Harmonix has just revealed that the long-awaited Rock Band VR for Oculus will finally be released on March 23. The game will come with 60 songs in total, although so far only three have been officially confirmed as part of the launch announcement – Aerosmith's "Walk this Way", The Killers' "When You Were Young" and Paramore's "Ain't It Fun." Harmonix also released a gameplay video that featured Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," so you can look forward to rocking out to that as well.
Whereas traditional Rock Band gameplay has always been about beatmatching those colored gems at exactly the right moment for a note-perfect rendition, Rock Band VR's new "performance mode" is supposed to make you feel more like a rock star. When you put on the Oculus headset, you're transported onto a stage with a crowd in front of you. You look down at the guitar in your hands and the effects pedals on the floor in front of you and what happens in the next few minutes is as much about your ability to put on a performance for the crowd, as it is playing the notes.
We tried a very early demo of the game at Oculus' offices last year, and the whole experience was surprisingly convincing, although if you have any kind of performance anxiety – waving your guitar around and pulling goofy faces while wearing a headset definitely makes you feel even more self-conscious. That said, it provides a pretty remarkable sensation of actually being in a venue with a crowd in front of you and your bandmates by your side. It has the potential to be a genuinely transportive experience if you've ever harbored fantasies of playing on stage but have lacked the talent or nerve to do so.
As well as rewarding you for playing along with the song, the game will also award big multipliers for what it calls "signature rock moves" – so, stuff like headbanging in time with the music or stomping on the overdrive pedal at exactly the right moment. Harmonix are also keen to let everyone know that you can even wander over and annoy the crap out of your drummer by hitting his hi-hat with the headstock of your guitar. Drummers just love it when you do that.
Pre-orders for the Rock Band VR Guitar Controller Bundle open today in limited quantities on Amazon. The bundle features a digital code for Rock Band VR and a wireless Rock Band Fender Stratocaster guitar controller for $69.99. If you still have a PlayStation 4 Bluetooth Rock Band guitar controller or an Xbox One guitar with a Windows wireless adaptor stuffed in the back of a closet somewhere you can use those with the game. You'll also need an Oculus Touch to hook over the end of it so it the game can track where the guitar is when you look down at it in VR. There's no word yet on what the game will cost for just the digital download, but given the price of the bundle it seems unlikely it'll be more than $30.