About 5 years ago the music rhythm genre began taking over the gaming world. As games were released our gaming rooms filled with new plastic instruments. When Harmonix unleashed Rock Band, the genre was given a big shot in the arm and gamers were treated to more then just playing guitar. Over the years Rock Band has evolved and grown in leaps and bounds. While Rock Band 2 wasn’t the biggest leap forward for the series, Harmonix is taking Rock Band 3 center stage and is poised revolutionize the music genre once again. From the new instruments to the revamped menus, Rock Band 3 is by far the best music game I’ve played.
The most obvious additions to the game are the new and more realistic instruments. While they might still be made out of plastic the Pro Keyboard, Pro Guitars and Pro Drums will give gamers an amazing real world experience. The Keyboard (or Keytar) and Pro Guitar are the most noteworthy of the three instruments. While the new cymbals and second foot pedal are nice and do up the overall drum experience, the difference isn’t as prominent as the other two instruments, but drummers will still enjoy themselves.
For years my favorite instrument has been the drums, and while I still enjoy them my new Rock Band love is that of the Keyboard. With 25 keys you’ll be able to experience keyboard/piano parts in either a classic(5 button) experience or go Pro and use all the keys. If you’re playing the classic way the keyboard works similar to the current guitar neck. There are 5 color coded keys which will come down the screen, that you need to hit in cue. While it might seem simple and not to fulfilling, it’s actually the opposite. The team did a great job translating the keyboard parts to this control scheme giving you a really enjoyable way to play, that feels like your tapping away like a pro.
However for the music experts, and even novices I suggest going Pro Keys. Don’t worry there are various levels of Pro modes so you won’t be totally lost. Using the Pro Mode expands the notes on screen to use more of the keys. The keys are split into small groups and as the song progresses the notes will shift left and right on screen which requires you to shift finger placement on the keyboard. Again playing Pro Keys on easy won’t see you shifting the full keyboard and myself having no keyboard/piano knowledge was able to bang out Sister Christian and Power of Love in no time.
The second major instrument addition is that of the Pro Guitar. The Pro Guitar mixes buttons and strings. The bridge has six strings, and then the neck has six string like buttons at each fret. It’s a nice instrument to use to learn the basics of guitar and get your feet wet, but it in no way can stand up to a real full string guitar. The faux button strings on the neck just feel off. Unlike Pro Keys which I seemed to grasp quickly, Pro Guitar is quite a challenge. The system used to display Pro Guitar notes is rather odd, and will take some getting use to. You’ll need to read a number and then a little fret pattern. The number stands for the lowest fret to be held, and then the bar is the strings that also need to be held. Then depending on the level of the bar you might need to move down frets on the following strings, basically a flat bar with a the number 3 means, third fret on all highlighted strings. The image below might be a better example:
The Pro Guitar note system works, and is unique, but reading then translating in your head what to do is sometimes a challenge. Luckily the development team put together an amazing assortment of lessons and created a great training mode. Each of the Pro Instruments have a lesson section. These lessons start at the very basic and work up to advance tactics. The lessons system uses repetition to train you on the instrument, once you complete the lesson task enough times you’ll be able to move on to the next lesson. The Song Training Mode is stellar. You can pull any of the games songs into the trainer, where the song is broken down into segments. Similar to the lessons you’ll need to repeat the segment correctly a few times before moving on. Using the trainer on Pro Keys I felt like I was really learning the music in the game. If you decided to tackle Pro Guitar the song trainer is a must as it really helps you learn the difficult note display.
Rock Band 3 doesn’t just bring gamers new instruments to play, it also bring a revamped progression system. Now everything you do in the game is tracked. And everything in the game has goals, as you complete goals you earn fans, as you earn fans your ranking increases, as your rank increases you unlock rewards and more goals. It’s a great system. So many games tie rankings to each mode, so you’ll need to play multiplayer to unlock stuff and then play solo to unlock the same stuff. In text it sounds like there is a lot going on to raise your rank, but everything is broken down real nice that it’s not a headache at all. To get a grasp of the goals, fans, rank, you should jump into Career. The Career is made up of “Road Challenges”. Each of these challenges are made up of a number of shows you must perform at. Each show gives you the option of 3 setlists to complete. You can play the setlist the team made up, a random list, or your own. It’s nice having choices!! Like Rock Band games past you want to try to earn 5 stars, but to add to the fun each show has a secondary goal. These goals are things like hitting X number number streaks. Once you finish a show your stars and goal completion are then tallied and you are awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold rating, which of course leads to more goals unlocked and more fans to increase your rank. This entire system is carried over into the other modes, which again is great that no matter what you do you further your ranking.
The last major change is the menu system. Each player now has a menu at the bottom of the screen, which allows them to change options, change characters or for party night drop in and out of play. Also since the song library has grown to the thousands of song, and many gamers have lots of tracks, there are some great sorting and filtering options in place for the song selection screen. It’s very easy finding that guilty pleasure track you want to rock out with now.
Rock Band 3 is a major jump forward for the series. The series makes a big jump away from being a toy. The new Pro Instruments and modes will be welcomed by Rock Band fans of all skill levels. If you have a young gamer or even old gamer who is slightly interested in playing a keyboard, guitar or drums, Rock Band 3 and it’s training/lessons are a great place to start. If you are a fan of the series and looking for a new challenge those same pro instruments are a great new challenge as well. Rock Band 3 has truly pulled me back into the very popular and saturated music genre. If you were excited years ago when Rock Band debut you’ll want to pick up Rock Band 3.
Sine there are quite a few additions and combinations for buying Rock Band 3, here are my suggestions. If you want it all obviously pick-up a Pro instrument bundle, and then get the other Pro Instruments. If you can’t lay out all the money go with one of the pro instrument bundles. If you are on the fence on the keyboard or Pro Guitar, I say go Keyboard it’s not as complicated and very fun. Whatever choice you make you’ll be enjoying all the rocking with Rock Band 3.
A copy of Rock Band 3 was provided to us for this review from MTV Games / Electronic Arts.