You would think after so many years of music games, the genre would be practically dead at this point. But time and time again Harmonix has proven that they know what they are doing when it comes to this genre, and Rock Band 3 is definitely no different. Taking everything great from Rock Band 2 and The Beatles: Rock Band, improving upon it, and also adding plenty of new features, I can honestly see this being the last main game in the series. It is also easily the best.
The career mode has been changed for the better. There is a career in the strict sense of the term, giving you road challenges to play and complete, each one taking you to new locations as your band rises to the top. There are also plenty of goals to complete, but those are far from the stopping point. Everything you do in the game, assuming you are signed into your profile, goes towards your career goals as you earn fans for each song you play, which is probably one of the best changes made in Rock Band 3.
The majority of the song choices exemplify the band experience that Harmonix has had down for years. The game still plays exactly like you would expect it to. Guitar, drums, and vocals in their most basic form have generally remained the same, but this is far from a bad thing. If you just go into Rock Band 3 only wanting more Rock Band, you’ll still be in for some amazing stuff.
There are two major additions to this game, both of which change things for the better. The first is a new instrument: the keyboard. Not only is the controller itself very well designed, it adds a whole new level of enjoyment to the songs and is very accessible for those who have never played a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game before. The track list features plenty of songs that work perfectly to show off just how fun playing keyboard can be.
The second big addition is Pro Mode, which brings this game to a whole new level. You get pro guitar, pro drums, and pro keyboard, and when set on the highest difficulty are just like playing the actual instruments. Pro drums (with the right attachments) is usable for all songs, including the expansive back catalog of exported songs and DLC, but both pro guitar and pro keys are only for songs in Rock Band 3 and DLC released this point forward.
Every single instrument, the basic instruments and pro mode, include their own tutorials that teach you what you need to know to learn how to play. Although you won’t learn how to play keyboard or guitar from them, you will learn enough of the basics that will get you started on playing and truly appreciating each song.
While I never had a chance to try out the pro guitar stuff, with the keyboard you are pretty much playing the songs exactly as they would be played. The pro mode is probably the most challenging thing found in any music game, but when you get it down it is also the most rewarding. Being able to play the keyboard parts in your favorite songs on pro mode is one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve ever had playing a game.
Vocals have also received some changes, adding the vocal harmonies option taken from The Beatles: Rock Band. You can have up to three people singing a song at once, and it, like the keyboard, really helps bring in people who aren’t very familiar with the genre and get them into the music.
Also improved is the menu system, which is incredibly streamlined and user friendly. Each player has their own pause menu, and through it you can change instruments, difficulty, settings, turn on modifiers, and even swap profiles on the fly. It also lets anyone jump in and out of songs at any time, something that was first shown in Guitar Hero 5, but is truly perfected here.
Harmonix has also nailed the presentation of the game. Not only is the sound quality top notch, as expected, the actual characters themselves look even more lively than they did before. During your career, there will be different scenes that play showing your band’s rise to fame, which are all very entertaining. The character customization is improved as well, giving you plenty of new options and ways to create your very own rocker.
Rock Band 3 is a groundbreaking success and easily the best music game I have ever played. I honestly cannot see Harmonix topping themselves after this. It really signifies the fact that this is much more than a game, it is a platform, a point the team has been trying to get across since day one. Well Harmonix, bravo, you’ve finally done it.
Pros: Excellent track list; pro mode adds a lot of depth to the game; the keyboard controller is well designed and is a lot of fun to use; great streamlined menu system and career mode; amazing presentation
Cons: Absolutely nothing