The preview stopped, the curtains rolled up: 7 Harmonix band members stood on the stage. The┬ábassist, the guitarist, the drummer, the keyboardist, and 3 singers. All at once, the lights started an offensive against epilepsy and Whitesnake filled the air. And it was good. The game itself – Rock Band 3 – was more than just good.

As I learned today at E3 today, the Rock Band Pro Guitar is legit. A brave Harmonix guitarist showed us his ample skill at Pro Mode Expert, and it was literally the hardest looking thing I’ve seen in my life (getting all the strings correctly and getting as close as you can to actually playing). However, this wasn’t enough: Harmonix wanted to prove that the guitar was really teaching you what to do. And so, he unplugged his guitar and put it into an amp instead. Restarting the song, he played the exact same chords – this time into the amp – and he played the exact same song. The crowd went nuts at seeing him jam the real deal, and I found it amazing that Rock Band 3 brought this to the table.

Speaking of tables, they had a keyboard on one. The Harmonix Rep demonstrated that on high difficulty levels of Pro Mode, the game would notch arrows here and there to warn the player if it would bump up or down an octave, allowing for different note pitches to be hit. The system worked smoothly, and I found it to be pretty easy to slip in to. Some of the people I was with jumped onto Pro Hard and fared relatively well (that said, the songs weren’t jamming a piano like Jonathan Cain would)

rock-band-3-e3-keyboardPictured: The Rock Band 3 Keyboard in action

One of my favorite changes to the game is the UI overhaul. Gone are the annoying times when, say, the drummer goes on a solo mid-menu and accidentally enters a game mode. No, if Player 2 is being a jerk, it only affects him: Each player in the band has their own little section where they can change difficulties on the fly, or drop in and out of sessions seamlessly. Is Hendrix too much on expert? Quick, pause and switch to Hard! Additionally, the menus are simplified and your Rock Band 3 characters mosey around town in the background while you select what you want to play.

Speaking of selection, Rock Band has about 1,500 songs right now – so navigating the songs can get pretty nasty if you have a large collection. RB3 has a great search feature menu that narrows down the field: Search by genre, length, decade etc – and mix the search tags. Want an 80’s Power Ballad that’s hard on drums and under 2 minutes long? 4 clicks and there you go. Wherever you’re at and whoever is with you, the menu is a quick breeze along your road to music. Props, Harmonix – you done good.

Playing Rock Band 3 was an awesome experience; it’s truly the next generation party game. Words cannot describe how much I’m looking forward to this edition, because they’ve revolutionized the music game genre yet again (and just when people said it was getting stale, Harmonix was there to say “F*** you” – that’s what the rep said). With 83 songs set to rock the house (only 22 have been announced so far), this game is going to blow Guitar Hero out of the water as the music king. You can expect it in stores later this year, probably around Christmas. During that time, I will probably disappear for a month.