Rock Band 3 Review
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Rock Band 3 is quite possibly the most successful music game ever. It keeps the old Rock Band formula wholly intact, and adds upon it a whole new layer of gameplay that carefully leads you across the slow, rickety bridge from simple imitation to real creation.
- The revolutionary introduction of Pro mode, which supports backwards compatibility on the drums
- The well-built, fun-to-play piano peripheral
- The superb 83-song setlist
- The cheapest Pro guitar is equal in price to two and a half new games
Let’s not waste anyone’s time: Rock Band 3 unequivocally ranks among the best rhythm games ever. It may in fact be the best, for one simple reason: this "game" is secretly a simulator.
For the uninitiated, here’s a brief explanation. Rock Band used to be about people getting together to pretend to make music using fake instruments. Rock Band 3 can be that same experience if you want it to be—it’s called “Standard” mode—but there are a few substantial game-changers: there’s now support for vocal harmonies and a piano peripheral, but most notably there’s a completely new Pro mode that radically redefines the Rock Band experience.
While “Standard” Rock Band is a game, Pro mode is more of a music simulator, featuring its own Easy to Expert difficulty scale as well as some special peripherals. If there’s anything to criticize about all this, it’s that the guitar Pro peripherals will cost you an arm and a leg. The cheaper of the two Pro guitars, MadCatz’s 102-button Fender Mustang, will run you $150 USD. Set to release on March 1, 2011, the more expensive model, Fender’s Squier Stratocaster, is an actual $280 electric guitar built to function with Rock Band 3 Pro mode.
Since we’re not made of money, we unfortunately weren’t able to test out Rock Band 3’s Pro guitar for ourselves, but a guitarist friend that does own one demonstrated to me that it functions excellently as a music teacher. Watching him play the game via video chat, I asked him to select a song he’d never played before. He picked (the exceptional) “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1” by The Flaming Lips. He began on Pro Medium, played it twice, bumped it up to Hard, played it two more times, then tried Expert, running through it three last times (each time, he promised, was the last—what a liar). He then picked up his acoustic guitar and played the song for me in its entirety, pausing only once as he tried to remember the correct chord. In about 45 minutes, Rock Band 3 taught him a new song.
Rock Band 3’s Pro drums are a modification of the original peripheral, requiring a three-piece cymbal expansion kit (though just one or two will also function in Pro mode). At a far more affordable $40 USD (drum kit not included), we were able to pony up the cash and modify our existing Rock Band 2 drum kit to support Rock Band 3 Pro drums. The disc-shaped gems (as opposed to square-ish gems) that fly down the lanes while playing Pro drums indicate cymbal crashes, meaning you should hit the blue, yellow, or green cymbal rather than the corresponding drum pad. As the most “realistic” instrument in past Rock Bands, the drums feel even better here. The increase in inputs allows a much closer simulation of a real drum kit, and definitely reintroduces some challenge for those of us who can sail through tough songs like “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters on Standard Expert with ease. Best of all for drum players, Harmonix has always recorded use of a “crash” versus regular drum inputs, making Pro drums completely backwards compatible—consequently making Rock Band 3 a veritable drummer’s heaven.
The new instrument in Rock Band 3, the keyboard, retails for $80 USD and supports Pro mode off the bat. It’s bound to become a fan favorite—we love it, that’s for sure. Unlike the other instruments, keyboard can be quite relaxing; you can lean back, plunk it in your lap, and just play along (though if you want, you can stand up, strap it on, and play some keytar).
Standard mode uses five consecutive white keys, which, in regular Rock Band fashion, fill five ... (continued on next page)
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