- Publisher: EA / MTV Games
- Developer: Harmonix
- ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
- Genre: Music / Rhythm
- Pros: Fun gameplay; Pro Modes; a bazillion songs; improved career progression; great party game
- Cons: Price for pro instruments; some songs only so-so for keyboard
Rock Band 3 features 83 tracks on the disc, but is also fully compatible with all previously released DLC songs as well as track exports from your Rock Band 1, Rock Band 2, LEGO Rock Band, and Green Day: Rock Band discs. At the moment there are more than 2,000 songs available to play in the game in any genre you can think of. Yes, you do have to pay money for them, but getting to pick and choose exactly what songs you want is pretty sweet, and the variety is amazing. RB3 also has great sorting options that let you easily sort your track list to find exactly what songs you're in the mood for (cause scrolling through 1000+ songs is a pain).
Rock Band 3 changes up the career progression that we've gotten used to in music games a bit. Your goal is to earn fans for your band by completing specific objectives such as hitting long note streaks, reaching high scores, and more. Whether you are playing quick play mode or doing Road Challenges where you play pre-determined set lists in the designated career mode, you are moving forward in the career. I generally prefer just doing quick play, so being able to progress through the game and unlock stuff without messing with a normal goofy "career" is awesome.
The rest of the game is mostly like we have come to expect from Rock Band. Up to seven people can now play at once - drummer, bass, guitar, keyboard, and three vocalists. This is a great party game, even more so because everyone can choose their own difficulty and jump in / drop out when they want. The core guitar, vocals, and drums gameplay is the same as ever, with some slight scoring tweaks, so it works great and can be a lot of fun. But Rock Band 3 is a bit more ambitious than just a vessel to add more songs to your library.
Rock Band 3 introduces a new keyboard peripheral as well as pro modes for guitar, keyboard, and drums. They keyboard is a 25-key keyboard / keytar (MSRP $79.99) that is playable in two modes. Keys mode only has you playing five keys and feels an awful lot like playing guitar, which is fun and kind of easy. Pro Keys mode uses all 25 keys and is much, much more challenging. Tutorials in the game can teach you everything you need to know (scales, chords, arpeggios, etc.), and you are definitely going to need them. It is rewarding in the end when you do learn to play properly, though. I do have a couple of additional comments on keyboard. Not all of the on-disc songs use the keyboard. More will surely be coming as DLC, but as of now there aren't a ton of great songs to use the keyboard with. Also, some of the keyboard songs are actually kind of boring. You just sit around and wait until a brief keyboard part comes up, which isn't all that exciting.
Pro Drums mode adds extra cymbals to your Rock Band drum kit and makes things another step towards being more realistic. It definitely adds a challenge to drums and makes them more fun, but isn't as big of a step towards actually teaching you to play the way the Pro Keys and Pro Guitar can because there are still some pretty big differences between the Rock Band kit and real drums. Still fun, though.
The real appeal of Rock Band 3 is going to be the Pro Guitar mode. Full Disclosure: I haven't used it yet, as Pro Guitar controllers aren't available yet and I wasn't sent one for review. All of the on-disc tracks have Pro Guitar parts, and future DLC with Pro Guitar will be $.99 extra on top of the normal $1.99 DLC charge. Harmonix promises tutorials that will ease players into learning songs, and the interface is essentially a fancy version of guitar tablature (numbers show up on the strings telling you what fret to hold), which should definitely work. I will say, as someone that plays guitar, that beginners shouldn't expect it to be easy. It takes lots of practice to get your fingers to be strong and precise so notes ring clear, and even more practice to build muscle memory so you can move up and down the neck quickly and accurately. Playing Rock Band 3 for an afternoon isn't going to teach you to play guitar. Play it for a couple months, though, and you'll be making progress. Sticking with it for that long is where most people ultimately fail when they find they struggle with it at first. Will Rock Band 3 Pro Guitar be a good teacher? Only time will tell.
One word of warning is that the new peripherals are pretty pricey. The keyboard is $80, pro drums cymbals are $40 (on top of $80 or so for the drums themselves), and the pro guitars will range from $150 to $280. Not exactly cheap.
The presentation in the game is quite good overall. It isn't dramatically different from past Rock Band games, but it looks good. The note highway is clear and moves smoothly. One thing I have noticed, though, thanks to the new option to put characters of your choice in your "band" is that most of the songs I play have male singers and it is hilarious to watch a cute pigtailed blond girl belt them out. She's so cute, but her voice is so deep! Well, I think it is funny, anyway.
The sound is great. The music sounds perfect, which is all you can really ask.
As a standard plastic instrument music game, Rock Band 3 is excellent and easily stands as the best music / rhythm game on the market. The addition of a keyboard adds a whole new feel to the somewhat stale genre and makes it fresh since you have a whole new instrument to learn. As a party game, it is also absolutely fantastic. The pro modes for guitar, drums, and keyboard add a whole new level of challenge as well, and can potentially teach you how to play the instruments for real if you are dedicated enough, which blows the value of Rock Band 3 through the roof. No matter which way you want to play - learning real instruments or having fun with your old plastic ones - Rock Band 3 is great and definitely worth a purchase.