you to select your difficulty, handedness, and other personal options without affecting the other players. Additionally, there is a new filtering system to help you find specific song types easier, which is a huge bonus for those with tons of DLC to weed through.

I didn’t go in expecting to be wowed the way I was. I was only hoping to find a game that would make the floundering rhythm game genre more viable, not one that would turn the very definition of music gaming on its head. Still, that’s what I got, and I’m not complaining.

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