Rock Band 3
Rock Band 3 Hands-On Preview - Man Up Son, It's Time To Go Pro
Written Sunday, September 26, 2010 By Dan Webb
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Believe it or not, I used to be a dab hand at the piano back in my youth. They called me the “white Stevie Wonder”... okay, so maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but I did used to play piano, quite well in fact.

That was about 15 years ago though - yes, I am that old - and I've always wanted to get back into it, but I felt like a prostitute that's had her legs closed for a decade: rusty and full of cobwebs. When Harmonix announced that Rock Band 3 would be getting its very own keyboard peripheral, well, I suddenly had an excuse to pick up the mantle once again, especially with the pitch accurate ‘Pro’ keys.

When we were at EA's Guildford offices this week, we not only managed to get our filthy mits on the elusive keyboard, but even the Mad Catz pro-guitar. In short, we both sucked and rocked in equal measures. After being given the option of which instrument we wanted to step up on to the oche with, naturally we gravitated towards the keyboard with it being new and me squirming inside like a young school girl.

Although the new peripheral does have a Rock Band style mode to rock out with using just 5 keys and the traditional colour notations, for us, pro-keys was the way forward. Covering two octaves, we found that the Mad Catz created peripheral is probably best played on the adjustable stand (RRP £24.99, sold separately).

Playing pitch accurate notes in all the ‘Pro’ modes, the difference between difficulties is simple. The lower the difficulty, the less notes; the higher the difficulty, the more chords and sharps you'll be hitting until you ramp up to expert which is said to be an exact representation of the music you’re playing along to.

Being suitably rusty, we jumped in on easy with a relatively laid-back track: T. Rex and 20th Century Boy. The most notable issue that stuck out like a sore thumb for me was that with the heavy-on-the-guitar tracks, it was pretty difficult to pick out the ivory tones out of everything that was going on.

First track down and things were relatively simple from our perspective. On to the next track, we upped the ante choosing a harder track, and even opting for medium. This time around we had left our comfort zone and we were using both the ebony and ivory keys. Coming from someone who played the piano many moons ago, there are two challenges that you must overcome:
  1. You’ll need to retrain your brain to read a different kind of music. If you've grown up reading sheet music, this is a different kettle of fish. Associating colours and positions on-screen with the keys at your fingers is definitely a new experience and one that will take a little getting used to.
  2. Secondly, with it being two octaves on the keyboard and with only one of those on screen at once, it essentially means that every so often the pitch will shift and with it, the note chart shifts. Getting used to that is one of the mode's biggest hurdles. Truth be told, it's pretty damn disorientating, and keeping a track of where your hands should be and which notes you should be playing is the key to mastering this mode.
That being said, this is pro-keys and no-one said this was going to be an easy ride. After all, you're effectively playing proper music, which is the lure of the whole mode. Despite the growing pains and disorientating start, after 3 or so songs I started to find my groove and the peripheral and mode really starts to come into its own. Yes, there may be a steep learning curve, even for studious pianists, but it's simply some of the most engaging and fun times I've ever had in a music game ever.

While we were eased into the keyboard peripheral with a fairly easy track, unfortunately our time with the pro-guitar was not as forgiving. Straight up, straight onto Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody - 5 devilish stars of difficulty for the pro-guitar if you're interested.

Now maybe it wasn't the wisest idea to start ‘Pro’ mode on this song with the 102 button Mad Catz peripheral, but hey, it's a good song and we like to go with the flow. Even on easy, for the most novice guitarists like myself - I can play a few chords and White Stripes' ‘Seven Nation Army’ - it was a massive challenge. Seeing someone nail this mode though is as mesmerising as watching a real guitarist.

So, how it works is simple: each string is represented on-screen and each fret has a number. So if the first string shows a note with a 7 on, you hit the 7th fret on first string as the note passes. For me, that was more complex to grasp than the theory of relativity, and after fumbling through the track – on easy, mind – I end with a dismal 22%.

There is one noticeable hang up though that hasn't really been publicised, and that’s namely that while you may hold down a string not part of a chord on a proper guitar, you know, because it's further up the neck and is superseded by holding down a string on a fret towards the base of the neck. With the Mad Catz pro-guitar though, the peripheral recognises that button press and ultimately says you're wrong, which isn’t going to be ideal for existing guitarists who are already set in their ways. As a tool to learn the guitar though, what more could you ask for?

In a genre that has been long stagnating and lacking innovation, trust it to be Harmonix to give it the kick up the ass the genre needs. After only a short hands-on, it's clear that not only is Rock Band 3 becoming a revelation in the games industry, but with offering a supremely interactive learning system for a variety of instruments – drums as well – the pitch accurate ‘Pro’ modes may take the music industry by storm as well.

Plus, it has Echo & the Bunnymen on the soundtrack, what more could you want?

Rock Band 3 is scheduled for an October 26th and October 29th release in North America and Europe respectively.


User Comments
Forum Posts: 68
Comment #1 by Dazzax788
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 06:23:28 PM
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could be really cool

Forum Posts: 4
Comment #2 by Legend_of_Sam
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 06:24:32 PM
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Oh hell yes, this is gonna be sick.

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #3 by KillerKratos8
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 06:30:49 PM
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i hope they have a doors track pack cause playing some of their songs on keyboard would be awesome.

Forum Posts: 41
Comment #4 by Arcane Paradise
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 06:56:26 PM
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The next round of Guitar Hero vs Rock Band

Forum Posts: 1226
Comment #5 by luxxx
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 06:59:33 PM
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Awesome! It's the same game with new songs!!!

Forum Posts: 681
Comment #6 by RabidJellyfish
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 07:10:11 PM
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Rock Band is conforming to society's "play a real instrument!" rant, which is meh. I think I'd rather get GH:WoR for the setlist and low budget. This looks cooler feature-wise, though.

Forum Posts: 744
Comment #7 by supesk8r
Sunday, September 26, 2010 @ 07:19:22 PM
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ROCK BAND 3!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Forum Posts: 2
Comment #8 by Frylock
Monday, September 27, 2010 @ 12:01:15 AM
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@5 far from

Forum Posts: 217
Comment #9 by Priddo
Monday, September 27, 2010 @ 03:01:37 AM
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Lolololol, go troll elsewhere.

Forum Posts: 35
Comment #10 by DenBreezy
Monday, September 27, 2010 @ 04:34:43 PM
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@3 i'm not sure about a doors pack but one of the first 3 dlc songs for rb3 is by the doors, it also free if u pre-order from gamestop.

@5 ya its the exact same game only with more than twice as many things as were in the last one!

anyway this looks kool an i'll probly get the pro guitar(the real one not the button one) next summer and i'm pre-ordering the game

Forum Posts: 367
Comment #11 by Lord Doomstorm
Monday, September 27, 2010 @ 05:34:15 PM
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ok, lets all take bets on how long it will be before guitar hero tries to "fix" this and make their own.

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Game Info
Electronic Arts


US October 26, 2010
Europe October 29, 2010

Resolution: 480p, 720p
Sound: Dolby Digital
Players: 1-7
Online Players : 2-7
ESRB: Teen
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