On 2nd April, Harmonix, the creators of Rock Band, released Don McLean’s American Pie as a new piece of downloadable content for Rock Band 3. The timing of this particular release can’t have been coincidental, as it represented the final piece of weekly DLC for the Rock Band series – it really was the “day the music died”. Since the first downloadable tracks came out for the original Rock Band in late 2007, Harmonix has pumped them out on a weekly basis for 281 weeks. Just think about that for a moment. That is some truly epic post-release support there (and yes, of course, they will have made money on that content). For the past couple of years or so, the content has only been compatible with Rock Band 3, but anyone who has a copy of that, can download any of those 281 weeks’ worth of stuff, safe in the knowledge it will work (apart from a few Metallica tracks which have just been removed for licensing reasons).
A few years ago, someone (I think it might have been Phil Harrison, while he was at Sony) said that he thought Guitar Hero was the ultimate example of a supremely casual game simultaneously being a supremely hard-core one. Harmonix, of course, created the Guitar Hero franchise, and then evolved it into Rock Band, and I would say that Rock Band goes even further in that encompassing embrace. Take Rock Band 3: if you’ve got the peripherals, you can have 6 mates playing/singing with you at the same time in a free-for-all party mode affair, where you can have a (usually drunken) laugh at someone’s attempts to do the backing vocals to Cold As Ice, and easily while away an entire evening that way (especially if you’ve imported the songs from Rock Bands 1 & 2, and grabbed some extra content along the way) as the variety of songs available is so great, you are bound to find stuff to appeal to almost everyone’s taste. Or, you could buy the Fender Mustang pro-controller, the keyboard controller, or the full Squier guitar, and really go to town on learning the full instrument parts – like the entire guitar solo from Free Bird for example. Don’t like the keyboard or drums Mad Catz made? Not a problem – they even produced an adaptor so any MIDI-compatible keyboard or drum pad set will work with the game.
There are some games that I’ve played where I’ve sometimes lost the love or the fun during the course of things (it doesn’t make them bad), especially if there’s a lot of grinding involved. That’s never happened for me with the Rock Band franchise; I know that if I fire it up (usually with at least one other person around) I will end up with a huge smile on my face. It’s also expanded my own musical tastes: without it, I would be entirely unaware of the existence of Kansas’ Carry on Wayward Son, Bang Camaro’s Night Lies, or even Alice in Chains’ Man in the Box, to name but 3. Thank you, Harmonix, for improving my life, and giving me, and a hell of a lot of other people, a huge amount of fun along the way.