Calling Realta Entertainment’s upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 title BandFuse: Rock Legends a mere video game is actually doing it a huge injustice. When you discover just how in depth this game is going to be, even the most jaded fan of the former kings of plastic and actual guitar games should be bowing down and paying their respects to what’s going to be an incredibly comprehensive class in guitar and bass for all skill levels. There’s a vocal element as well for you singers, however drummers don’t get some here at all. Still, you skin thumpers out there will want this one for the sheer amount of stuff you can learn and try out if you’ve got a guitar tucked away in your closet somewhere.
Meeting up with Reverb’s Doug Perry and Realta’s super enthusiastic Marcus Henderson (the game’s designer) for a demonstration of the game made for an hour so packed with information that it seemed as if we were discussing three or four entirely different games and a couple of expansion packs.
BandFuse packs in actual guitar use (yours or one you can buy in an excellently priced bundle kit), no-fail gameplay, a ton of lessons from some guitar greats, a built in studio full of all sorts of goodies and more to the point where I was left shaking my head in awe and respect whenever Henderson pointed out a new feature. There’s a serious amount of content here, ALL of it high quality, unlocked from the start and any of it ready to be studied in depth and practiced at one’s leisure making this an essential tool for budding to expert players.
Although the game uses some in-game icons and other imagery that will be familiar to Guitar Hero and Rock Band players, this isn’t rocking out with a cartoony element at all or at any point about you being a fake rock god or goddess rising up the ranks with your pretend band mates. This is more or less (well, MORE) a music school on a disc with a massive fun factor, 100 songs out of the gate (split into a 55/45 on-disc/day one DLC deal) and many more on the way. The amount of flexibility afforded players is simply remarkable and as Henderson went down a list of what was possible in the game (often showing as well as telling), it was clear that all those other music games were the warmup act – BandFuse is the real deal you’ve wanted all along. Even more important, it’s also made to be an “evergreen” title that’s bound to reach an audience outside the gaming community once word gets out how fully packed with content it is.
The involvement of Slash, Zakk Wylde, George Lynch, Bootsy Collins and other legends doesn’t stop at their names being tied to the product. These folks will be your mentors as you play through the game and uncover all of its secrets (of which there are so many, it’s mind-boggling how it all fit on a single disc). Henderson dipped into a few video tutorials from Slash that covered everything from how to hold a guitar correctly to learning basic to advanced guitar techniques to even a clip about what the average tour day is like. If you’ve got visions in your heads of a rocker rolling off or from under a pile of groupies, swilling down the remnants of a bottle of Jack, picking up his beat up guitar and stumbling down to the club or other venue, well… prepare for a shock. Making music for a living requires a good deal more discipline and this game is more than prepared to let you know the real deal.
As Henderson played though a few songs, he showed off some awesome features such as the excellent tuning system, the ability for players to stop and start songs at any time (and still earn points for sections played), freestyling through songs (excellent for skilled guitarists to add flavor to old tunes), a whole range of pedals and effects including changing a guitar to a bass and too many other things to list without my brain doing happy back flips. Oh yeah – you can also use your TV’s sound system as an amp, so those of you with the big speaker setups will be blasting the dog out a doorway soon enough and keeping the neighbors awake if you play it loud. I say be nice and use headphones or keep that volume low enough that you don’t have the law over as guests on a regular basis. The best musicians stay out of trouble (and yeah, that Beiber freak show needs to chill out with this game, I think).
Pretty much anything you can think of in a good learning experience here IS here and the fun is definitely all aboard. Granted, YOU have to be the one to stick with the program the game offers up. Thankfully, the “Shred U” part of the game seems more than worthy to keep even the worst player coming back until they can hammer out tunes like a pro. There’s also that social element to the game where your scores are always being uploaded and you’re going to see all sorts of numbers busting upwards as the best players take on and beat those old scores. While this continual challenge will keep many coming back to test their mettle on that highest difficulty, the main goals of the game are to get people playing and playing together. Music is a universal language and BandFuse wants as many people as possible to get their groove on by picking up and playing for real, not just pretending to play for points and digital glory.
In terms of overall impact, where BandFuse should find its niche is among anyone who loves any type of guitar-based music and wants to learn to be a better player on their own time. The product will be sold in three versions at three affordable price points: an Artist Pack ($69.99), a Band Pack ($79.99), geared to players with up to two guitar-owning friends who want to jam together and finally a Guitar Pack ($199.99) which comes bundled with a Fender Squier electric guitar and a bunch of accessories that get you ready to rock within minutes. I haven’t picked up a real guitar in about 20 years, but seeing BandFuse in action made me want to dive in all over again and start from scratch (pun intended). Look for the game to drop into stores this fall from publisher Mastiff Games, so start saving up those pennies and clear out that garage – you’re going to be pretty busy learning (or re-learning) how to rock…