Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster: Thoughts & Review
I’ve had some time to play with the Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster this weekend. There’s some positive and negative, but overall I’m very happy with the purchase.
The most impressive part of the guitar is simply that it works at all. Lay your fingers on the strings, and it detects exactly where you’re pressing. There are a few troublesome zones (the 2nd fret on the low E string often registers as the 1st fret for me) but overall it’s absolutely precise and accurate, without interfering with the guitar’s functioning.
Despite the commitment to authenticity, the Squier makes no attempt to disguise its real purpose. It’s a game controller, with lots of plastic parts, a directional pad, and buttons all over the pick guard. You’re probably not going to want to take this on stage at your local open mic night, unless you want to answer a bunch of questions of “what is up with your guitar?” This extends to the gameplay, too – using the Squier in Rock Band 3 works exactly the same as using any other instrument.
I’m pretty terrible at the guitar, but I’ve already made some progress over the last few days – I understand notes and fretting, at least, and how chords are formed. I still don’t understand why chords work – why three seemingly-randomly-placed fingers sound really good – but I figure that will come.
Although it’s been a great learning experience, I have to say that Rock Band 3 isn’t much of a teacher. It never really teaches guitar technique or how to play. It has a series of lessons with some text advice, but all the lessons work the same way: here are some notes. Play them perfectly. It would have been great to have a more comprehensive educational system, maybe with videos, discussions on how to tune, hold, and use the guitar, advice on how Rock Band 3 works different from actual guitar playing, maybe some lessons in tabulature. As it stands, it’s really up to the player to set their own goals and make their own challenges. It’s tempting to want to just go through all the lessons and expect that to teach you, but you really need to just pick a song and play it over and over until you get it right. For some players, being expected to try again and again with little positive feedback will be frustrating.
I’ve got a preorder on Rocksmith, which purports to be a more comprehensive guitar-teaching tool; we’ll see how that goes. I am having a lot of fun with the Squier, and I managed to do a passable version of “I Love Rock and Roll,” so I’ll keep at it and see where I get!
It’s still hard to say whether the Squier is worth the money: it’s unique, and a great way to get started in guitar. There’s just not a lot of $300 items in video games to compare it to. I’ll probably get more use out of this than, say, the full-size controller for Steel Battalion. But will I enjoy it more than six or seven disc games, or 20-30 DLC titles? Hard to say.
1) Why don’t they include a guitar pick in the package? Sure, it’s easy to get one, but I can imagine there were one or two people who got the guitar and MIDI box and took it all home, only to discover they didn’t actually have what they needed to play.
2) Why isn’t there a Squier Stratocaster available in Rock Band 3? It makes sense to me that I’d want my avatar to match my guitar, but the only Stratocasters are the Big Block, which has different details, the 12-String, or the Standard Stratocaster, which is scuffed and worn. The unlockable transparent/silver/gold guitars are all Stratocasters…but none of them are exactly right.