on November 30, 2010
Note: I have not played Pro Drums or Pro Guitar in RB3.
Rock Band 3 feels very much the same as previous installments in the franchise, but with some welcome new additions that keep it fresh. If you enjoy or are interested in music rhythm party games, Rock Band is the reigning king of music games. You can play guitar, drums, sing, and now even play keyboard. The game allows for up to 7 players at once (guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and 3 harmony vocals) to play locally on one console. No other game does that. The instruments play like they have since RB1, with colored notes scrolling toward you on-screen, and you have to "play" the notes in time with the music to score points. Even the new keyboard follows the same five button formula and feels familiar. Since the core gameplay was already great, this isn't a bad thing, but don't expect the experience to feel different or revolutionary.
The biggest addition to RB3 is the new PRO mode. You can play Pro Drums with a resonably priced cymbal addition to the existing four pad drum set, allowing for a total of 8 triggers (four pads, three cymbals, and a kick pedal) to keep track of. Also offered is the Pro Guitar, which can only be played with an expensive new controller that has six strings and 17 frets for a total of 102 buttons (Fender Mustang by Mad Catz). Or you can go all out and buy the real guitar that doubles as both a game controller and a real electric guitar (Squier Stratocaster by Fender). Both are very expensive (relative to video games) but are the only way to enjoy Pro Guitar. Finally there is Pro Keys, which used the same keyboard as standard mode, only instead of using just five of the keys, you use the whole keyboard. The cool thing about Pro Mode is that if you learn to play a song in the game in Pro Mode on Expert difficulty, you're actaully playing the real song note for note, meaning you've leared to play real music. That's pretty incredible for a video game. Pro Mode is by far the biggest new addition to RB3, it's just a shame that it requires a serious monetary investment as well as time investment to fully enjoy. Still, it's nice that the option is there.
The career progression is completely revamped this time. Instead of touring the world using managers and playing clubs to potentially earn or lose fans, now you have set challenges that are unlocked as you play songs and meet the requirements. Many challenges overlap and completing one usually means progressing on several more. It's a weird set up that takes some getting used to, but does allow for more freedom in how you want to play than the previous games. Completing challenges unlocks clothes and gear as well as fans, although I don't really see what the point of fans are anymore. There is no money to be earned, instead unlocking items makes them available instantly, and not just for the character you're playing, but for all the characters tied to your profile. This makes unlocking costumes much easier and less tedious than in the previous games. Character creation is also a little deeper, actually allowing you to customize the character's face and body with more variety. Another plus is the jump in and out feature. It allows players to jump in and out and switch instruments on the fly, chance difficulty mid-song, and even turn on no-fail mode or join a song in progress. It makes party play much easier and less confusing.
The most important aspect of any music game is the songs. Fortunately, RB has the best music in any rhythm game and RB3 is no exception. There were a couple of songs I didn't care for, but of the 83 songs on disc, I liked 80 of them. You can also import songs from RB1, RB2, Green Day RB, and Lego RB, as well as all the DLC songs you may have downloaded from the RB Store. I currently have 300+ songs in my game as a result. Of course, pre-RB3 songs don't have Pro Mode, but also dissapointing is that post-RB3 songs don't support Pro Mode unless you purchase an upgrade for $1 on top of the $2 per song price tag. Obviously Pro Mode is for people who have money to burn. This one complaint aside, RB3 is a great game, and the game is compatable with just about every instrument controller known to man, so chances are you'll find a way to play even if you can't afford all the new instruments.