We’ve also just added a new Watchlist feature, which helps you keep track of the movies and TV episodes you want to view later. You can add favorites and new discoveries to your list—then come back anytime to watch instantly. Try it on your Xbox 360, Kindle Fire, or your browser on PC & Mac … and Watchlist is coming soon to PlayStation 3 and Roku.
I’ve never really used Instant Video much on my devices, but after using the Xbox 360 Amazon Instant Video app, the Watchlist feature feels like it should have always been there. Now if they’ll just get an iOS app out…
Oh, another Rock Band game coming out this year? What’s next, are you going to tell me that they’re releasing a new Madden title too? hi2u Captain Obvious!
If I didn’t know any better, those would be my first thoughts about Rock Band 3. While a new entry in the franchise may not be the most surprising piece of news to someone, the number of tangible improvements Harmonix has brought to the series is.
Before E3, it was announced that Rock Band 3 would contain a “Pro” mode where players could essentially play the real notes of a particular song on updated guitar controllers. On top of that, the new plastic “pro” instruments would double as functional MIDI instruments for actual music creation.
Now, Harmonix didn’t have playable pro guitars available at their E3 booth this year, but they did provide a live demonstration of them in action:
What really blew my mind was when the guitarist plugged the guitar controller he was using into an amp and played real musical notes while playing a game. It’s one thing to read that these things function as real instruments and another to actually hear it for yourself. It doesn’t sound fake or bee-boo-bop-beep-y, folks. It’s not quite the same as Jack White on stage, but it’s definitely close. The music/tech geek in me had the same childlike feeling of wonderment as it did when I played the first Guitar Hero game.
(You can definitely tell the difference in the video below, but it’s nowhere near the audio fidelity you get from hearing these things played live.)
Bear in mind though, Harmonix dude is an accomplished guitar player. Unless you’re a plastic instrument playing prodigy, you shouldn’t expect to be shredding right out of the box. Nevertheless, the game does have the makings of being the most fun guitar teacher ever. I’m not sure if I’d actually stick with the game long enough to get good at it, but I’ll be damned if coming out of a video game progression cocoon a real guitarist isn’t downright compelling.
I did have the opportunity to try out the new keyboard instrument, though. Of course I picked “pro” mode because I used to play some piano back when I was a wee lad.
I clearly failed as a kid.
I had a hard time even on medium difficulty in a song with a simple keyboard part, “Power of Love.” When i did hit the right notes, though, it was much more gratifying than if I had just hit some colored buttons on a game controller because in the back of my mind I knew that i was playing the real notes of the song. On a related note, I noticed that the keyboard parts in many rock songs are pretty friggin’ simplistic. Unless we get a song like U2 – New Years Day, I wouldn’t expect for keyboard virtuosos to be playing long, complicated solos in this game even on pro-mode.
Ironically enough, the five iconic rhythm game colors are how Harmonix organizes keys on the keyboard controller:
The keyboard section on the game screen will shift from left to right depending on where your fingers should be on the keyboard. For example, if you see blue and green bars on your screen, you’ll want to have your fingers on the right side of the keyboard. If the game needs you to be on the left side, the screen will shift to show red and yellow bars. The colors essentially act as octave markers, if you’re musically trained. Notes will still scroll down towards you in the same way, there’ll just be more button possibilities to deal with. It sounds confusing on paper, but it’s easily picked up in seconds once you jump into playing.
I asked Harmonix whether they designed the keyboard to be played flat or if it was to be worn like a keytar. Both methods of play would work just fine, they answered, although I get the feeling playing it like a keytar is more suited for show than for functionality. It’s definitely a lot easier to play the keyboard “normally,” but hey, nothings stopping you from acting out your Nu-Wave keytar fantasies.
Most of the talk surrounding Rock Band 3 centers on pro mode on the new hardware instruments and deservedly so. There’s also a ton of little things Harmonix is putting in the game as well. Stuff that will make the game easier to enjoy and make you wonder why they weren’t already there.
Here’s some of the things Harmonix highlighted:
True drop in/drop out functionality - Anytime. No more quitting out of songs or navigating multiple menus to remove/add someone.
Extensive song browsing/filtering capabilities - You can drill down with such detail filters such as song length or family-friendly songs.
Song ratings and recommendations - We’re getting into online music store client features here. You can assign 5 star ratings to all the songs in the library and search/filter by your preferences. The Rock Band music store will even use these to serve up recommended songs of what you may like.
Playlist building/sharing - There’s enough songs playable on the Rock Band platform now that this makes a lot of sense. I mean, shit, there’s even REAL music streaming services that don’t offer playlist sharing functionality yet.
Party Shuffle - Basically a random track shuffler. It’s simple, but makes complete sense for party play when people just want to play with the least amount of menu navigating possible.
Another goal that Harmonix mentioned was to make progress-oriented multiplayer gameplay more self contained. In other words, if you have a regular band that you play with on the campaign mode, you’re probably tired of playing an inordinate amount of sets on a seemingly never-ending world tour. Harmonix’s solution to the problem is to incorporate “tours” that you can reasonably finish in a couple hours of gameplay for the night. In essence, the goal is to make you feel like you’ve “beaten Rock Band for the night.” It’s a legitimate concern that I’ve definitely run into while playing Rock Band with friends. I’m glad to see that attention is being given to making progression oriented players feel like they are completing something significant each session.
The biggest challenge of the music gaming genre is making new products that aren’t just glorified song-packs each year. While I’m definitely for less frequent title releases, it’s hard to argue that Rock Band 3 isn’t shaping up to be worth upgrading to when it ships later this year.
I gotta admit to poppin’ a little stiffy when Bungie revealed that the Halo Reach campaign would incorporate space combat in the vein of Wing Commander or Colony Wars. I love a good space dogfight and can only hope there’s more of it in the full campaign than the couple of minutes we were shown at the Bungie booth at E3 2010.
Bungie confirmed that up to four players playing the campaign co-op will be able to pilot a Sabre in the game. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to do so in player vs player Matchmaking. Yeah, I’m disappointed too, but Microsoft’s got a hell of a spinoff game idea if they ever wanted to, you know, print some money.
Campaign Space Combat Gameplay Video:
Building on ODST’s Firefight game type, Bungie’s added a lot more customizeability to Reach’s Firefight. Some the things we’ll be able to change are the number of rounds in a game, the types of enemies we face, and the weapon/armor ability loadouts that we take into battle. From there, we can save the customizations and upload them to our Bungie File Shares for others to download.
At first I was concerned that this would fracture the player base, but Firefight’s four player focus on cooperative survival means that each game will be fairly self contained. Each player is going to be dealing with the same conditions in a given play session. I just hope there’s a better way of discovering and playing the best user generated gametypes. I always found it difficult in Halo 3 to find and play custom gametypes that weren’t available in matchmaking buckets.
In the live gameplay video below, you’ll also see the unimaginatively named new weapon, “Target Locator” in action. Frankly, they could have called it “stapler” for all I care. Nuking stuff from orbit never gets old.
Finally, for those who played the beta, “Generator Defense” actually turned out to be a test for Firefight 2.0. I’m glad it turned out to be a gametype tuned for AI enemies. As a player vs player gametype it got very one sided and frustrating at times.