Rock Band 3 hands-on: shredding with the 102 button guitar controller



The drum kit now has cymbals and, while it still feels a little flimsy compared to a full-blown electric drum kit, it is much better than the old models. The game also now has separate symbols for cymbals, so they're not just on the peripheral for fun any more.

Mad Catz has picked up the license for all the Rock Band instruments (including legacy models) which means not only should they be produced with a cheaper RRP, but they'll be available across Europe. So yes, even places like Denmark will finally get standalone Beatles controllers.

It's worth noting that all of the latest instruments have been built with higher build quality in mind, so you shouldn't wear out the strum bar on the guitar after a day's play any more. Drum-wise, this means not only is the set less clacky than it was, the odd double-notes that made perfect runs almost impossible to achieve on the old set have reportedly been completely fixed.



The new Fender Precision Bass peripheral has a split strum bar, so you can use two fingers alternately to play, just like the pros do. There's also a jack socket so you can plug in the overdrive stomp box. That means you can use your foot to activate overdrive instead of tilting the guitar. Nice idea, but it'll cost extra.

Above: The Precision's split strum bar and the overdrive stomp box 


The game

A multi-filter listing system so you can search for only the songs you want to play (all those with keys, pro guitar and harmonies, for example) and song recommendations make navigating the now potentially 2,000-strong track library that much easier to navigate. All existing songs will be compatible with the new game at launch.

There's also drop-in/drop-out play at any point in the game, accessed via 'The Overshell' - an omnipresent bar at the bottom of the screen split into four portions, one for each player. This means you can change settings without bothing everyone else in the band. It's a neat idea and another example of the way thegame has been developed with the player in mind.

There will also be hours of training content in the game for those wanting to get the most out of the new Pro mode. It's worth noting that Pro Mode itself can be played on all the individual difficulty settings, so Easy Pro Mode will still be accessible enough for anyone to get some fun out of. Unless it really is all too much for you, in which case there's no hope and you should go back to the basic mode. 

That said, there are some stupidly tough challenges for people who want to get really into it - including one that requires you to 'hit every note in every song in Rock Band 3'. Crikey. You can ease the pain by at least having fun with your on-screen avatar. There's a full face editor for your rocker and your custom abomination will appear in full in every cut-scene.

Above: The in-game graphics are superb and every rocker can be fully customised


How much?!

Sadly, all the quality in the world isn't going to make the price any easier to swallow for what is still 'just' a videogame. I was about to say the game and keyboard pack is pricey at £79.99, but having checked my notes I see that it is in fact £129.99 for the keyboard and game. That's crazy money. Add in an optional £24.99 for the keyboard stand and you're looking at £154.98 for an admittedly deluxe single-player package. Add in the 102-key guitar for player 2 and it's £284.97. Add drums for $149.99 (UK price TBA) and you're looking at... well, we've bought cars for less. Then there are microphones, a bass guitar... not to mention the decent TV speakers you'd need to really get the most out of it.

If you buy the MIDI Pro adaptor for £39.99, you will be able to use existing MIDI keyboards and drum kits to play the game which will be attractive to those serious about music anyway... but surely, surely at this price, you're going to be looking at buying a real instrument instead. It won't grade you on your playing, but you will be able to take it on a real tour and make real money. Let's wait and see how good the game is when it's in our hands for review, but this honestly could go either way. Could be amazing, could totally jump the shark.

As for my hands-on with the Pro mode... I'm unconvinced. It's way too complex for a party game, but too far removed from the real thing to be as good as the real deal. And, as a guitarist and drummer, I'm pretty much the target audience for the Pro mode, so that doesn't bode particularly well.

23 Sep, 2010



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  • Jordo141 - September 25, 2010 2:23 a.m.

    @Hellhog Sorry to burst your bubble but you are not going to learn hoe to play real bass using the pro guitar...
  • jmcgrotty - September 24, 2010 8:39 a.m.

    "Is the pro guitar good enough to actually learn real guitar with?" I haven't tried them, but as was said I think, I don't imagine that it would be something you could learn real guitar on except the very basics. The potential problems I see are that not having string bending and palm mutes is a big deal if wanting to go from very basic user (think "twinkle twinkle little star") to middle-of-the-road user. Also, depending on how sensitive the buttons are, you could run into situations where you aren't properly learning how to do barre chords. If the buttons are very sensitive, you won't be hitting the barres on a real guitar with the same pressure. (Barres are when you have a finger that stretch across all 6 strings at once) None of this is saying that it is bad (or good), but it does seem to have inherent problems for anyone who wants to compare learning real life and the game.
  • Cwf2008 - September 24, 2010 5:07 a.m.

    120 BUTTONS?! WTF?!
  • QWERTYCommander - September 24, 2010 2:48 a.m.

    @spideralex Read my post.
  • ramenbox - September 24, 2010 12:55 a.m.

    Never tried such games before except for the one on PSP. I've a feeling this won't be very successful. They should just keep it fun and simple since these kinda games are usually played by people who can't really play instruments in real life. I'm not saying all. I know there are musicians who play such games too, I'm just saying majority don't. With such ridiculous prices and the amount of time and effort you need to invest in the 'pro mode', it's obviously better to just pick up a real instrument. Like what TheIronMaiden said, lifetime of musicianship is obviously way better. Sucks how you can't mute strings when their goal here is to bridge the gap between gaming and true musicianship. I'd rather play my guitar than spending so much on this even though the track lists are attractive.
  • DarkSpyroDragon - September 23, 2010 11:58 p.m.

    You know, I'm all for a video game that has the potential to really teach you how to play an instrument. I have nothing against it. I also have nothing against people who want to play games like this for fun. Its the reason why I started to learn how to play a real bass. Its when they start trying to charge you some astronomical price for plastic peripherals when I could be buying a REAL instrument for cheaper is when I have a problem. I admit, I do have problems with people who brag about how they can 5 star Dragonforce on expert and they get it in their head they are some kind of music master. If you can do that, you need to be learning a real guitar. I play for fun (on medium XD), not to prove how great a "musician" I am :/
  • sleepy92ismypsn - September 23, 2010 11:03 p.m.

    I already have the keyboard and game bundle pre-ordered. I can't wait. I just hope I'll be able to put enough time into it to get the most out of it. There's so many other games coming out. I had 6 games on my list for November until LBP2 got delayed to january 2011.
  • StrayGator - September 23, 2010 9 p.m.

    "The second guitar I ever owned was a Silver Series Squire Fender Strat back in 1993, which I saw as my step up to a professional quality instrument." Dunno. In Israel (lower average income, higher import penalty and less competition than western Europe) Squier is a generic name for entry level pieces of plywood.
  • spideralex90 - September 23, 2010 8:47 p.m.

    Anybody know what the pricing is for US? I want the full kit, but i might just buy the game + guitar. But the drums are so damn fun... this will be like 3 paychecks for me.
  • Lionzest7 - September 23, 2010 7:58 p.m.

    doubt I'll bother, kind of already have these instruments at home (I only play drums though). For that price though you can get an actual instrument. (keyboard/guitar)
  • n00b - September 23, 2010 7:20 p.m.

    what if you already have a guitar? can you just use the midi converter to work with it?
  • TheIronMaiden - September 23, 2010 6:53 p.m.

    I'm sorry but this is stupid. If people want to sink all of that money into a damn video game, go out and buy a real guitar and learn how to play! a Lifetime of musicianship is better than a game that will only bring you so many years of fun if that.
  • tuomotaivainen - September 23, 2010 6:50 p.m.

    I honestly hope this still works with the old Guitar and Drums. Cause I'm not planning on playing pro mode AT ALL. Granted I may be forced to buy the new guitar if I'm unable to buy a new "old" one....
  • QWERTYCommander - September 23, 2010 6:42 p.m.

    Okay, I converted £ to US $ using Google calculator and found out that that's more than $680!!! If I had that kind of money, I'd spend it on a little bit more than a video game. I might get the keyboard bundle. Full band? HELL NO.
  • musashi1596 - September 23, 2010 6:18 p.m.

    Seventh! Oh, wait. I forgot nobody cares which number post you get. I presume Lucas is still looking for his standing ovation. -- These peripherals would certainly be interesting to use, but as someone who lacks the dexterity to play a real guitar proficiently I'm guessing it would be out of my league.
  • Felixthecat - September 23, 2010 6:17 p.m.

    Meanwhile, I continue to save money by not buying RB3 and I play the proper Guitar like a man.
  • Hydrohs - September 23, 2010 4:59 p.m.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how the Pro mode works with the real guitar.
  • Channel4 - September 23, 2010 4:41 p.m.

    Not being able to mute strings with your left hand sounds incredibly annoying, but it serves me right for not learning how to strum properly i suppose. Is the pro guitar good enough to actually learn real guitar with? It seems like you'll have to already know the basics of playing guitar to be able play it, but if you already know the basics why not just keep playing real guitar? Could it be used as interactive tab?
  • Hellhog - September 23, 2010 4:34 p.m.

    I'm really excited for this game but will probably wait a year or 2 before picking it up. I really want to try Pro Mode Bass as I love the Bass (I actually almost took up Bass Guitar 2 months ago). The problem is that my drums have shorted out cymbal extensions. Basically, I need game with keyboard, I want the keyboard stand, Drums + Cymbals, Pro Guitar for Bass and Guitar. Way too much basically. Me and my friend actually thought about getting 2 games and sharing instruments.
  • garnsr - September 23, 2010 4:25 p.m.

    I don't care about the pro mode guitar, but I'm looking forward to getting cymbals for the drums. And hopefully we'll be able to have more than one singer on every song, like in the Beatles.

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