Rock Band 3 looks lame; is proof rhythm games missed the point


In 2007, a handful of ex-Guitar Hero developers announced a “radical new idea” in video games. I know because I was in the room at E3 when they announced it. They, Harmonix, were going to launch “an interactive music platform” called Rock Band, after which additional songs and game updates would be download later’as opposed to yearly stand alone releases.

Everyone in the room was thrilled with the idea. But it never came to fruition. Harmonix and its partners cowered. And instead of releasing “a platform,” they went against their word and released yearly stand alone games in the form of Rock Band 2, Beatles Rock Band, and Rock Band 3, at full price mind you. Guitar Hero releases are even more watered down.

Wanna play all your music in one spot? Good luck. As is, you have to fire up several different games to play different music, which dicourages use (at least by me).

Imagine if you had to start different iTunes instances (or worse, insert different “iTunes” discs) to play different kinds of music. That’s basically what both Guitar Hero and Rock Band have done. As they say in the South, “It’s hoed up.”

No wonder music games peaked in 2008 and have faded since, as they will undoubtedly continue to do.

As for the above trailer, it’s utterly pathetic. It’s anything but rock. Don’t get me wrong. I love keyboards (The Killers are my favorite band of the last decade, after all). And I still love a good interactive version of Knights of Cydonia. But the showcased songs are anything but energetic. And they’re proof that music games have obviously strayed from their roots of making you feel like a rock star, a face-melting guitarist, a badass drummer.

As for “Rock Band Pro” guitar lessons, I don’t need helping learning how to play guitar. There’s people like Esteban for that (wink, wink). And there are people like myself who actually play guitar, drums, mics, and basses but merely want to pretend they’re better than they really are when playing Guitar Hero. Or forming a “virtual band” with buddies across the nation using only an internet connection.

I still play music games on occasion, particularly the ones with my favorite songs, and when in good company. But after showing show much initial and exciting promise, what a waste the genre has become.

Somewhere, John Bonham is turning in his grave.


  1. “It’s anything but rock” ??

    Some good old rock or prog rock like some Yes or Foreigner like we heard in the trailer is the best that can happen to Rock Band. You want some repetitive trashy boring play? They got Guitar Hero Metallica for you. Rock band is suited for these melodic oriented, epic rock anthems and musically challenging songs.

  2. “As for “Rock Band Pro” guitar lessons, I don’t need helping learning how to play guitar. There’s people like Esteban for that (wink, wink). And there are people like myself who actually play guitar, drums, mics, and basses but merely want to pretend they’re better than they really are when playing Guitar Hero”

    Not sure if you knew this, but there are also people out there who are NOT like yourself… really, it’s true!

  3. Personally, I can’t wait for Rock Band 3: The set list is more diverse and fun than any I’ve seen before, and contains many of my favorites. Rock Band 2 has been one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had with a game: I can play a set of anything from great 60’s to country to progressive rock, depending on my mood. And The Beatles is my favorite music game of all time.

    I don’t understand your comment about not playing all your music in one spot. Even on Wii, I’ve got a huge DL library of multiple genres on my SD card, and 360/PS3 owners can combine all the songs from Rock Band 1, 2, and the track packs onto their drives.

    RB3 is my most-anticipated Wii game of the year–even with the console’s limitations. On top of everything else, as a non-musician, I’m looking forward to some keyboard practice while I play.

    To each his own.

  4. I have no problem with changing discs here and there. With GH 5 I have all of the songs on disc, plus those in you could import from World Tour and Smash Hits plus almost ALL of the songs in Band Hero so that covers a lot. If I wan full on Metal I just put in GH Metallica and even GH Valen is fun.

    Swaping discs is really the deal breaker for you?

  5. Fair enough, Grant. I guess I’m more upset that they didn’t keep their promise of releasing a single game and then updating its playlist via the Internet. I still think they’ve strayed too far from “rock” music, however. In terms of energy, prog rock has nothing on arena, heavy metal, alternative or butt rock.

    And no, it’s not a deal breaker. But I know in my own gaming habits, multiple discs have greatly dissuaded me from playing. In terms of playlist, I still think Guitar Hero III is the best.

  6. But, Blake, exanding the playlist online is exactly what they’ve been doing (every single week) for the past couple of years. I can’t think of any other company that’s put so much work into that aspect of the game. And I definitely view the diversity of their library as a plus: I love all kinds of genres.

  7. Of course, the above comment would’ve made more sense if I’d actually typed “expanding”.

  8. I’m looking forward to renting and playing both Rock Band 3 and Guitar Hero 6 later this year.

    I’ll play through the songs on the discs and enjoy them with my wife on medium guitar and me on hard (or expert) bass. We’ll send them back and never bother downloading content or playing online.

  9. I also hate changing disc but i feel Rock Band actually delivered on their promises. You can import all the game within Rock Band 2 (minus Beatles, that’s a shame and the reason i didn’t buy it) . But i’m on PS3.

  10. I actually like that Rock Band has expanded their range of song types. But yeah, that trailer wasn’t exactly the most impressive array of songs … too much keyboard. Needs more cowbell.

  11. well they kind of have kept their promise. you can still play all the songs for with your rockband 1 disc. I still use my rockband i set and have over 300 songs sp to me the promise was kept.

  12. I disagree, but I also love The Killers! Thanks for the shout-out!

  13. And I say BOOOOOOO. Rock Band is fun, and I may get Rock Band 3 for my first Rock Band game, seeing as it can teach you how to play guitar, piano, and possibly drums.

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