One of the extras included with the Oculus Rift was a small plastic doughnut with the Rock Band logo on it. It was a mystery as to what it was supposed to do for a while but, as it turns out, the device slips over the end of a Move controller and allows it to attach near the frets of a guitar from Rock Band 4. How on earth that was supposed to enhance the Rock Band experience was anyone’s guess, but Harmonix released the first trailer for the game today and showed off a hint of gameplay. The video also comes with a release date of March 23, so the wait for more in-depth revelations should be relatively short.
What the video shows off, though, is that Rock Band VR will be a very different experience from regular non-VR Rock Band, in that the new game aims to free the player from a slavish devotion to a note track in order to open up the feeling of a live show, where a little improvisation can go a long way. For those liking the more familiar system the classic note tracks are available in Classic mode, but the main style of play wants you to throw that guitar around to develop a vibrant, kinetic stage presence. The Rift and the Move track both the guitar and your head motions, so you’ll want to get more physically into the music in front of the virtual audience to milk the song for all its worth. How that ties in with the gauges you can see around the 40 second mark is yet to be explained, but there’s a PAX East between now and the game’s release and it seems unlikely the Boston developer would miss a show that close to home, so details should be along fairly soon.
If you’ve got a large library already it’s worth noting that Rock Band VR is its own game, separate from the main franchise, and seeing as the libraries didn’t cross platforms to begin with it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that your collection won’t work on PC either. The game comes with 60 songs of its own to start with, though, and DLC will be made available over time. The other things to keep in mind are that the game looks like it’s single-player only, and it doesn’t support either singing or drums. It’s a very different experience from vanilla Rock Band, but getting on stage in front of the virtual crowd and firing up the room (or arena) with a killer performance should give the game legs. Just make sure to strap the Rift on tight, because it’s a pricey piece of hardware to send flying across the room with a brutal round of head banging.