I almost didn’t make it to the show. At about 10:12 a.m., I learned that I had been sitting in a car queue for a parking lot that was closed. Some aggressive driving later, I was sprinting across the L.A. Convention Center’s South Hall concourse, hurdling up stairs and past security.
That’s when I hit the shag carpeting in front of Disney’s Tron booth. Catching rubber on grippy white fabric, I did a header onto the convention floor. As I hit the ground, I pushed the question of just how clean the purple field in front of me could be. I pushed my hands out, tucked, rolled to the side and spent a moment admiring the pretty lights above my head.
Sitting in Harmonix’s faux-auditorium, replete with heavy velvet curtains, a small stage and fancy old-timey theater chairs, I wondered if RockBand 3 was worth all this trouble. But when the house band (composed of developers, producers, and other assorted Harmonix personnel) hit the stage, they made one thing very, very clear to me.
Harmonix does not bring weak sh*t to E3.
That’s all it really boils down to. Their RB3 walkthrough was full of heart and the kind of honesty that only comes at the end of a three-day convention slog. (There may have been hangovers involved as well. It’s hard to tell when it’s 10:30 a.m.). Our presenter made it clear that the team was proud of their creation – that it wasn’t just another cash-grab meant to keep the brand name in the presses or on the shelves. They talked us through the reasoning behind their “Overshell” menu system, the tweaked filtering of song titles (with close to 2,000 songs estimated by year’s end, it’ll make strumming through a menu quite the chore), the ability to drop in and out or modify settings on the fly, and the tiny improvements that turn it into a much better party game (Dave, the asshole drummer, can no longer kick you back to the menu screen).
Now, it remains to be seen if the community can get into this the way that Harmonix wants them to. Pro mode is a huge gamble, and an even bigger investment. The game supports seven simultaneous players, which adds up to a lot of instruments. (And, of course, that assumes that you have that many friends around).
But really, nothing compares to having an actual musician, a dude who can play an actual guitar pluck his way through a White Stripes song. It really communicates that these folks are looking to share their love of music, and not just create a rockstar experience as communicated through tiny plastic instruments.
And even if you’re not into the whole “learning an instrument through the magic of games” aspect, the party shuffle mode they’ve included guarantees this to be a social staple: no more slogging through menu screens after every song, because the game will keep you in a continuous rotation of musical bliss. Don’t like what you’re playing? Skip it, at any time.
I’m sitting here, aching from the fall I took two hours ago, rubbing the carpet-burned skin on my palm, in utter awe of the way this game has improved on so much. I’ve gone from lukewarm on the whole franchise, to a Day One convert.
Oh yeah, it was totally worth it.