Much ado has been made about the addition of keyboards, a wildly overhauled pro guitar controller, and their respective pro modes within Rock Band 3. However, the hoopla for the new pro drums mode seems to be far less intense.
With that said, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the pro drums since the game’s release in order to gather my thoughts on both the hardware itself and the pro drums game mode. Read on for my conclusions on both.
The Rock Band 3 Pro Drum Kit
Essentially, the pro drum kit can be thought of as a typical Rock Band 2 drum kit with the addition of three cymbal attachments, which are placed right onto the kit’s support rods using included clamps. The kit is quite easy to set up, but the plastic clamps don’t work as well as advertised. The instructions ask you to tighten the wingnuts and then press on a plastic clip in order to snap them shut for added strength. It takes a lot of fidgeting to get them to snap properly, and once they do, they don’t release nearly as easily as the instructions suggest they should. It immediately makes the kit feel cheap.
Unfortunately, the new cymbals don’t do anything to assuage such feelings. Right out of the box, one of my cymbals was faulty and had to be returned to Mad Katz. A phone representative had already run out of replacement cymbals (this was on release day for the Rock Band 3 software) and one would be sent out soon. This makes me seriously question the quality of the cymbals.
However, the two cymbals that did work seem to work just fine. They don’t have a particularly pleasant sound when you hit them; in fact, they rattle around and make a sound somewhat similar to a snare drum. So while you may be pleased with the regular kit’s quieter 4 pads, the cymbals will make plenty of noise to make you forget it.
The adjustibility of the cymbals is also severely lacking. The height of the cymbals can be adjusted to a comfortable height for most players, but their horizontal positioning in relation to the rest of the kit can only be adjusted by turning the plastic clamp. Therefore, drummers used to keeping their high hats up and to the left of the snare drum will find this kit somewhat uncomfortable at first. In addition, the pads used for the ride and crash cymbals are attached to the same clamp, meaning that they can’t be repositioned individually.
Anyone who has used a Rock Band drum kit knows the struggles with the foot pedal, and it’s not a different story with the pro kit. The foot pedal is the reinforced version, meaning that there should be fewer instances of the pedal snapping in half. Still, the spring action isn’t any more comfortable, and the issues of missing notes if you don’t lift it up high enough after a hit are still present.
As for the four main pads, they’re decently quiet and seem sturdy enough, but there’s no significant upgrade from the Rock Band 2 kit. They still don’t register light hits nearly as well as they should, but faster drum rolls will register with much more accuracy than what I became accustomed to with the original Rock Band kit. They also seem far sturdier and will hopefully last longer.
It should be noted that the kit also included a port for a second pedal, which can be used as either a second bass pedal or a hi-hat pedal. I tested this out, and while using a regular old pedal as a hi-hat pedal isn’t ideal, it does work. However, neither functionality is built into any songs yet, so you’ll only be using this during freestyle mode if at all.
All said, it’s very, very difficult to recommend this set at its asking price of $129.99. Nothing in this package comes close to justifying that price for people who are currently happy with their drum sets, especially given the potential quality headaches. If price isn’t as issue or if you need a new drum kit anyway, this is clearly the way to go only because of the lack of alternatives. This should be a much better product than it is.
Rock Band 3 Pro Drums Mode
Pro drums mode is easily the most accessible of the new pro instrument modes in Rock Band 3, far different from the 100s of new buttons or the entirely new controller of pro guitar and pro keyboards respectively. With just three new drum components to worry about, pro drums can seem like a logical first choice to introduce yourself to the pro modes of Rock Band 3.
Pro mode works by transferring cymbal hits from the typical yellow, blue, or green pads to one of the new cymbal controllers. Luckily, this information was already coded into the game for the sake of proper animation, so every single song, even from the original Rock Band, can be played in pro mode. Therefore, you’ll have many more songs to play in pro drums mode than with any other of the new pro modes.
While pro drums can initially feel intimidating, the jump between regular drums mode and pro drums mode is really pretty small. You’ll quickly get used to playing a typical rock beat on the yellow cymbal and red pad instead of the yellow and red pads, which is the vast majority of what you’ll be doing in a typical song’s verse. Things get quite a bit more complicated when you run into a song that switches often between cymbals and toms, and this is consequently where you’ll find the greatest learning curve. However, even switching between toms and cymbals quickly becomes easier over time.
So while there are tons of songs for you to play in pro mode, the difference between the two modes really isn’t all that vast. Some songs really aren’t any more difficult in pro mode, and some are far harder. It’s very hit or miss, and it’s something to keep in mind when you’re considering making the leap to pro mode. If you’re hoping for a deep new experience that is vastly different from what you’ve played before, this isn’t it.
That said, pro drums is unquestionably more fun than regular drums. The question again becomes whether you’re willing to spend the money required to make it a part of your Rock Band 3 experience.
There’s really no doubt in my mind that the price of getting into pro drums mode is too high, especially considering the lackluster quality of the pro drum kit. But the pro drums mode is still a strong addition to Rock Band 3, and its relatively low barrier of entry will make it a much more fun addition to parties than the pro guitar. It’s a strong purchase for people who need a new drum kit anyway, but those who are happy with the current drums and regular drum mode will face a harder decision.