Since 2007, the Rock Band franchisehas spawned multiple games in its main series as well as various spin-offs such as The Beatles: Rock Band and Green Day: Rock Band. With VR on the way, the developers at Harmonix put the popular music game on the Oculus Rift, too. At last week’s Oculus Rift Launch Preview event at GDC, I was able to try Rock Band VR.
Aside from the Rift HMD and a Rock Band guitar, you’ll need the Oculus Touch controllers and a clip to mount one on the back of the head stock. This allows the sensor to track the guitar as you play.
Unlike the console versions of the game in which you watch the band play in the background, Rock Band VR puts you in the shoes of one of the guitarists. The start the demo, you have to go through a series of quick checks before the curtains go up, such as making sure that the virtual amp, microphone and guitar all work perfectly. To start the song, you look at the drummer, who counts off the beats.
As the crowd cheers you on, you see the traditional track of notes appear on multiple stage monitors instead of floating towards you in the air. You can also look around at your band mates as they perform without losing sight of the upcoming notes, thanks to the monitors. On higher difficulties, you’ll obviously have to pay more attention to the screen, so you won’t have time to look around as much. (The Harmonix representatives told me to play on Easy so that I could look around and still play the song perfectly.)
Overall, the experience was as expected. Latency wasn't an issue, and I did feel like I was on stage in front of (digital) fans instead of being in front of my TV screen in the living room. If I had more time in the demo, I would attempt the same song on a harder difficulty, just to see if I could unleash my inner rock god.
For now, it seems that most of the development for Rock Band VR is focused on implementing guitar play, as it is the most popular instrument (according to Harmonix). Of course, that could change in the future. Rock Band VR comes out at some point in 2016, but as it has the Oculus Touch requirement, we’ll probably see the game at the latter half of the year.