Rock Band 3 Review
Rock Band 3 is at once evolutionary and revolutionary, and where it lands for you on that scale will depend a lot on how you use it. On the one hand, it's a refinement of the previous two Rock Band games, blurring the lines between game modes and making navigating and accessing your music library easier than ever. In this regard it's a nice upgrade for the series' biggest fans, but won't have as large an impact on the way casual, occasional players experience the game. On the other hand, it finally brings the keyboard into the game as a playable instrument and introduces Pro Guitar mode which, coupled with one of two new types of guitar controllers, begins to blur the line between playing music games and actually playing music. Taken on the whole, it represents the state of the art of the game genre that was given birth by the original Guitar Hero game five years ago.
The first noticeable change to those who've played Rock Band games in the past is that the interface has been overhauled. Gone are the gaming silos of free play, career mode, and online play – now you just play, freely moving between career and online challenges and simply playing your favorite songs with the ability to add or drop other players at any time. The World Tour career mode from the previous games has been replaced by Road Challenges – short tours that string together a small handful of set lists. At each stop along the way you'll have your choice of several themed sets to play which often include a build your own set list option, so you're never really forced to play your way through songs that you don't enjoy simply to get past a stop on the tour. Another new change on the tour is the addition of set challenges that add an additional goal beyond playing the song well enough to earn a five star performance rating. You may be challenged to hit overdrive a minimum number of times or complete certain stretches flawlessly, among other things, and you'll be awarded from zero to five spades per song depending on how well you do in meeting the goal. The spades and stars that you earn during the set are added together and the total is used to determine whether or not you passed the challenge, but it's not strictly a pass or fail proposition; you can earn just enough to complete the set and move on to the next location or keep trying until you earn enough to be awarded the silver or gold level achievement for the set.
Achievements aren't limited to the tour mode – they're woven throughout the game. Some are tied to specific actions such as downloading a new track and adding it to the game, some to specific modes like those earned on the tour, while others like those tied to note streaks or perfect performances can be earned in any mode. Similarly, the number of fans following your band, a measure of your progression through career mode in previous Rock Band games, can be increased while playing in any mode, allowing your band to advance its career without having to play through a career mode. It all serves the game's new philosophy of a singular game experience rather than a mode-centric one.
If you already have a large collection of downloaded tracks for Rock Band, and even if you don't, you'll appreciate the overhaul given to the music selection screens. You can filter on a number of options to make the song list more manageable and easier to navigate and even save your favorite set lists and share them with friends. A new song rating feature lets you rate each track on a five point scale, allowing you to filter on just your favorites and also ensuring you that you don't have to be forced to play through songs that you hate when playing randomly generated set lists in the challenge modes.