Rock Band 3

10 Overall Score

Written by on November 15, 2010 in

definitive: authoritative and apparently exhaustive


In the battle of the music game bands, Guitar Hero and Rock Band have had their back and forth for innovation. It seems this year the two properties have taken divergent paths. While Neversoft’s Guitar Hero has chosen the well-trodden path of story-driven musical game play, Harmonix has turned it’s latest salvo, Rock Band 3, into a song powerhouse that may turn itself into a video game version of iTunes. And have I mentioned that it provides the basics for learning a real instrument? Rock Band 3 is the definitive music video game of this console generation.

What strange magic has the staff at Harmonix added to the bubbly cauldron that is Rock Band 3? For one they added a new instrument, keys, to the mix. Now in addition to guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, players can also play the keyboard provided they have the right equipment which their partners at Mad Catz will be very happy to sell you. Rock Band 3 also keeps the Harmony Vocals that Harmonix implemented in The Beatles Rock Band and Green Day Rock Band.

Also added to this strange brew is the addition of Pro modes for all the instruments except for vocals. These Pro modes offer realistic ways to play the music on Rock Band 3 and changes the look and challenge of game. While the Pro guitar modes requires players to have a midi-ready guitar, like Fender’s Squire Stratocaster (available in early 2011), and the Mad Catz’s Midi Pro Adapter. The Pro Keys can be played with Mad Catz’ keyboard (or keytar) or any mini-ready keyboard and, you guess it, the Mad Catz Midi Pro Adapter. Also for those drummers wanting to take it up a notch and switch to Pro Drums, they will also need to add cymbals to their Rock Band drums.

If you’ve made the decision to try your luck at Pro modes or even try to learn how to play those musical instruments for real, Rock Band 3 will school you in the basic via their Rock Band 3 Trainers. Much like their drum trainers from previous incarnations, these trainers allow players to learn at their own pace and as they feel more confident can increase the speed of the lessons or move on to more difficult lessons. Moving from rocking out to a video game to rocking out on a real life stage is nothing short of revolutionary for a video game. Harmonix has climbed the music game Mount Everest.

As for game play, Rock Band 3 allows players to play as they want to experience the game. Quickplay remains in the game for those just wanting to play just for the hell of it, and if alcohol is involved, No Fail Mode can be easily added. For those players wanting to feel like they’ve grown their fictional bands, they can compete in Road Challenges that take various tour legs with multiple stops for band performances. Each stop even gives the players three different setlists to choose from. In addition, for players that want to grow their own rocker, they can dive into a Progress area in which they can complete challenges (including the popular Endless Setlist) to checkoff badges on their progress (and even win new items to dress up your character). The challenges can even be completed while playing any of the other modes. One problem with the game play is sometimes the use of white lights or other bright colors in the background washes out the top part of the fretboard play area. This can sometimes mean a shorter response time from when the forthcoming notes appear and when the player can react to them. This often clears up when the player hit their max bonus for notes successfully hit.

The art style with each Rock Band game change just a bit and that certainly holds true with Rock Band 3. The are new rock moves that various members of the band performs. Unfortunately the rather mirror-look of the audience reactions remain, most likely having to do with what the game engine can handle. The game seems to push across the notion that sometimes it isn’t about venue but more about the experience. There appeared to be instances when some songs would be in a video mode in which the graphic artists really went to town with sometimes cliche music video staples like negative imagine and what not. However at other times the songs would be played on a traditional stage, some of those stages will be familiar to players who have played previous Rock Band games.

The sound in any music game is very important, and in Rock Band 3 it remains well-mastered and even improved. With the addition of the keys as a playable instrument it looks as if the sound has gotten even better. The game still allows players to change options for how loud you want to audience to be or how much you want to hear your pitch-handicapped “lead singer” instead of the song’s performer to come out of the speakers.

Another valuable addition to Rock Band 3 is it’s filtering system. With well over 2000 songs available for Rock Band 3, there may be songs that the player loves or would rather avoid. Every song now offers players a chance to rate the song they played. When a road challenge requires a random song, or when a player plays a random song on Quickplay, the game will use that data to have those songs you like more appear more often. In addition when picking songs to play, players can now press the Orange button and have a astounding number of ways they can filters their catalog of songs to find what suits them. Also, the filter can also suggest other songs the player may like and can buy as DLC.

There’s been a lot of talk about what’s been added to Rock Band 3, but let’s address a big item that has gone missing. Gone from Rock Band 3 is competitive multiplayer but co-operative multiplayer remains and is refined in this edition of the Harmonix opus. Now your fellow in-room and online players can switch their difficulty during the song if they discover that they might have bitten off more than they can chew playing Primus’ “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” on Expert bass. However if you loved proving your Rock Band prowess to any and all competitor you will be disappointed to see that those battles are now a thing of the past.

One other happy change in Rock Band 3 is that the walls between where a song comes from has fallen down. In Rock Band 2 you could play songs of the disc and Rock Band DLC songs, but the songs from Rock Band Network existed in their own area that could only be played in Quickplay. These RBN songs would not show up when the setlist asked for random songs. In Rock Band 3, however, it doesn’t matter where a song originates, it is included in your Road Challenges, your progress and accumulation of fans. It gives the material available in Rock Band Network an equal footing with the other DLC and songs on the Rock Band 3 disc.

With additions of a new instrument, a new Pro mode, new trainers, and several key tweaks to the game series, Rock Band 3 has become the definitive music video game. Add in the weekly and even daily new content (counting Rock Band Network), Rock Band 3 even offers a robust choice for players to play what they want and in a whatever cooperative manner they choose. In Rock Band 3, Harmonix has managed to become a delightful and fun-filled video game, but also a doorway for some a chance to fulfill their real life rock ambitions.

A copy of Rock Band 3 was provided for the purpose of evaluation and review.


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Author: Chris Brown View all posts by

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