This approach is even reflected in the hardware. The Guitar, modelled on a Fender Stratocaster, feels more solid than the GHIII Les Paul, features non-coloured buttons that are cunningly moulded into the frets (with an extra set at the top of the neck for solo widdling), and has a five-way selector that adds effects to the in-game sound. The strum bar is also no longer ‘clicky’, which makes a huge difference when you’re trying to keep a tight riff on the track or play through one of the more complicated solos.
The new Logitech microphone is a dead-ringer for the sort of Shure or AKG mic used by real rock singers, and performs exceedingly well. The drums, meanwhile, are almost overkill. Not only do you get four sizable, velocity sensitive pads, you also get a bass drum pedal and two proper Ludwig drumsticks to bash the things with. The only disappointment is that all this stuff is – on the Xbox 360 version, at least – wired, needing a USB hub plus accompanying power supply (both supplied in the Band in a Box kit) if you want three or four of you playing at the same time.
Still, it’s when you add band members that the good times rock and roll. With one player nominated as leader, up to four of you can start a band, give it a name, establish a hometown and create all the members. Having done so, Rock Band proper begins. Out goes the linear structure of the single-player game. In comes a more open game, with a number of unlocked cities, each boasting several venues, and each venue offering a selection of songs or setlists you can play through. The more gigs you play and the better you play them, the more cash, fans and star points you accumulate.
Get enough, and you open special challenge setlists where you can win a van, tour bus or, when you’re bigger, private jet, which will in turn unlock new cities and bigger venues. On top of that, you can also win useful support staff, like a manager who can tell you what to do and where to play next, or a sound guy who can help you make the most of each performance. The overall effect is that you feel rewarded for playing well but not too held back when you play poorly, and there’s a nice sense of momentum as your band slowly rises through the ranks.