Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rock Band 3

Let's reminisce.

I will never forget the first time I played Guitar Hero. After hearing uniform, extravagant praise from everyone who played the game, I took the plunge, even though I was skeptical. A guitar-shaped controller? Plastic buttons?

How the hell could THAT be fun?

Less than 30 seconds after starting "I Love Rock And Roll," I was giddy. It was unbridled, raw exuberance, pure happiness in a plastic shape.

It was, in a word, wonderful.

In 2007, my good friend John Harwood made it his mission in life to find the 360 version of Guitar Hero II early. He called me from a Circuit City parking lot, ten days before release, entirely successful. I left immediately.

It wasn't even remotely possible that Guitar Hero II could be better than the original, but it was. The timing on hammer-ons and pull-offs was relaxed, which meant I could actually do them now.Just like the original Guitar Hero, I couldn't finish the last two songs on Expert, but I was still giddy.

There was no chance, not even a remote one, that Rock Band could be better. No f-ing way. So I sat down to play the drums for the first time, and again, that exuberance hit me in a powerful way.

Drums were better. It was all better.

I'd easily spent 200+ hours on each game, which meant that in 2008, Harmonix had released the top three played games of my gaming lifetime. Strange wizards from the future, perhaps, with a portal directly into my ventral tegmental area.

Rock Band 2? Better. The drums had cymbals now, and I bought a mod box that allowed me to use my electronic drum kit. I downloaded huge amounts of DLC, struggled in vain to play metal on Expert, and happily spent another 200+ hours of my life.

The Beatles: Rock Band, though, was a pinnacle. The world's greatest band given tribute by the world's greatest developers, with a level of creativity and imagination that was worthy of the band. The level of quality in this game was absolutely staggering, as was the obvious affection of the developers.

200+ hours. Happily.

Today, I opened up Rock Band 3. Certainly, based on my initial impressions, they've done it again. The game is polished to a high sheen, a step up from an already impossibly high ledge.

I decided this time that I will only be playing in Pro mode. Because of the lag in the release of the MIDI Pro Adapter and the Squier, it means that, for now, I'm only playing keyboards.

Playing keyboards feels very, very strange.

Not the keyboards themselves, which seemed to be a cut above regular plastic instrument quality, but just the act of playing keyboards at all. I'm working my way through the tutorials, with my biggest difficulty being the ache in my forearms which has gone on intermittently for over a year now (thank you, local orthopedists who only see me as a potential revenue stream and aren't interested in actually diagnosing the problem).

So physically, I'm limited, but I'm still hoping to gradually increase the length of time I can play, and I will report in intermittently on my success (or, just as possibly, my lack of it).

I actually feel somewhat melancholy as I play this game, knowing that the future of the entire genre probably rests on sales figures, sales figures but I don't expect to be sufficient.

If that happens, though, what a great ride it's been.

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