Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rock Band (360): Initial Impressions

I've played for about three hours, and here are some initial impressions.

First off, the drums are a hundred different kinds of awesome. I can't overstate how fantastic and fun it is to be playing the drums. It's hard for me, even on medium, but it's still a blast.

I've spent most of my time in guitar solo mode (I finished the first set on Hard and Expert), so let's talk some nuts and bolts. Here are some data points:
--I like the feel of the guitar, but it's very, very different from the feel of the Red Octane controllers. It's larger and there's zero click. I don't want to play with the Les Paul anymore at this point, but it's a significant adjustment (NOTE: the PS3 version of Rock Band is not compatible with the Les Paul--no word yet on why).
--hammer-on/pull-off sections are designated by the HO/PO notes being not as wide as regular notes. I can see why they did it this way, because if you did it with colors, it would make the game unplayable for people who are color-blind, but it's very hard for me to see HO/PO notes. It would have been better to make them thicker, which would have both made them easier to see (since they would be bigger than regular notes) as well as emphasizing HO/PO (which is an integral part of higher-level technique).
--the timing of HO/PO is tighter than GH II, seemingly, which means it's way, way tighter than GH III.
--the solo sections where you can use the neck buttons to play without having to strum are totally cool. The neck buttons are more narrow, and I'm fumbling around with my fingers at times, but it's a good change of pace as well as a strategic decision (you don't have to strum, but you have to move your hand way down the guitar and get positioned, which is hard to do, so there's a risk involved).
--be sure to calibrate the game for your screen (look under Options). This can make a big, big difference in accuracy.
--there's a little "chime" during the song as you pass each star level, so when you go from a two-star performance to three-star in terms of scoring, you'll hear a chime. Crap, I hate that. It's a small thing, I know, but we should be able to turn it off, because it runs counter to Harmonix's design philosophy of providing a musical experience instead of a gaming experience. I'd also like to be able to remove the little circle that fills up as you approach a scoring multiplier. Let us take all the HUD elements off the screen that we want to--it's easy to tell from the crowd reactions if you're getting close to failing a song.
--another feature that's needed (and this is an important one) is to allow us to set the transparency of the HUD elements. I don't mean the note charts, but there are several very bright white elements on the screen, and for people with HD screens that have any chance of burn-in, this is needed.
--training mode now has speed set at 10% intervals, which is much more flexible than in GH II.

That's it for now. So far, I'm having a great time, and I'm looking forward to starting a band to explore World Tour mode.

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