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Rock Band 3
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- RB3 has great new party modes for quick rocking sessions with friends, as well as a whole new universe of challenges including a revamped Career Mode and 700+ goals and rewards
- Game track list contains over 80 of the best bands from around the world, including bands that have never appeared in a music game, and support for existing Rock Band tracks
- Create and save set lists, and share them with your friends online and enjoy improved song sorting makes it easier to find the songs you like
- Expand the band with the optional keyboard peripheral and 3-part vocals harmonies, together allowing support for up to 7 players
- Take your passion for music to the next level with Rock Band Pro functionality that lets you develop real musical instrument skills through gameplay
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Rock Band 3 is the third main release in the iconic video game series that challenges gamers to live out their Rock & Roll fantasies together in a band situation, both locally and online. The game features an ever expanding song list from every era of Rock & Roll history, easy to pick up yet challenging addictive Note Highway gameplay, compatibility with earlier releases in the series and all platform-specific instrument controllers including most Guitar Hero controllers, extreme in-game character and band customization, and a slew of new features. These new features include: new setlist search functionality, the addition of 3-part harmonies and a keyboard peripheral and expanded play modes, including the advanced Pro Mode.
The Most Music. Period
The Rock Band 3 disc soundtrack contains 83 tracks by the best bands from around the world, including bands that have never appeared in a music game, as well as support for existing Rock Band tracks (Rock Band and Rock Band 2 discs, downloaded songs, track packs, AC/DC Live: Rock Band Track Pack, LEGO Rock Band and Green Day: Rock Band). Additionally, Rock Band 3 gives players immediate access to a music library approaching 2,000 songs by launch, with new content added regularly. With a selection like this, it is clear that Rock Band's gigantic music selection dwarfs that of any other music game on the market. The full track list includes:
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Redesigned Music Library
Rock Band 3 allows players to create and save setlists and share them with friends, both in-game and through RockBand.com. In addition, new song filters make it easier to find the types of songs fans want to play and hide the songs they don't, while a built-in song recommendation system will suggest tracks from Rock Band's colossal music library, based on personal fan preference.
Expand the Band
In addition to guitar, bass, drums and solo vocals, Rock Band 3 adds three-part vocal harmony functionality that was introduced with The Beatles: Rock Band and, for the first time ever, a keyboard peripheral to the band. The combination of all these possibilities means that up to seven players can rock together in Rock Band 3 for the ultimate social gaming experience.
Go Pro: Take Your Passion to the Next Level
Rock Band 3 empowers players to develop actual musical skills through the fun of fully scalable Rock Band Pro gameplay. Fans can dive in on the Easy setting to try out basic skills and work their way up to Expert for real mastery. Pro Drums supports three expansion cymbals, with gameplay differentiation between toms and cymbals. Pro Keys (Keyboard) features pitch-accurate keyboard performance across a two-octave range, displayed on an easy-to-read keyboard track. Pro Guitar features noted guitar and bass performances, available for play with either the new Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar simulated guitar controller from Mad Catz, or the Rock Band 3 Squier by Fender Stratocaster guitar controller that is a real guitar/controller hybrid. The Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster is a fully functional, full-sized, six-string electric guitar that also functions as a game controller.
New Gameplay Modes
For the casual player, Rock Band 3 has great new party modes that allow fans to get rocking with friends quicker than ever, including party shuffle and persistent drop-in/dropout and difficulty selection from any gameplay screen. For the serious player, the revamped Career Mode features 700+ goals and rewards and seamless leaderboard integration for an endlessly deep campaign experience. Rock Band 3 also adds a suite of social networking tools to the game so fans can engage friends and fellow rockers over Facebook, Twitter and more. Whether players want to jump in for a quick song or take their band to the top, Rock Band 3 has a mode for everyone.
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Of course, RB3 also introduces a brand new instrument with the keyboard. I won't be speaking too much about it, as I'm reviewing the game rather than the bundle, but it is worth picking up if you're interested in learning the keys, because it's a Pro-mode instrument out of the box. (Guitar, bass, and drums will require add-ons or all new instrument purchases in order to take advantage of their Pro modes.) The game includes some decent tutorials that attempt to teach you how to play the real thing, and playing Pro mode on each instrument is just like playing the songs in real life...because you're basically doing just that. It adds a new level of difficulty, but I wouldn't recommend putting down that kind of cash unless you're actually interested in learning the instrument or skilled enough to play at that level. If you're buying the game mostly for the social aspect, your old plastic instruments will work just fine. Also, I'd say buying the keyboard is contingent upon your interest in learning the keyboard and/or your desire to add a new instrument for another player. If you don't have a second guitar for bass, it can also play those parts (guitar parts as well), so it's worth picking up for that. But I haven't found myself too enthralled by the keyboard parts on most of the songs. (Some Ben Folds would change my opinion on this--a huge missed opportunity!) So is the keyboard worth it? It's really up to you...I bought it, because I'd love to work myself up to Pro mode, but I still find myself going back to guitar and drums most often.
All of RB2's features such as the character creator are still here, and largely improved. A notable difference between RB3 and its predecessor is that all of the on-disc songs are unlocked from the beginning, which is welcome if you just want to buy the game to play at parties. The career mode is also obviously present, but I personally prefer the way it was in RB2...RB3 just seems like a list of challenges rather than progressing through cities and venues as in RB2, which to me, gave more of a feeling of being in a real band. Another slight disappointment in comparison to RB2 is the graphics...somehow, RB2 looked prettier, which doesn't make sense because they've had two years to improve, and games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 have come along since that really display how beautiful Wii games can look. Also, while I like the drop-in/drop-out style of navigation, the text size of many menus is too small and I frequently have to stand closer to the TV to read it.
In terms of DLC, the catalog is bigger than ever, and while I'm happy to see Rock Band Network tracks finally being released to Wii, both Wii and PS3 owners still don't have access to the full RBN store, which remains exclusive to 360. Harmonix's excuse for not including this on Wii upon launching was that it would require a patch to RB2, which is a no-go on Wii, but now there's no excuse for not having this up and running for RB3. Instead, Wii/PS3 owners get "featured selections" from the RBN store, which is better than nothing, but still leaves room for improvement. It's also disappointing that as of this writing, only RB2 and Green Day RB are available to export into the Wii version of the game. Everything leading up to launch indicated that RB1, Lego RB, and the track pack discs would be available to export across all platforms, not merely on PS3 and 360. Given that up to 32GB of space is now available on Wii, there's no excuse to not allow these discs to export.
It's worth noting that Rock Band on Wii was a lazy PS2 port until Vicarious Visions, the team responsible for the Guitar Hero series on Wii, proved just how much is possible with GH:WT and GH5. Though I consider those games inferior on most levels, they paved the way for DLC, online modes, track packs, song exporting, and more that Harmonix once claimed wasn't possible due to "the limitations of the Wii." Giving credit where it's due, I really believe this game wouldn't be nearly what it is on Wii without Vicarious Visions showing Harmonix how to make it work on the system. With Viacom's looming sale of Harmonix, I'm in the minority who is hoping that Activision will swoop them up so Vicarious Visions can take over on the Wii side of things and do for Rock Band what they've done for Guitar Hero on the platform.
Furthermore, I still prefer Red Octane's Wii guitars and maybe even drums, primarily because they use the Wii Remote to go wireless rather than requiring a separate USB dongle and another set of batteries. The good thing is, they are compatible with every RB game since RB2, as well as every GH game. If you don't already have a set of instruments and you're not planning to go Pro, I'd recommend those available from Red Octane...you may even be able to find a GH/Band Hero bundle on sale to net you these instruments. I find them to be more sturdy and easier to play with, too.
Aside from a few disappointments, RB3 really delivers on Wii and I'd recommend it over any other rhythm game on the console, particularly for the huge DLC catalog and superior presentation. Overall, RB3 is a big step forward, but I think they could go even further, particularly on Wii. There's also a long way to go when it comes to the music store--I'd personally love to see it rival iTunes as a digital retailer, allowing DLC to transfer to your hard drive as MP3s. So while there are plenty of improvements in this entry to the series, it's not yet perfect. Still, RB3 is the current king of music games and I must label it a must buy.
UPDATE 11/24: Something was made aware to me this week when I took the game out to play as a full band with some friends. "All Instruments Mode" must be activated to play keys with more than one other guitar. This forces you to have a vocalist in your band...which isn't a huge deal, as vocals aren't scored in this mode, but it seems sloppy from a game design perspective. There's no way to play the four instruments without having a vocalist...it's forced upon you, and you can't de-activate the mode without backing out of a set. Also, the background animation during this mode is limited to music visualization...no band, no venue, etc., and the visualization is often distracting, sometimes making the notes more difficult to see. It's very disappointing that you can't even see your band when playing as a full band! At the very least, they should have had pre-rendered video of your band for this mode.
If there's an upside to All Instruments Mode, it's that someone can jump in and sing whenever they feel the urge, and not have to worry about failing out. But overall, it's disappointing that they couldn't have incorporated the keys more seamlessly. You shouldn't need to go into this mode at all unless you're playing with 5 or more players.
I'm also disappointed that the game still doesn't allow more than one player on guitar in band mode, as Guitar Hero does, rather than forcing one of the guitar controllers to play bass. Bass can be just as fun, but you often have both people on guitar wanting to play the guitar part, and I don't know why they wouldn't make that possible. This is especially frustrating when it comes to the keys, which *can* play bass/guitar parts...unless you already have a bassist and a guitarist, in which case, you have to limit yourself to the songs with keys support if you want to include your keyboardist. Why can't I have three guitarists if I want to?
While these things don't change my score, I've gotta say it makes RB3 seem less polished than RB2, despite the new features.
It's Rock Band with more songs, Rock Band 2 importing, and "Pro" instruments. What's not to like? I only have the Pro Keys and Pro Drums (no Pro Guitar) and both are a lot of fun. I actually like many of the songs (not all, naturally...that's how most of these games go, and why there's downloadable songs available to get more specific tracks).
There are many improvements in basic gameplay and game design. For example, activating "Overdrive" (Star Power if you come from Guitar Hero) is less distracting but still visually attractive. These tweaks are very welcome.
I personally think most of the graphics on RB3 are worse than RB2; it's a bit of a mixed bag. I've seen some very pretty games on Wii (Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Bros. Wii, etc.) and they put this game to shame. I've tried both the Wii's default RCA (composite) cables and special component cables, but still get pretty iffy graphics, even for Wii standards (which are lower than PS3 and Xbox 360). Some details just aren't that appealing (as in previous games, the notes 'explode' when played, but this time they do so in a cloud of cheesy-looking smoke). Sometimes there are weird visual glitches in the menus and during gameplay, like flickering lighting. They aren't enough to destroy the actual act of playing, but they do make the experience a bit less enjoyable. While the character models are improved, they have similar motions to RB2, and so feel very similar.
The "overshell", as it is called, lets players log in and out, change difficulty and the like all without disturbing main gameplay. In party play, this tends to be really hard to use; people don't really want to take the time to log in and out, and due to the limitations of the game's controller scheme (see my edits to the review on the Rock Band 3 Wireless Pro-Drum and Pro-Cymbals Kit for Wii) there can be issues with getting the right instruments into the game at the right time without conflicts.
At the time I'm writing this review, there is no import into Rock Band 3 from Rock Band 1 or Lego Rock Band on the Wii (other consoles have import support for those games). RB2 and Green Day Rock Band both are stated to import on RB3 Wii (I've only tested the RB2 import first-hand--note that it requires an extra fee). There's no word on when (or if) RB1 and LRB songs can be imported.
I also found there were a few too many effects during main gameplay. Sometimes this is a minor annoyance, like when it is is hard to see the notes, but it also causes some more issues: I had one or two cases where there were so many flashing lights that I got a little dizzy. But maybe that was because I was too close to the TV. :)
There are definitely some issues with the game; I think it was rushed out for the holiday season. That said, I'll still be playing it frequently. The Pro Modes are great additions, and I'm looking forward to the new songs they release through the Rock Band store. Still a huge "Buy" in my book, just don't assume it lives up to all the hype.
--One Last Piece of Advice...
If you have another console, you may want to consider buying Rock Band 3 for it instead of the Wii. You'll be able to import the songs from previous games without a problem, and some of the bugs I've mentioned above may be fixed in your versions with a patch (the Wii being unpatchable) at some point.