The music-game genre has gotten stale. You don't have to take my word for it; the PR guy from Harmonix said so himself. That's why the latest iteration of the Rock Band franchise is so much more than just a rhythm game. In fact, it may be how the musicians of the future learn how to play guitar.
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First off, some specs; Rock Band III will launch with 83 songs. It will be compatible with all of the music from prior editions of the game, as well as all the DLC that has been released. In total, 1,500 songs are available now and Harmonix plans to have 2,000 by launch. On all instruments mode, as many as 7 people will be able to play at once.
Harmonix opened their demo with a full seven-person band on stage. Three vocalists, two guitarists a drummer and a keyboard. The PR guy told us they weren't allowed to use the word “keytar”, but that's basically what it is. In fact, you can even use the middle keys on the keyboard to play the guitar parts of a song. Likewise, the guitar can act as a keyboard in case yours breaks (or you just don't want to switch).
The interface has taken a great leap forward. For example, you'll now be able to sort through your music library by selecting for things like “short 80s songs” or “drum-heavy metal”.
The real emphasis in Rock Band III has been to bring gamers closer to playing real music. The Squire Stratocaster controller from Fender is a fully functional guitar. They proved it by hooking it up to an amp and having one of their guys play a song in game and in real life simultaneously. The keyboard is also a real instrument; the highest difficulty mode is almost identical to playing the song off of sheet music (but with way prettier graphics).
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Harmonix assured us that Rock Band III will be packed to the gills with tutorials and step-by-step song guides to help turn gamers into real guitarists, drummers (CYMBALS!) and pianists. We'll see. I kind of doubt their ability to turn my tone-deaf, rythym-less self into a real musician. But hey, it's the future; anything is possible.