'Rock Band 3' Adds Keyboard, Six-String Guitar

Upcoming game features backing vocals, more complex story modes

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Rock fans who haven't embraced music video games often share one complaint: the experience isn't real enough. Harmonix and MTV Games, the makers of Rock Band have evidently got the message. Rock Band 3, due in time for the holidays, will attempt to approximate real-life rocking with the addition of a keyboard and the option to plug a full-size six-string Fender Squier Stratocaster into the game, USA Today reports.

The keyboard, which has been in development since late 2008, is a 25-key controller, playable both as a lap keyboard and mini-keytar. The instrument will operate on the same color-based note stream as the other instruments, with five keys corresponding to five colors. When plugged into a computer, the controller also serves as a MIDI keyboard. "This is a real instrument and a real device," said senior designer Sylvain Dubrofsky. In addition to the keys, the game will support two background vocal tracks (like Rock Band: The Beatles and Rock Band: Green Day), bringing the total number of possible Rock Band 3 simultaneous players to seven.

Check out video game avatars of real-life rock heroes, from Kurt Cobain to Metallica.

In "Rock Band Pro" mode, the game replaces the color-based stream of notes with more realistic musical notations, and a pair of newly developed guitar models — both sold separately — help transform the video game experience into an actual rock experience: the Fender Squier Strat, with six strings, and a Fender Mustang Pro, which has a field of buttons in each fret. In both cases, built-in technology senses where players' fingers are located along the fret. The guitar experience isn't the only thing improved on "Pro": Drummers will now see the addition of three cymbals and keyboards will work along a two-octave range for added difficulty.

The game will also boast an improved story mode with hundreds of goals. "It is a really great way to finish Rock Band in your way, based on your skill, and not on some predetermined path of songs," Harmonix senior designer Dan Teasdale told USA Today. With the number of playable songs available through previous games and downloadable content ballooning to over 2,000 tracks by year's end, Rock Band 3 will also include an improved song-sorting system, like "80's metal songs" and "songs under three minutes," as opposed to just an alphabetical scroll.

Rock Band 3 will come with an eclectic mix of 83 on-disc songs, including Phoenix's "Lasso," Night Ranger's "Sister Christian," the White Stripes' "The Hardest Button to Button," Them Crooked Vultures' "Dead End Friends" and Dio's "Rainbow in the Dark." Rilo Kiley, Joan Jett, Metric, the Cure and Stone Temple Pilots will also feature on the on-disc set list.

Watch gamers demo the new keyboard to a pair of tunes that feature on Rock Band 3, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the Doors' "Break On Through":