Rock Band 3
Third Times a Charm
Rock Band 3 has, thus far, proven to be the last big title for the pseudo-instrument crowd. After the market became over-saturated, Guitar Hero gave up its franchise altogether and the entire genre has been on a break. Still, Rock Band 3 manages to be innovative in a many ways: not only does it add keyboards and three-way harmony to the mix, but it also adds a new challenge in the "professional" mode for guitar, drums and keyboard which, until Rocksmith came along, was as close to playing actual instruments as you could get with a game. I've been a fan of this virtual rock simulator since Guitar Hero III, and Rock Band 3 still manages to capture that same sense of fun I remember first playing.
For those familiar with this style of game, there isn't a lot of innovation in terms of how the game looks. The characters might be slightly tweaked to look better, but the scrolling bars remain the same on the regular setting - if you have a full complement playing at once it can get a bit cluttered, but it's not so bad that you need to squint to find the right notes.
What makes or breaks these type of games is, of course, the set list. Rock Band 3 does not disappoint in this department. To make use of the new keyboard entry to have crowd favorites like Huey Lewis and the News' "Power of Love", Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" and, my personal favorite Yes' "Roundabout". Vocal harmonists get the ultimate challenge with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and for pure rock you get classics like Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" along with more modern hits such as Rammstein's "Du Hast" and Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People." Woman aren't left out either as Blondie's "Heart of Glass", Paramore's "Misery Business" and Rilo Kiley's "Portion for Foxes" also make the cut. In terms of providing a good mix, Rock Band 3 doesn't disappoint and for those willing to spend a little money, there is a no shortage of songs to download.
The biggest difference between this and previous entries is the ability to play on professional mode - for guitars, you can buy an adapter that lets you use an actual working guitar. Keyboards turn into the real thing - I can't comment on drums, as I have a hard enough time simply keeping up with Medium to even think about going pro. While it's not going to replace lessons or tutors in terms of teaching you how to play, it was an innovative step from plastic instruments to the real thing, and saved this from being just another entry into the series. I even tried the real guitar (albeit on the Wii version) and found I wasn't so bad (on easy... on the first few songs). Am I going to be the next Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page? I don't think so, but it gives you a much better sense of accomplishment when you have an actual guitar in your hands or get through a real keyboard song on medium (which was as far as I could go).
Rock Band 3 has kind of a story where you create your band and go from no-name, dive-bar playing rejects to world-class headliners, and there are road tour challenges you can take, but for the most part I use the quick play option. If you manage to get a group of friends together who can play (or who are willing to just try to play - there is a no-fail mode option), especially ones who aren't afraid to sing, this is an excellent party game. You can create your own stories - although it is quite fun unlocking increasingly risque outfits, if, like me, you intend to make your female band members as totally slutty as possible.
For the most part, it's the same as what has come before. The notes scroll, you hit the corresponding color on your instrument of choice and the more notes you get right, the higher your score. Streaks and overdrive mode combine to give you the best boost and the more people you have playing, the more points you can get. Other than the inclusion I mentioned above (pro mode and keyboard) it's pretty much the same as what has come along before. However, this is not a bad thing, as I believe Rock Band has done better than Guitar Hero in terms of playability. It's a little bit easier and it makes rage-quitting less of an issue (especially with the aforementioned no-fail - even kids can rock out). Pro mode adds an extra layer of challenge/skill for those who find "fake" instruments too kiddy or boring. There is just enough customization to make it feel like you have some control and the set list is pretty impressive.
If you're a fan of the rhythm genre at, this is one of the better in the series. Even if you don't want to shell out for pro instruments or even the keyboard, it provide plenty of entertainment using the original guitars and mic. It might be awhile before they release another in this series (if ever) so if this is the last hurrah, it surely went out on a high note.
Overall (not an average): 4/5