BandFuse: Rock Legends Hands-On Impressions [E3 2012]

As many of you know, I’m a proud musician. When I was in Los Angeles this past week for E3, I was there primarily to play in Video Games Live as a solo guitarist. Upon walking around on the show floor at E3 the day before the show, imagine my surprise and insatiable urge to show off when I came across BandFuse tucked away in the corner of the floor, a new game claiming to be the better of the competitors when it comes to plugging in your actual guitar to a game.

This, of course, isn’t the first time a game has attempted this. Rock Band 3 started the craze with the pro mode, but limited players to use a very specific guitar and set of gear. Rocksmith from Ubisoft did away with the required instruments allowing you to plug any guitar into the game and play. However, crippling latency between playing a note and having the note play on the game nearly ruined it for budding and professional musicians.

BandFuse, from the folks at Realta Entertainment, hopes to have those issues behind it. After jamming with it a bit at E3, I can confirm that both of these issues with other games are completely non-existent.

You see, I was particularly excited to get my hands on the game, considering that same morning, it was announced that Zakk Wylde, the metal god famous for his time with Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk’s own band Black Label Society, would be making an appearance in the game as a mentor, similar to how it’s been revealed Slash is in the game. Zakk is also one of the guitarists that helped shape my own playing style, and is a massive inspiration to me.

Not only that, it was also revealed that the song I’m Broken from Pantera, one of their most well-known songs and one of my personal favorites, would be making an appearance in the game as well.

Okay, Realta. You’ve got my attention.

They hooked me up at the booth, slipped some headphones over my fierce metalhead mane, and I did my thing. I already know the song I’m Broken by heart, so I chose that, and told the demo rep to put it on a high difficulty.

The game works, which is something that’s hard to say about all the previous games that tried to accomplish the same thing. You’re given a set of scrolling tabs (sheet music specifically for guitar) and rack up points by how good and accurately you play the song. While, mechanically, the game works well and could be used as a valid learning tool for those without the drive to learn how to play a guitar, as a professional, something was seriously odd.

The interface is hard to get around. The tabs scroll from right to left, which makes sense in theory. But for some reason this format is hard to get used to simply because of how a guitar is held, at least for right-handers. Granted, it may just be because I had only had my hands on the game for ten minutes, but when a professional guitarist has problems reading tabs for a song he already knows, something might be a bit off. Or perhaps I’m spoiled by the brilliant layout of Rocksmith, which puts a large section of the guitar’s fretboard on screen.

There was one other thing that bothered me. I had played so well on the smaller demo that they asked me to rock it out on stage. Since I’m never one to miss an opportunity to show off a little, I gladly accepted.

I played the song as I normally do. I would never, in my life, ever try to emulate a Dimebag Darrell solo, so I completely ditched the notes and went for something original. There’s no failing on the game, so it would only mean a lower score. No big deal.

When the song finished, the guy who was playing on stage with me, an official rep that was playing the song to the note, brought to my attention that we had almost the same score. Which didn’t make sense to me in the least bit, since I clearly didn’t get many points for the solo, and the first 20 seconds or so my guitar was turned down, and I didn’t rack up any points at all. How on earth did I get the same score as the demo rep? He wasn’t a bad player, by any means. It’s something I’ve not been able to figure out.

Regardless, BandFuse, fundamentally, works as it’s said to, and how a music game should. However, I worry that the price of admission for a game like this in this day and age where music games have been slowly dying for years isn’t a wise idea. They’ve definitely got enough star power to back the game up, but it seems like too little too late to jump into the rhythm genre. Although, I’m looking forward to seeing a finished product when the game is released later this year.