[Editor’s Note: This review covers the basic Rock Band 3 experience available on the disc, excluding the keyboards, pro guitar, and pro drums.]
It’s hard to believe we’re already on the third instalment of the much loved Rock Band series. I remember it wasn’t too long ago that I was playing Rock Band 1, amazed at this new leap forward in the music game genre. Now, a few years later, we have Rock Band 3. Not only is it a brand new game, but we also have a brand new instrument, the keyboard. The question on everyone’s mind is, is this just a re-hash of the previous game in the series, or does Rock Band 3 offer enough new material to make it worth the purchase?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple years, you should know how the game works. You or you and your buddies, get together, choose your instruments (guitar, bass, drums, mic, keyboard), and play some songs. You try to hit the notes, achieve high scores and avoid failing out of a song. That’s the basic concept of the game and it’s no different here.
This time around, the career mode has been redesigned, for the better. Rather than just moving through setlists, slugging your way to the end, you now have challenges. As you complete the large amount of challenges, you unlock gear, venues etc. There are band challenges, instrument specific challenges, solo challenges etc. The challenges span all game modes so no matter which mode you’re in, you’re always making progress.
The road challenges are the progression area of the game, acting as the career mode. Each one has you playing a certain amount of songs that are split into various gigs. For example, one road challenge may have you on tour, playing 4 different gigs, with two songs each.
For each gig, you can choose from three different setlists, giving you some freedom and choice. In addition to this, the songs in the setlists come with their own challenges.
One song may have you try to get as many streaks as possible while another may have you trying to deploy overdrive as much as you can. Completing these challenges will net you additional experience points which in turn unlock more accessories, gear etc. Of course, if challenges aren’t your thing, there is always the quickplay mode.
The challenges work better than the career mode. The old structure was more annoying than anything else. Here the focus seems to be on fun, it’s more about playing the songs, with unlocking as an afterthought. The degree of flexibility is much greater than in previous games.
Any music game hinges strongly on its setlist. Depending on your music tastes, you’re either going to love or hate the setlist here. The entire setlist is open from the start but I personally think this is the weakest setlist out of any iteration in the series but as I said before, it all depends on your taste in music. Luckily, you can import your DLC as well as buy any of the previously released DLC, giving you the ability to expand your music library, and customize it to your taste.
The menu system and UI has been revamped by Harmonix and they’ve tweaked it to near perfection. All the annoyances of the old games are finally gone. Things like continuing to play a song after failing, each player getting their own pop up menu, saveable setlists, more than enough ways to sort and search songs, etc, all make the game much easier to play and much more enjoyable.
So here ends the review on the disc only version of the game. Now for those willing to shell out a bit more money, there are a couple new features you can take advantage of. One is a new instrument, the keyboard, and the other is the Pro mode, for which you need separate ‘Pro’ instruments. Neither of these features can be played if you are just buying the stand alone disc and for the purpose of this review, only the stand alone disc was played. That being said, if you’re willing to pay for the extra instruments, they will greatly enhance the game.
Rock Band 3 has set a paradigm for music games. Despite the mediocre setlist (in my opinion), everything else is perfect. This is the way music games should be. Harmonix continues to impress and whether you buy just the game, or invest in either the keyboard and/or the Pro instruments, you won’t be disappointed. This is the way music games are meant to be played and Rock Band 3 is a superb example of how to do the music genre right.
Rock Band 3 is another excellent outing for Harmonix and a game that all music fans will enjoy greatly.