One of my main goals with Rock Band 2 was for Goretopsy, my Rock Band band, to complete the Endless Setlist II in one sitting - 84 songs played back-to-back, and a feat demanding enough to file down the buttons on any half-decent plastic guitar. It was the ultimate challenge that, sadly, I never got the opportunity to experience. Chalk it up to creative differences within the band (read: the rest of Goretopsy couldn't give a toss), though I did attempt it solo once - I got about 40-odd songs in before my 360 crashed. I could never bring myself to attempt it again.
I've been jingling around to music while holding an expensive toy with colourful buttons for five years now. In that half-decade I've managed to get myself a degree, a (very nice - please don't ever fire me) job, gone through multiple relationships and moved house three times. I've also moved slowly up from Easy difficulty to on-and-off Expert, bought six different plastic guitars and racked up a Rock Band DLC collection totalling over 5000 Microsoft Points.
I have never played a real guitar.
Enter Rock Band 3, and Harmonix intends to change all that with its new Pro mode and, assuming I have a magical bottomless wallet, a new keytar peripheral as well. Which means there are now 10 different inputs to take into consideration: Guitar, Bass, Drums and Keys have Pro modes available for each, and Vocals exist as either solo or the three-part Harmonies first seen in last year's The Beatles: Rock Band.
Pro mode is an undoubtedly exciting addition for people seriously into music, but it also requires ridiculously expensive new instruments: a Pro guitar, with 6 actual strings, 17 frets and 102 tiny buttons, has an RRP of £124.99. The keytar has 25 keys and costs £70, and the new drums have three cymbals and an RRP of £120. Alternatively, a yet-to-be-released MIDI adapter will allow you to plug actual, genuine, expensive, real-life MIDI instruments into the game.
What that actually does to the game, well, I can't really tell you about the Pro Guitar and Drums - we couldn't get our hands them, although previous coverage suggests they add a lot to the game for the minuscule percentage who will want to utilise the features. Let's be honest: due to the exorbitant costs involved, it's likely most players are going to just play the game with their existing equipment.
The keytar, however, is a nice touch which really comes to life in Pro mode - its regular option is just a 5-key affair which feels a bit like a weak (though still entertaining) guitar you play at a different angle and without strumming. In Pro mode, however, it's like an actual keyboard - complete with befuddling octaves and too many keys for the human mind to casually process. And it's pretty bloody hard, too, with me only able to hit 43% of the notes (in Easy, no less) on my first attempt.
60 of the 83 songs feature support for the keyboard, which is certainly enough to get started with, though it's a bit of shame none of the existing Rock Band catalogue has been reverse engineered to incorporate the new peripherals. It's also worth noting that obtaining DLC tracks which support Pro mode for guitar will set you back some extra pennies.