Rock Band 3: London viewing shows new instruments and features

By Joe Anderson, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 08:03 GMT

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Rock Band was a phenomenal success when it launched in 2007, and with good reason. It was the first game of its type to throw a whole group of people together as a band, allowing them “play” their favourite songs in the same room, something which couldn’t have been done previously without lots of expensive instruments and a complaints from the neighbours. We’re now about to arrive at Rock Band 3 – a game which has not only evolved from the original, but improved beyond all recognition.

We took a look at the latest build with the developers in London yesterday.

It was only a matter of time before the Rock Band series started to actually teach you music, and it’s the third game that will make the break from the traditional “rhythm action” genre.

Sitting down with some of the developers today, including MTV’s Jeff Castaneda and Mad Catz’s Alex Verrey, we found out how the companies hope to immerse people in a musical experience, whether they are inexperienced or skilled musicians.

“Refined character creation system”

Having been in development for two and a half years, Rock Band 3 is almost ready to go gold. New to this year’s version is an all-new, refined character creation system; new instruments; a filter
system for music selection; the option to create set-lists via the game or Rockband.com; and the ability to have songs recommended to you. There’s also a new party shuffle system, which does exactly what you’d expect it to.

Some of these new features stick out more so than others. The character creation system for example, is far more in-depth than before. Players are allowed to change their character’s face, shape and muscle tone, while also keeping many of the features which made the creation system so popular amongst fans of the first two games.

It’s certainly a lot more diverse than before, meaning you can create any character you wish, be he fat, thin, short, tall or balding.

Sticking with characters, Rock Band now tells a story all the way through the game using cutscenes. This starts from the menu, with animations of your band playing in the background as you choose between various options.

Once you begin the game and start reaching milestones, you will then be rewarded with cutscenes to mark the occasion, be it your band’s first gig or the first time they play a stadium.

Real instruments

By far the biggest change, though, is to the instruments, with the focus now being taken away from five-button, plastic guitar presses and instead focus on actually teaching you how to play.

The first instrument we saw was the much talked about keyboard. This has 25 keys and can be used as a real instrument by plugging it into a PC using the on-board midi-out connection. The keyboard will retail for around £80 in the UK, or £130 if you want to buy it with the game.

Thankfully, for those who just want to play the game as before, the keyboard still has the five colours assigned in the middle.

The same applies to the new guitars, both of which look amazing and at first glance extremely advanced. The Rock Band Fender Mustang pro-guitar includes 102 buttons, 17 frets and a six-string strumming area. If you think that’s impressive, just wait until you see the Rock Band 3 Squier, a real guitar packed full of sensors which pick up anything you play.

This guitar works with the aid of the Madcatz Midi Pro-Adapter, which, incidentally, can also be used to plug in any midi drums or keyboards you already own into your console for use in the game.

As for the new drums, they’ve been redesigned and let off a much quieter, pleasing-to-the-ear sounds as you bash away to the notes.

The on-screen symbols have also been changed, with three symbols now included with separate notes for both the pads and cymbals now scrolling down the screens, as opposed to the one note for all.

All of the instruments are designed with both casual and pro-players in mind, according to the developers, so you’ll be able to play as in previous games, or change the difficulty and play them as you would a normal instrument in Pro mode.

It’s very impressive, though it does take some getting used to.

As for the game itself, the developer has included more challenges and modes, including the new Goals and Road challenge modes, which should help pad out the game’s longevity.

Meanwhile, the actual in-game experience has been refined, allowing all players to choose difficulties and drop in and out at any point in the game.

And yes, all the songs from every previous Rock Band will be compatible, with the developers telling us they hope to have 2,000 songs available at launch.

Rock band 3, from our few hours we spent with it yesterday, seems like a completely different beast from the previous two games. It’s still essentially the same experience, but one that has evolved to allow players of all skills, be they beginners or experts, to join in and play together: no one has been left out here.

Rock Band 3 ships for PS3, Wii and 360 on October 29.

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