Rock Band, the addictive music simulation game is back and Harmonix are looking to bring you closer to stardom than ever before. In this version, Rock Band has been re-built from the ground up and exclusively for VR. Does this new spin on the series captivate the crowd or is it more likely to scare them off?
To begin, Rock Band VR makes use of both the Oculus Rift and Touch to bring you a live experience right in the spotlight. I was quite taken back when I was unexpectedly pulled onto the virtual stage in front of a huge crowd, just seconds before the start of a performance. Luckily, it was at this point the game switched to the tutorial (which was much needed in my case), giving a Rock Band novice such as myself, a rundown of how this VR interpretation works. Thankfully, it's straight forward to play, making it relatively easy for beginners, with enough added flexibility for pro’s to go all out.
To start, the tutorial kicks off by showing you how to hold the guitar to best navigate between the buttons. You, of course, can see the instrument in real time and can still use the Guitar controller peripheral to play the game. This works well thanks to the touch controller (which comes with the Oculus package and is attached to the back of the guitar with a hook) and sensors in place. The setup is relatively simple and works with everything already included, so once you pop on the headset, you’re ready to go.
The mechanics of the game judge you on points which are gained by not only playing in rhythm correctly, but also stringing combos together based on sounds and transitions making your performance that much more epic. While you can freestyle, some segments will include certain notes that you should hit to gain the maximum points possible. This is usually split between single, double and triple notes.
Once you get the hang of things, start gaining points and really begin to shred it out there, a meter will begin to fill up that's located at the top of your guitar. This allows you to give the crowd all you've got and is simply activated by tipping your guitar up toward the ceiling as you strum away. This is the kind of action you'd see pro’s such as Slash perform, most often at the peak of their performance when they've really gotten into it. What’s even more impressive is the fact there's no lag between your commands/input and the cues you see in front of you, which is something I was initially worried about.
Looking around as you stand on the virtual stage just brings the whole Rock Band experience up another level and with little extra touches added to further empower your immersion (such as nodding your head to the beat, further building up your Overdrive meter, or looking at the drummer behind you once you're ready to start the performance), you're guaranteed a great experience. Thanks to the Oculus sensors, you can even move around a little, but if you're planning on changing position during a performance, you simply point the guitar in the desired direction and push the whammy down.
Combining VR with the Rock band series has not only created one of the most unique experiences within that space, but has also allowed the developers to bring individuals even further into the world of stardom. With a large library of songs, leaderboards, classic modes and a campaign, Rock Band is still the music simulation you love, only cranked up tenfold with VR. At this moment in time, the only instrument available is the guitar, however as time moves on, we may well see a band full of friends......drums, vocals and all!
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