E3 10: Rock Band 3 hands-on

June 16, 2010

Harmonix’s new band game is for pros. And newbies. And those in between. All at the same time. We’re really not sure how they did it, but it’s true.

First off, for us normal people. The game adds a keytar to the mix. (They say a keyboard, but that thing has holes for a strap and a handle on the side. That thing’s a keytar.) It can be played key-for-key in Pro mode, or you can use five of the keys to play it normal-style. (You can also use the keyboard to play guitar and bass parts.) At the highest level, it’s essentially like playing the actual part, and at the lowest level it’s too simple for anyone but little kids and grandmas. There’s somewhere in the middle for you. (We think we’ll prefer Medium Pro Mode, where it’s using actual keys, but not a large enough range to make the lines move back and forth.)

They’ve added vocal harmonies to the main game as well. They made their debut in Beatles Rock Band and made a cameo in Green Day’s version, but here they’ll be added to everything. All in all, you can play seven players at once: three singers and one of each other instrument.

A big help to those who play at parties: the game supports full drop-in drop-out at all points in the game, including mid-song and mid-tour. Each player has their own menu for this, which also lets them control lefty flip and difficulty.

Now for the pros: the game supports MIDI keyboards and drums through a little adapter box, and they’ve made two flavors of guitars as well: a 102-button version where every fret is separate, and a working guitar that just happens to be playable in the game as well. This part, while obviously done to combat the myriad upstarts at the show that promise this, works fairly well. (We can’t play guitar, so we didn’t try this, but we watched a few people do it, and it seems intuitive.)

We can’t wait to play full 7-player Bohemian Rhapsody in the comfort of our own homes. Or, rather, discomfort, since there’ll be seven people around the TV, most with accompanying large plastic things. But still.