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Review: Rock Band 3

Here’s a little food for thought. Did you know that Rock Band 3 went into development right after the release of Rock Band 2? During that two year period how many installments of the Guitar Hero franchise did Activision release? That number would be eight ( not including the handheld versions ).  Now, how many of those games raised the bar as high as Harmonix’s Rock Band 3? If you answered zero, then you’re correct.

It’s been two years since Harmonix released a direct installment to the Rock Band franchise. Even though we’ve had the Beatles: Rock Band, Green Day: Rock Band, and Lego: Rock Band to fill the gap, those games were just appetizers. Rock Band 3 is the main course. Prepare to dig in.

The first thing you’ll notice about Rock Band 3 is that the graphics have received an overhaul from previous games. While your character still resembles a doll in RB3, they look more like a well polished, more detailed doll this time around.

Character customization is a lot deeper in Rock Band 3 as well. Similar to what you’d find in Guitar Hero you can now go into more detail when adjusting your character’s eyes, nose, lips, eyebrows and cheekbones. You can also customize and edit your entire band now. Gone are the days of having to endure the company of less-than-appealing, randomly generated band members while playing offline.

New to Rock Band 3 is the addition of the Keyboard instrument ($79.99), the Wireless Fender Mustang Six Stringed PRO-Guitar Controller ( $149.99 ) and the Pro-Cymbals Kit ( $39.99).

In Pro Mode, these new peripherals offer a realistic experience to the genre and gives players the basics of playing real instruments.

For those without the extra cash needed to purchase the game plus a new plastic controller, you’ll be happy to know that Rock Band 3 is compatible with older instruments, including the ones from Guitar Hero. Keep in mind that the older instruments won’t work in Pro Mode.

With the introduction of the keyboard song choices for the game have expanded. Trust me, you’re going to enjoy playing “Imagine” by John Lennon on the keyboard. In the near future you can expect to play tracks from the “Piano Man” ,Billy Joel, exclusively for RB3 thanks to the keyboard. Every song from Rock Band 1 is ready to play in RB3, this includes previously purchased downloadable songs. Unfortunately not every song from RB1 ( including DLC ) is pro-instrument compatible, meaning you can’t play them with the keyboard or new guitar. However, they are playable with older instruments and the Pro-cymbals for the drums.

If you want to play Rock Band 2 songs you’ll have to import them at the price of $10. Not every song from RB2 is importable though. AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock”, Journey’s “Any Way You Want It”, Metallica’s “Battery”, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away” can’t be carried over from RB2.

Filtering song selection has gotten easier as well. You can sort by genres, decades, game versions, etc. in a much more better controlled manner. In Rock Band 3 you’re finally allowed to drop in and out of a sessions.

Anyone can jump in or leave at anytime without disrupting gameplay. This feature has been available in Guitar Hero since GH5 so it’s nice to see it implemented in Rock Band 3. 

There’s also a new Spades Meter in RB 3 which adds more challenge to the game by requiring players to perform a certain way, such as hitting long streaks or nailing a certain portion of a song perfectly. The more spades you achieve the better chances you’ll have to unlock new items and vehicles for your band.

Rock Band 3 is almost a flawless entry to the music genre. My onlypersonal gripes with the game are that they removed the crowd singing along when you’re on a streak. This was only omitted for RB3 songs as far as I can tell. It’s still there for all of the RB1 tracks, so that makes up for it. I also have a minor problem with the fact that you no longer have the option to set your character’s personality as Rock, Goth, or Punk in RB3.

As I said those are my personal issues with the game. They don’t overshadow the fact that unlike other rhythm games currently available, Rock Band 3 is the only one that offers an entirely new experience to music games as it tries to encourage learning real instruments within an enjoyable gaming environment. Because of this fact Rock Band 3 deserves no less than a 100 out of 100.

This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Rock Band 3 provided by Harmonix.