Rock Band 3 contains plenty of new content even without Pro Mode. For starters, there’s an entirely new instrument: keyboards. Though keys really work best in Pro Mode, they’re actually plenty of fun in standard gameplay as well. We originally feared that they might feel like little more than a guitar without a strum bar, but playing the piano peripheral provides an entirely new tactile experience. Keyboard-heavy songs like The Sounds’ “Living In America” wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying on a guitar (though you could actually use one to play the piano part if you really wanted).
The career mode has also been overhauled. Now absolutely everything you do contributes to a laundry list of ambient challenges, all of which earn you fans and progress the familiar but completely endearing “rise to fame” storyline. Many of the challenges feel either empty or impossible, but they do provide us with plenty to do. Besides, the real heart of the career mode are the Road Challenges – though that’s not immediately apparent since they’re annoyingly buried among the much drier stat-based challenges.
Road Challenges are essentially shorter, more discrete versions of the other games’ World Tour: travel from city to city, play songs to earn stars (and tackle optional challenges for bonus stars), and gradually unlock cutscenes that chronicle your custom band’s rock ’n’ roll success story. The new approach really doesn’t change much, but it retains the sincere sense of ownership and progression we got from the previous games’ “build your own narrative” style, so we really can’t complain.
Then there are a few less glamorous but incredibly helpful changes to the interface. The game liberally borrows the convenient drop-in, drop-out features of Guitar Hero 5’s Party Play mode while adding an “overshell” that gives each player dedicated control over his individual options. The result is the most useable and intuitive multiplayer interface ever in a rhythm gave. (Word of advice, though: When playing with friends, stick to the standard gameplay so everyone can keep up. Seriously.)
Finally there’s the lovingly curated track list, where Harmonix’s genuine passion for music really shines through. The game offers plenty of chart-toppers and big name acts like Queen and The Doors, but we actually found the lesser-known tracks from bands like Rilo Kiley and The Smiths stuck in our heads even more often. Every song fits the game perfectly, not only because it’s a blast to play but because it’s a joy to listen to. The songs really help to make the whole experience special, and we adore Harmonix for choosing so well.
Truthfully, the entire game feels like a defiantly kickass celebration of music. Combined with the complete success and undeniable innovation of Pro Mode, how could anyone resist Rock Band 3?
Oct 26, 2010