For roughly the past 5 years, the video game industry has seen the rise and rather immediate fall of music games. Over that time, the average gaming household has become cluttered with the various peripherals needed for the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Right now, hundreds of fake plastic Beatles instruments sit gathering dust for the 10 months of the year that they don’t get played. But now we have Rock Band 3, one of several music games being released this fall, the question has to be asked: Should I go into the cleaning supplies and dust off the five buttoned Gibson X-Plorer this year? For Rock Band 3, you should. The great formula created by Harmonix combined with a host of new features make for a very worthwhile play through.
For my full thoughts on Rock Band 3, hit the jump.
The core Rock Band games have been the one constant in music gaming over the past several years for a reason. They have some of the tightest gameplay around and Rock Band 3 remains no exception. The biggest all around core addition is the ability to drop and add players in and out of a playlist in-between songs. It works like a charm and has completely removed the hassle of switching players or instruments in the game. The other major addition to gameplay would be the use of multiple microphones which was introduced in last years The Beatles: Rock Band. While not every song in the game has a harmony part, you can use multiple microphones (up to 3) to just sing the solo parts which works well for some simple karaoke.
While I wasn’t able to review the game with its other added features, on paper the addition of keyboards and pro-instruments makes Rock Band 3 a worthwhile pickup. The keyboard peripheral, bundled with the game most places, is used in roughly 70 percent of the songs. While it looks to add another dimension to the game it is by no means necessary and not having the keyboards will not penalize you in any way. The other new feature would be the Pro-mode. With special guitar and drum peripherals (ones that mimic the look of real instruments both in design and function) a person can, in theory, learn to play music. Players can choose to play in Pro-mode along side those just playing the regular game.
Despite the new additions to Rock Band 3 features, the biggest deal breaker for most people will be the quality of the setlist. With 83 songs on the disc, Rock Band 3 has the best song selection of the series. The most noticeable songs will be the classic rock anthems like “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, or “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, but the addition of keyboards allows classics like Elton Johns “Saturday Nights Alright (For Fighting)” and “Imagine” by John Lennon to be included. As always the list of artists is diverse, ranging from alternative darlings like the Flaming Lips to metal icons Anthrax to reggae legend Bob Marley. On top of the 83 on-disc songs, there are over 1900 on the Rock Band marketplace online, not to mention the other 160+ songs that can be transferred from previous installments of the game. The difficulty of the songs ranges from painfully hard to excruciatingly easy while always being accessible.
The campaign mode has been completely redone. Gone is the world map where your band (mine was named Stillwater, go Almost Famous!) tours playing different setlists in different countries. Instead the game has a series of challenges that you must complete, not unlike those of the PS3 trophy system or Xbox 360 Achievement system. There are over 700 challenges, all of which can be completed just by playing the game, whether that’s in Quickplay or the new Road Challenges. With Road Challenges, you are presented a series setlist options, for example “Random New Wave Playlist”, and told to earn as many “Spades” as possible. “Spades” are earned in two ways, both by playing through and earning the traditional stars (gained by earning higher scores) and by doing specific tasks, like hitting a number note streak a certain number of times. In each song there are a possible 10 “spades”. What was so great about this feature was it immediately drew from my previously downloaded songs and incorporated them into the Roach Challenges. The “Spade” system was clever but inconsistent and often unclear as to what it wanted. It switches what it wants with each challenge to keep things fresh.
As a whole there is so much content in Rock Band 3 it is worth a pickup. Harmonix is still creating and defining the definition of “Party Game” and this iteration is no exception. If playing “Whip It” by Devo with friends isn’t your version of a good time then I don’t know what is.