The latest Rock Band installment gives fans everything they’ve loved about the franchise, along with a few new instruments. But are they any good?
So far there are two new instruments – Pro Drums and a keyboard. Players who prefer the old-school Rock Band drums can still use the classic kit, but upgrading to a Pro kit gives more points, more fun, and a more realistic drumming experience. Pro Drums modifies gameplay slightly while playing on drums; there are now round Cymbal notes in addition to the square Pad notes. Hitting a cymbal instead of a pad, or a pad instead of a cymbal, counts as a bad note. This review was written after playing on an Alesis Ion Drum Rocker, and while the cymbal and pad notes can get confusing, making the distinction becomes easier with practice and overall it’s a much more exciting gaming experience.
Also worth mentioning is the keyboard instrument, new to Rock Band in this installment. It’s a quality controller, with full-sized keys, a sturdy response, and a two-octave span. The keyboard can be either strapped across the chest or held in the player’s lap. The keyboard uses both white and black keys. Using the Rock Band keyboard can be difficult – while black and white notes are differentiated on-screen, they still tend to be crowded and hard to tell apart. Of course, the best way to improve this is to spend some time with the instrument in Practice Mode and getting comfortable with the in-game display.
Not yet released is the MIDI guitar – a proper instrument that uses strings and can actually be played through an amplifier – but given the solid implementation of the Pro Drums and the new keyboard, it’s safe to say it will be a fun addition that doesn’t fundamentally change the exciting Rock Band gaming experience.