After two sequels, Rock Band is starting to feel like the repetitive, money-spinning cash-in more jaded people decided it was in the first place. This is coming from a Rock Band die-hard; by die-hard, I mean I thoroughly enjoy playing the songs. The career emulations and band editing can sod off.
So what’s gone wrong with Rock Band? I’ll tell you; it is now the dictionary definition of ‘money for old rope’. It’s expensive, it’s expensive and it’s really expensive!
Yes, I sound like a mean Scottish skinflint but Rock Band 3, from Electronic Arts, will turn any right-minded human into one as well. The game itself costs £40, so if you already have an old plastic guitar, drums and mic you’re all set to pay the cost of a full-price game for this glorified expansion pack.
If you want to make use of the main addition to RB3 over its previous incarnation, you’ll need a £60 plastic music keyboard. You could use your own keyboard, if it’s MIDI compatible, that’s pretty cool. The adaptor costs $40 and isn’t available here in the UK at the moment. That’s really shit.
However, if you want to make use of the other great addition to the Rock Band gravy train, ‘Pro Mode’ you’ll need a special £100 plastic guitar featuring 102 buttons on the neck. I’m quite sure real guitars can be bought for less even if this one will maybe help you learn how to play the real thing.
It’s a bit like a non-driver spending millions pounds on a realistic driving simulator instead of going out and buying a car.
Still interested? OK, as a Pro Mode user you’ll be happy to pay £1 more than non-pro players for every new song you download on Rock Band’s online music store. Or maybe you don’t mind buying songs you already have, again, so your new instruments can be fully utilised. Remember, kids; no refunds on a Rock Band song purchase.
And if you fancy your chances as a background singer, Rock Band 3 also likes the idea of harmonies so extra mics would go down well.
In the past, buying an extra plastic guitar or investing in the drums felt like choices rather than necessities, and new songs felt like treats. While the keyboard, on paper, feels like a natural extension of this, when packed in alongside the money pinching Pro Mode it loses its appeal.
However, if you still feel you have too much money, you can pay around £5 to have all your songs from Rock Band 2 transferred to Rock Band 3. I say all, I mean most.
Hilariously, or most probably for Rock Band’s creators, embarrassingly, obscure rival guitar-heavy rhythm action game Rise Of The Six String uses a plastic guitar with real strings, which also doubles as a playable guitar. No one knows when this pretender to the throne will surface in the UK, but guitar legends, like Eric Clapton, haters of the simplicity of Rock Band and Guitar Hero, will only release their songs on Six String.
So what’s Rock Band 3 like to play? You shouldn’t really be asking that. Rock Band 3 plays no different to Rock Band 2, or Rock Band. You hit colours in time to music, ad infinitum. It’s fun, especially with friends. But it was fun five years ago. Rock Band 3 has done nothing to evolve the genre.
Maybe the Pro Mode guitar will influence future Rock Band releases, but right now it’s the play thing of the stupid and the rich. The keyboard isn’t that tricky to figure out, but I don’t own one.
It turns out there aren’t enough keyboards to send out to reviewers and I’m not forking out £60 for yet another plastic peripheral. I did that years ago, thanks. I wonder how important Rock Band in the UK is to its publishers, Electronic Arts, or its developers, Harmonix.
The game’s online store, where you can buy new songs to pretend to play, is packed full of obscure American bands. Its indie store, where bands with no money can have their songs put on the game, is even more obscure. But I can’t be mad at that, it’s a bloody good idea. I just want to see more British stuff on it.
To be fair, in the past year or so a slew of more popular, well known songs have appeared on the Rock Band store. Don’t get giddy, that’s just down to sheer inundation. Good songs are bound to appear.
But three incarnations in and there’s still no Pulp. Rock Band is doomed to keep most people alienated from its basic frivolity due to, frankly, bewildering choices in new music.
Rock Band is now officially not gaming; it’s just a distraction, a laugh. It’s Simon Says for parties, it’s an excuse to pose, a more jaunty alternative to playing songs all night on your iTunes.
In the end, all these options mean you have choice in Rock Band 3. You can choose at which level you want to play and which instruments. Money separates these options and that’s why Rock Band is no longer a video game, it’s video… uh, entertainment. Maybe.
Rock Band 3 is simply too expensive to recommend. However, stripped away of its expensive new additions it’s just Rock Band 2, so go and buy that instead.