Review: Music Game Roundup

Steve Butts | 2 Nov 2010 13:00
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Rock Band 3 has a great career mode, full of nearly endless customization options, plenty of rewards for incremental progress, and a surprisingly deep and satisfying song list with full support for Pro guitar, drums, keyboard and vocal play. If you can get seven people together, they'll each have something to do in this game. You can even make your own band, complete with changing wardrobes, hairstyles, make-up, and instruments. Even if you don't want to take the party route, there's still a lot of meat for the solo gamer. Trying to learn individual song parts, or even train on instruments you don't normally play, keeps me coming back again and again. Toss in an online ranking system and plenty of unlocks, and you'll find there's a great sense of progress in the solo modes.

Squier is releasing a real guitar controller in the near future (probably next year and probably around $300, although that's just a guess), but for now gamers can make use of the Pro Guitar. This $150 peripheral makes no claims to be a real guitar. It even says "Not a real guitar" on the box, but it is a one-button-per-string-per-fret MIDI controller that also works with the game. The difference between this and the Power Gig guitar is that this one embraces its controller nature. All the game's pro songs are tracked note-for-note, so when playing you'll actually be playing the real songs. Though well-made, this thing is still a plastic controller and it lacks the tactile feedback that's so necessary when playing guitar. As a result, you'll find yourself checking your position with your eyes more than with your hands, which makes it tough to keep up with some of the game's faster songs. It's also a short-scale instrument, so you wind up getting cramped up around the 12th fret.

As with the Power Gig guitar, the big question with the Rock Band 3 guitar is whether or not you want to pay that much for a controller that mimics something you could buy in real life for about that same amount of cash. This is probably all buried in the larger issue of why you'd want the Pro Guitar in the first place. If you just want to extend your enjoyment of the game, and don't mind shelling out an extra $150 to do it, then it will do what you want it to do. If you just want to transition to playing a real guitar, you'd be better off using that money to buy a real guitar to begin with.

Each of these four games brings something new to the table. DJ Hero 2's unique controller is genuinely fun once you get the hang of it, and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock tries desperately to make guitar games be about more than just shredding. Power Gig wants to give gamers a chance to transition from the couch to the stage, and Rock Band 3's Pro Mode brings a new layer of authenticity to the whole music game experience.

In the end, I found myself coming back again and again to Rock Band 3. Not only does it deliver a great combination of challenges and progressions without losing the sense of freedom that makes it pick-up-and-play, but it's also more refined and dense than any of the other experiences available on the market right now. Of course, your level of enjoyment depends greatly on buying into the game's Pro Modes, which may feel more like work than play for some gamers. If you're into music at all (and otherwise, why are you even reading this?), it's the clear winner for this holiday season.

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