Rock Band 3 review

Wait, wait, wait, Rock Band 3? What happened to Rock Band 2? It never received an Australian release, that’s what happened. We were belatedly treated to the first game when the sequel was released in the US, and the erratic timeline has left us skipping an installment. Sure, we had spin-offs, but missing a release in the main series is a big deal. That’s all behind us now, as the third instalment in the popular rhythm series has been released here in-line with the rest of the world – how about that.

Rock Band 3’s setlist is inherently different to that of the previous two games. With so many downloadable tracks from popular artists, nearly 2000 songs including full albums, Harmonix has gone out on a limb with a more diverse and less recognizable tracklist. There are a handful of chart toppers, such as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and John Lennon’s “Imagine,” but they are complimented by a range of tracks you’re unlikely to have on iTunes. At a quick scan through the 83 songs, most players will be lucky to recognize a third. It’s a risky maneuver, but one that has more than paid off. As per usual, the included tracks are all perfect for the game’s expanded selection of instruments. If you play using a combination of them, the reasoning behind the selection of each track becomes apparent.

The biggest addition comes with the more comprehensive set of instruments. Guitar, bass, drums, vocals and harmony vocals all return with the new kid on the block: the keyboard. If that wasn’t enough, the new Pro Mode revolutionises music simulation with a new found sense of realism. The new instruments mimic those of their real life counterparts. In theory, on the hardest difficulty setting, if you can play them on Pro Mode in Rock Band 3, you can play them in real life. Unfortunately, we are unable to consider the new keyboard or pro instruments in our review. Distribution of the instruments, handled in Australia by Home Entertainment Suppliers, is in absolute shambles. A very limited supply of keyboards were released locally, with even less pro guitars. Unless you were one step ahead of the situation very early on, there is no other choice than to import until the situation is resolved – although it is much cheaper due to a ridiculous mark up in Australia and Europe – and that’s just not good enough.

Fortunately, musical novices can still play using guitar and drum peripherals from past Rock Band or Guitar Hero games. While the setlist is perfect for the new array of instruments, the increasing focus on keyboard tracks is burden for the majority of an Australian audience, as they are unable to play the game to its full potential.

The biggest change, in terms of software, is the new career mode. In an attempt to rejuvenate the series even further, Harmonix has completely redesigned the experience. Rock Band 3 is all about challenges. It moves past the tried and tested method of playing through a group of songs to unlock the next batch, and makes the career a more in-depth experience. There are some 700 goals the player, either alone or as part of a band, has to complete. There are general musical challenges, as well as ones for specific instruments, including the new pro controllers, which we obviously were unable to complete. Even if they were readily available in Australia, you’re looking at $500+ to purchase the keyboard and new pro instruments. Is it really worth it?

Completing challenges earns experience and gains fans, unlocking new items and venues. Challenges are completed in all modes of the game. If you duck in for a quickplay session or head online, all of your progress counts towards completing challenges. It’s a great way to connect the game as a whole, and equally reward playing in a complete band, online or solo.

Playing on Xbox 360, the visual effects continue to improve and give the illusion of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll from the comfort of your loungeroom. There are still some pretty severe lip-synching issues, and some of the lead singers are almost insulting to the artist whose song they are singing, but focusing on the beat, it’s hard to notice the imperfections.

Rock Band 3 supports all of the tracks from the past game, with the exception of The Beatles due to licensing issues. You can import all of the songs from the previous games’ setlists into RB3, as well as all of your DLC. Potentially, you could have hundreds, or even thousands, of songs to play. The impressive range of DLC is what sets Rock Band apart from Guitar Hero, and with its ever growing selection, it expands the game with a vast amount of music to suit everyone’s taste.

The value of Rock Band 3 is impossible to judge. Buying all of the new instruments as well as DLC, makes it a very expensive venture. However, as the instruments are almost impossible to find, we’re essentially excluded from the pro and keyboard modes of the game, minimizing the game’s value for an opposing reason. Already owning at least some instruments is a prerequisite, and presumably means you have access to past Rock Band tracks or DLC to expand the library. The 83 included songs are perfect for the game, but it’s not long before they get tiring and you find yourself searching for something different. Already owning DLC makes that much easier, but then you have to ask yourself, is it worth spending upwards of $80 for an extra 83 tracks if you have no intention of buying new DLC? The new career mode is great, but not for everyone. If playing through the songs is all that interests you, there’s no reason to upgrade to Rock Band 3, even if it is the best in the series to date.

Rock Band 3 is a conundrum for Aussie gamers. The series has never treated us well, but we keep crawling back. The lack of instrument availability is a serious problem, as it essentially excludes us from core components of the game. However, a magnitude of gamers wouldn’t have bought them anyway, instead preferring to use what they already had with the new setlist and improved career mode. Rock Band 3 is a great game, with an awesome tracklist and progresses the series in an undoubtedly forward direction. However, it’s hard to recommend it for anything more than the new career, as without at least easy access to the keyboard, it’s much of the same.

Gameplay

8.0The new career mode is great with an awesome tracklist. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use the new instruments or Pro Mode due to instrument delays in Australia.

Graphics

8.0The graphics are improving, but there are still some lip-syncing issues.

Sound

9.0Great tracklist, with even better DLC.

Value

7.0Hard to say. Limited access to the instruments removes game modes, but even if you do get them, the full experience will cost well over $500 with DLC. Is it worth it?

Overall

7.5Rock Band 3 is a great entry in the series, but the poor distribution of instruments in Australia has tarnished its name.

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