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
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
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