Rock Band 3 (XBOX 360)

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Hey there.  I finally had the pleasure to test out Rock Band 3 this weekend and I must say that I am loving the song selection, the small upgrades to the game play, and the new addition of a keyboard.  Even though I consider myself a decent guitarist, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase the $150 pro-guitar that is needed to test out the new pro-mode, exclusive to Rock Band 3.  However, I did get a few hours in, exploring the game, and quite frankly… it was the most fun rocking out that I’ve had in quite some time!

The game play is similar to previous titles, which makes picking it up fairly simple.  To quickly recap, you follow colored blocks down a “track” and strum/hit/strikle the corresponding button/drum/cymbol/key on the instrument.  Keeping intact a formula that works, new and veteran gamers will have no problems picking up an instrument to play.  I also loved the fact that all songs were readily available from the get go so there was no need to unlock the songs.  This makes it a lot easier to find music that all band members can agree on and if you can’t decide, you can always select the “party list”, which is random set list of 60+ songs.  Supporting up to three singers, 2 guitar players, a drummer, and a keyboardist, Rock Band 3 has the ability to support up to 7 players all at once!  And the best part of it is that any member can “drop out” or switch difficulty without risk of the band failing.  That’s a huge win for band members that don’t want to fail while everyone else is doing their part.  Huge points for Rock Band 3 for really gearing itself up to be more party friendly.

But the above is minor news.  Nothing too different from the previous installments of Rock Band.  If you are reading this, you are more than likely to be familiar with the instruments and how they work.  So I won’t discuss the ins and outs of what is already known.  I’m here to talk about the talk buzz that Rock Band 3 created.  Rock Band 3 introduces 2 major additions.  The new keyboard instrument and pro mode.  First, let’s talk about the keyboard.  It’s not a standard size keyboard (25 total keys) but big enough to have the feel of an actual keyboard.  It also allows 2 methods of play.  You can play the keyboard under the “keys” mode which will utilize only 5 buttons and under this mode, is the easiest instrument to pick up and play and really doesn’t make it any more different than playing the guitar for the first time.  The second mode is the “pro keys”, which brings me into the second major addition to Rock Band 3.

Pro mode is simply awesome.  When news of Rock Band actually teaching you how to play instruments first surfaced, I was in awe and skeptical.  How could a game help you learn the real thing without real instruments?  Well… I’m here to tell you that it can come really close to it!  Using the keyboard in pro mode is definitely a challenge.  Just as in “regular” mode, pro mode offers you a difficulty setting, allowing you to ease into playing in pro mode.  I was quite pleased by this since I naturally assumed that pro mode would simply be a level above Expert.  The keyboard does an awesome job of mimicking the artist’s hand movements of their actual play.  Using Queen’s uber popular, Bohemian Rhapsody as an example of the expert pro mode on keyboard, you can clearly see the usage of all the keys while playing.  Black and white.  And it’s not just single notes that fly by, you will also see 3 or 4 note chords flying down the screen.  An impressive sight to see.   And a huge plus for pro mode is that the learning curve is not as steep as you would believe but it will definitely provide a challenge to those that want to expand their musical horizons.  Starting off on easy and slowly learning your way to expert gives you a huge sense of accomplishment and you can definitely say that you have had a crash course on playing the keys!

I regret saying that I was not able to try out the drum pro mode and the guitar pro mode, since I do not have the additional hardware to play.  The pro mode guitar is currently on the market for approx. $150 and from what I’m being told is extremely accurate for having over 100 buttons and 6 guitar strings to strum.  When I asked the GameStop clerk about the guitar, he told me of a just announced second pro guitar that will have strings that run from the top all the way to the bridge and be more closer to a real guitar as opposed to a plastic video game guitar.  He said it would run closer to $250 when it finally comes out but because I have yet to read or hear of any talk of that guitar, I’m taking it as hear say.  As for the drums, you will need 3 cymbals to attach to your Rock Band drum set to experience the pro mode.  I have neither since I’ve been using my Guitar Hero drum set to play. From what I’m told, it adds a whole new dimension to drumming.  Having your Rock Band drum set closer to an actual drum set makes the transition from plastic to skins a whole lot easier and since I’m the drummer in the family band, I’d love to try out the pro mode one day.

If you’re a hardcore gamer and see Rock Band as more than just a game, than investing in pro mode hardware is definitely for you.  Guitar in pro mode will allow you read Rock Band tabs (which is similar to guitar tabs every where online) to instruct you which string and what fret button to push.  And since you’ll be using a pick to strum your guitar and moving your hand up and down the guitar, you’ll be building speed and dexterity that will definitely be needed towards some of the more difficult solos in the game. *cough Freebird cough*  It also will give you the know how of playing an actual guitar through the familiarization of strumming and finger movements.

All in all, Harmonix is doing an awesome job of adding innovation to the Rock Band franchise to keep it from going stale.  While many people mocked players for merely being awesome on “fake, plastic” guitars, Rock Band 3 answered the call with pro mode.  Though the instruments may still be plastic, the skills learned on them will translate nicely on real instruments.  Games are not just about smashing buttons anymore, friends.  Get a band together, strap on an instrument, and rock on with friends and family.  You might actually spark that inner musician in you and challenge yourself to take on pro mode.  Or better yet… create your own music with a real instrument.   Rock on, friends.  Later!

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