Rock Band 3 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii
Rock Band 3 box art
System: PS3, X360, Wii Review Rating Legend
Dev: Harmonix 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: MTV Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Oct. 26, 2010 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-7 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
This Time, it's for Real!
by Amanda L. Kondolojy

One of the biggest criticisms of the music/rhythm genre from musicians has been that video games based upon playing instruments don't accurately reflect the realities of the music world. However, with Rock Band 3, we get closer to a rhythm game that actually mimics playing an instrument in a realistic way. But before you click away thinking that Rock Band 3 is some boring, music-teaching software, think again. There are plenty of new game features that will reel in longtime fans quickly and make this an experience everyone can enjoy.

Rock Band 3 screenshot

Although there are plenty of areas where Rock Band 3 strives to nurture your inner musician, it is a game first and foremost, and it is relieving to see that Harmonix hasn't made the pro aspects of the game its sole focus. The game's career mode has been completely revamped and greatly improved, and takes a completely different shape than any other music game currently available. Instead of having a six to eight hour "story" that you have to play through on various difficulty levels, Rock Band 3's career mode has become a free-form experience that incorporates various career-based elements in the game's other modes. Whether you are playing a song in quickplay, practicing in pro-mode, or playing through a custom setlist, the game keeps track of your progress and updates a goal list from within the career menu. When you complete different goals in the list, your band will gather new fans, and as you pass certain thresholds, you unlock new gear for your band. These goal lists incorporate goals for different instruments, difficulty settings, and instrument groupings, so no matter how you play, you'll always be working towards your career's goals. And since all of Rock Band 3's songs are unlocked from the beginning, you can get your band the gear they want any way you choose. Even if you’re toiling away at your favorite song in training mode, you'll still be progressing through the career aspects of the game.

This free-form approach will definitely appeal to casual gamers, but if you are looking for a more focused experience, Rock Band 3 has you covered as well! The road challenge mode is a focused experience that allows you and your band to play through a setlist with a specific goal in mind. These goals vary from keeping a certain streak to maintaining accuracy levels, and also come in a variety of play times. So whether you have an hour to play or a whole night, Rock Band 3 has a story-time mode that will keep you and your bandmates engaged in a focused story-like experience. The Road Challenge mode is the mode closest to Rock Band 2's story mode, but I really appreciate the different game lengths, as it allows you to get together with your friends and play through a round or two of Rock Band without having to worry about a commitment beyond what fits with your social life.

Rock Band 3 screenshot

Another feature that is less extensive but definitely noteworthy is the new interface. Rock Band 3 has adopted an "Overshell" interface that allows players to drop-in/drop-out, turn on no-fail mode, and change instruments or difficulty setting at any point in the game. Even if the first player is browsing the tracklist, Player 3 can switch from Keys to Pro Keys without impediment, which is a great improvement considering the single-based menu system was extremely cumbersome in previous entries. If you selected a song on "Expert" that you weren't quite ready for, you could sink your band's score instantly. With the new menu system, changing the difficulty level mid-song takes only a few seconds and can be done without bothering your fellow bandmates.

But of course, the most-touted feature of Rock Band 3 (and the one I personally was the most excited to check out) is pro mode. Pro mode essentially allows you to learn how to play your favorite plastic instruments in a way that is more realistic and true to the spirit of the music. The only instrument that is immediately compatible with pro mode is the keys instrument, but if you are willing to drop some cash (ranging from $40 for a pro expansion set for your drum kit to $150 for a pro-compatible guitar), you can also get instruments that are compatible with Pro bass/guitar and pro drums modes. But no matter which instrument you use to "turn pro," the depth of the pro mode for even one instrument is deep and satisfying.

Rock Band 3 screenshot

The first place you'll want to start off is the training mode, where you can load up lessons of varying length that teach you the basics, intermediate techniques, and advanced play styles. These lessons can be quite lengthy, so definitely don't expect to become a master shredder in an afternoon. Like all goals worth undertaking, learning the basics in order to master your instrument on pro mode will take some time. However, once you get comfortable with your instrument, the fun can really begin.

Screenshots / Images
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