Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Pro Mode main draw for 'Rock Band 3'
Rock Band 3
Developed by: Harmonix
Published by: EA
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 system, Wii, Nintendo DS
Rating: T for Teens
Price: From $29.99 (DS) to $129.99 for keyboard bundle. Fender Mustang guitar - available early November - is $149.99
Too much of a good thing is something most gamers are accustomed to. Take music video games. When Guitar Hero and Rock Band hit the scene, gamers all over the world went wild. Now, just a few years later,Guitar Hero and Rock Band ... Infinity offer very few real changes that send folks into hysteria.
Harmonix, whose Rock Band naysayers are now dining on humble pie, is set to do it again. But this time (if you have the funds) you can take part and PLAY.
Are you ready to jam?
Rock Band 3, developed by Harmonix and published by MTV Games, wants to add a shot of realism to the music video game genre. The core aspects of the game are still there - you can grab a microphone and see along with Queen, David Bowie or Whitesnake, you can grab your drumsticks and beat your drums and cymbals into a coma and grab your Rock Band and Rock Band 2 - even Beatles: Rock Band - guitar. However, in this offering, the folks at Harmonix decided to add a pro-style guitar, as well as a keyboard, to the mix.
The main draw of any Rock Band game are the songs. The songs range from classic rock to Amy Winehouse. Not feeling the song selection? Head to the Rock Band Store and browse the 1,917 song (at launch) for you to download. Still want more? You can use your Rock Band and Rock Band 2 songs in Rock Band 3, but , wait for it ... you have to pay a *small* fee. The fee? Ten dollars American. It's in very small print in the Rock Band 3 manual. So, let's recap - Yes, you bought the games before - yes, you love the games - but having to repay for games that you already have? Why, EA, why?!
Update: A PR rep said the fee to export songs from previous RB games is a licensing issue, not an MTV Games, Harmonix or EA issue.
That's one bad note ...
The controllers are another huge draw for Rock Band 3. Gamers will be able to rock real notes on the wicked Fender Mustang Pro guitar ($149.99 retail) or the Pro Keyboard ($79.99). The controllers aren't just for playing the game - Rock Band 3 includes lessons on how to rock for real.
You can also add Pro Drums to your existing drum set (it's a set of cymbals with their own set of notes) that work in Pro Mode as well.
I logged some time with the Wireless Fender Mustang PRO guitar (it won't be available until early November) and got my Pro Mode on. It's smaller than the regular guitar controllers (Remember, you can still use your Rock Band, Rock Band 2 and Beatles: rock Band guitars) but has some way cool features. The guitar has a small area to strum and the strings are metallic and very sturdy. On the neck, there are 16-17 sets of buttons that gamers use in Pro Mode to hit the corresponding keys on-screen. As I stated earlier, the finger movements will help you if you want to learn how to play a guitar for real.
The great news? Rock Band 3 will play nice with other guitars in regular guitar mode. The bad news? If you want to play the rival Power Gig Sixstring in Pro Mode, forgetaboutit. Pro Mode is the talk around Internet forums and EA/Harmonix/Mad Catz want to make sure - at this time - only one guitar works in that mode. And sadly, the awesome Sixstring didn't make the short list.
The keyboard is also new to the Rock Band universe. You can put a shoulder strap on it and turn into a Go-Go or use it on a Mad Catz keyboard stand (sold separately) and play the game that way. The keyboard is sturdy and works in Pro Mode, which utilizes every key depending on your difficulty. While I did enjoy my time with the keyboard in pro mode, I am sure I was missing how to hit the long notes during songs - though the game gave me credit for it.
Gameplay is solid. You can recruit band members - online or local multiplayer - as well as backups - and start your music career. You can start the game with Quick Play - or take it slow with Training. Training lets you practice, learn an instrument and learn songs. Love to beat your drum? Create your own drum tracks with Drum Freestyle.
Difficulty during gameplay depends really on the songs you select. Unfortunately, you can't play every song with every instrument. When I had the Fender Mustang, I couldn't even practice with certain songs, much less during career mode. When I had the Pro Keyboard hooked up, the same thing. Not sure if the downloaded songs or the *locked* songs will work either. And I can't help but wonder if the money gamers will spend will keep them happy and willing to use their Pro instruments with the songs.
Update: 63 of the 83 songs support keyboard, in both Pro mode or 5-button "legacy" mode.
Also, pre-Rock Band 3 songs are not Pro compatible, but HMX is updating a selection of tracks with Pro Mode functionality, chosen by the community from the Rock Band catalog. See www.rockband.com for details.
Not ready for that much realism? The standard guitar/mic/drum/keyboard modes are still there.
Depending on the device you use, you will see a few options as you play. When you select a song, you'll see song difficulty and what instruments are supported. Some of the more difficult songs have devils listed. Definitely, those songs are not for the faint at heart. The good news? If you have a great voice, you can sing with ALL of the songs.
Gameplay modes include Training, Career and Road Challenge. Road Challenge puts gamers on the road to becoming a rock star. You don't have jack when you start, but keep on playing and watch the Benjamins pour in. When you rock the crowd, you'll also earn Spades. What are Spades? A sick game I used to play at the 'Corn, lol. No, you earn spades when you hit special bonuses or complete other tasks.
Visuals? Please. You don't buy any Rock Band game for visuals. It's good - not as pretty as Enslaved - but you will be too busy rockin' to notice.
The verdict? 3.25 (out of 4 stars). The addition of the Pro instruments - and the huge library of songs at launch - make this one of the best Rock Band games of all-time. The Pro Modes really add some needed fuel to the music video game genre. However, the additional fee to unlock songs you already own AND the closed club for Pro Mode controllers hits the wrong notes. Overall, if you love Rock Band and the thought of playing a video game with real instruments really turns you on, take a chance with Rock Band 3.