Game of the Month: October 2010

Boom. Feel that? That’s the unmistakable sound of the games industry shifting up a gear. Indeed, while September marked the beginning of a slow and steady transition in terms of the number of quality games available during the post-summer drought, October wasted no time in upping the ante, as if to say "your wallets will never be the same again." We don’t know about you lot, but our pockets are considerably lighter already.

An assortment of big hitters assaulted store shelves this month, including the likes of Fallout: New Vegas, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, while the digital delights of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare provided ample opportunity to part with some virtual funds over PlayStation Network. To say we were spoiled for choice is a gross understatement, though that’s something we haven’t uttered in what seems like months—and with good reason, since it has been bloody ages.

As insurmountable of a task it seemed to even attempt to pluck one title from this substantial list to slap our Game of the Month sticker on, us chaps at PSU Towers managed to whittle down our favorites and—after much debating—decided to award the accolade to Harmonix’s latest entry in the rhythm game genre. Indeed, the crown of Game of the Month: October 2010 goes to the revolutionary Rock Band 3.

Rock Band 3 is nearly flawless. The presentation has been spiffed up, the 83-song set-list is stellar, and the new piano peripheral offers gobs of fun (and functions as a great MIDI keyboard, too). Road Challenges are far less constrictive and demanding than past Rock Band Career modes, and consequently they’re a whole lot more enjoyable. If you have the cash for a complete peripheral set-up, up to seven players can play together in every game mode, dropping in or out at any time, with any combination of difficulty (including a No-Fail mode) in either the Regular or Pro settings. In Rock Band 3, customization is key.

Pro mode is the most revolutionary new feature in Rock Band 3. Out are the five colored notes, in are far more realistic representations of actual instruments. Pro mode, like Regular, has its own set of four difficulty settings, which run from beginner to expert. We won’t lie: we haven’t gotten to try Pro guitar, largely because we’re not made of wads of cash—the cheapest Pro guitar peripheral is $150 USD. From what we hear, though, the mode works quite well; if you master a song on Pro Expert guitar, you should be able to pick up a real axe and start jamming out sans Rock Band. Drum Pro mode adds up to three additional inputs with a cymbals kit, bringing the already realistic drum peripherals that much closer to the real thing. Lastly, the keyboard Pro mode uses the whole 25-note range of the peripheral, sharps and all, rather than just five notes in the middle. It can be quite frustrating to remember hand positioning when first learning a Pro song, but mastering John Lennon’s "Imagine" and other piano-heavy songs on Pro keys feels extremely rewarding.

Basically, the game is what you make of it. Want an awesome 83-song expansion to previous Rock Bands? Just grab the disc. Struck with keyboard fever? Snag the piano peripheral. Feeling like a drum legend? Get the cymbals. Want to be a real Guitar Hero? Pro guitar is for you.

Rock Band 3 offers an arcade-style rhythm experience and an educational (but still hugely entertaining) music program on a single delectable disc. Where Harmonix goes from here, we’re not entirely sure. For now, though, we offer the whole Harmonix team a hearty congratulations for making music gaming relevant once again, and, of course, for making the best PlayStation game this month.

Don’t agree with our recipient for October’s Game of the Month award? Then be sure to let us know what title you feel deserves the accolade in the comments section below.

If you want to hear even more about Rock Band 3, be on the lookout for U.S. Editor Eric Blattberg’s full review in the coming days.