I don't listen to a lot of rock music any more, my audio diet consists of 95 per cent hip-hop and a little bit of Girls Aloud. They only time I hear guitars is when MOP has sampled them and are bawling out really offensive lyrics over the top. But you know, if DJ Shadow can sample Metallica, I can sample a little bit of metal.
So there I am, drumming along to Weezer's Say It Ain't So. I mean, I liked Beverley Hills when DJ Muggs mashed it up with the Big Tymers but it's not like I'm sitting here wearing a cardigan, horned-rimmed glasses and one leg shorter than the other. But I am actually 'rocking out', as the youngsters would have it. I'll be worshipping Satan instead of strippers next.
Rock Band is, of course, exactly what you've been waiting for since Guitar Hero turned out to be - as every reviewer has stated since they got their hands on the plastic Gibson - AWESOME. It's also exactly what you were expecting. There's no surprises here, but who needs them when you've got Fender guitars, a microphone that doubles as a tambourine and a neat '80s-style electro drumkit? I don't even know the American chap who's singing to the right of me, or the the other fella's on guitar, but through the shared musical language of rock, we are like brothers in arms. I can't actually see the attraction of playing this online when we're all crowded into a sweaty rehearsal room to play together. It's like we've been jamming for hours, passing the jingo and cracking open another groupie. Games like this have made it acceptable for men to sing to each other, and that's something worth applauding.
For those about to rock
At this early hands-on stage we're using prototype peripherals. I imagine holding a prototype machine gun would be quite exciting, but a prototype guitar isn't very thrilling, especially when one of the buttons falls off. But even on a unfinished Fender, the ease of use and beauty of the game is clear. As well as five fret buttons, there're another five at the base of the board for noodling guitar solos, which makes instant sense as soon as you see it. The guitar can also be tilted to activate Star Power - used to bring someone back into play if they fudge their instrument and get booted from the track.
The microphone might be the least glamorous instrument on offer, but if you're the frontman you'll probably be more concerned about your stage presence than anything else. The mic promises to pick up individual vowels and consonants because it's that sensitive, but with a bunch of pudgy games journalists pounding, hooting and pawing at the game, it's difficult to determine whether this really is the case.
The drum kit is a personal favourite, being as it's the shit. Four coloured pads, one kick drum pedal, wooden sticks and instant thrills. I know it's a beautiful illusion of actually playing the drums because I'm tone death, I have the kind of timing where I walk on my wife with another man and I'm left handed. Yet I still felt like John Bonham. Confident players can stick it on the higher settings and know they're actually, really, honestly drumming along to the songs, but I'm happy with the illusion that I'm playing.
While my guitar gently bleeps
There's no doubt that Harmonix is treating every instrument in the game with the same care and attention. In the hands of a lesser developer Rock Band could stink of cash-in, but with the team behind the original Guitar Hero, Amplitude and FreQuency, we get the impression these guys would rather be making music than making games. "The thing that we're looking forward to is just turning people into musicians," says Daniel Sussman, Harmonix employee and member of punk band The Acro Brats.
"We've seen it to some extent with Guitar Hero where we heard stories of people trading in a toy guitar for a real one and that makes us happy. Hopefully we're going to see a lot more of that - groups of people who get the high from Rock Band that go on to form their own band."
For Harmonix, the branding of the in-game peripherals is important, not just to give users the real deal in their hands, but as a way of giving something back to the music industry.
"If you look at the music industry there's a lot of resentment about the fact that videogames are taking kids away from music," says Sussman. "For me, I'm a musician and I've been playing guitar for as along as I can remember. So I'm thrilled to be taking people along for the ride. Working with people like Fender, Boss, Roland - it's a way for us to ground what we're doing in reality. The fact that Fender is supporting what we're doing, that's good karma."
U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi
The actual on-screen action in Rock Band is plain ugly, but perfectly functional. Three instruments divide the bottom of the screen while lyrics run across the top. The fret boards are transparent enabling a view of your character rocking out. It's a mess to be honest, but thankfully this is one game where what's on screen visually isn't nearly as important as the tool in your hands and the sound blasting your ears. You can build and customise your own avatars from a selection of various gurning rockstar parodies, but again it's not important. I love System of a Down but I don't to stare at them, know what I mean?
The fact that I wouldn't listen to a good portion of the licensed music but am happy to play along with it perhaps indicates that the tracklisting isn't as important as it might first seem. And even though we've heard the tracks a thousand times (some of them in other games), the likes of Black Sabbath, The Who, David Bowie, Nirvana and Blue Oyster Cult are perfect for jamming. Certainly, Don't Fear the Reaper is better placed in Rock Band than it was in Midway's Roadkill. What matters is the feeling you get from playing these tracks.
Although there's no doubt that Rock Band is going to cost more than the average videogame, it's promising to offer value for money. Players are getting four games in one and it's claimed that the guitar portion alone is bigger than Guitar Hero. Add your vocal game, drumming sessions, bass parts and the four-player co-operative play that ties it all together, and there's no denying this should be the complete rock n' roll experience. And, similar to Guitar Hero, it also comes complete with a World Tour mode where bands start out playing spit n' saw dust venues before climbing the the stairway to rock heaven. You'll just have to supply your own booze, drugs and, erm, shark.
The deciding factor of whether you pick up Rock Band isn't likely to be the fact that it's all about rock music. That's not important. It's the price that will seal the deal for many. And if it doesn't break your bank, then you're going to get countless laughs out of standing around with your mates - Jack Sabbath, Brain Maiden and Tracy DC - and getting down like crazed hard-rock nutters.