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Rock Band 3 Review

Rock Band 3 pack shot
Publisher:Electronic Arts
Genre:Rhythm / Music
Platform:Xbox 360
Official Site:http://www.rockband3.co.uk/
Release Date:October 29th, 2010 (UK)
Reviewer:Andy Hemphill (Bandit)
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It's time to dig out your plastic, multi-coloured instruments and drag a few protesting friends into your living room once again, as Rock Band returns to melt your face off.

Despite having been on the market a good few years now, the Rock Band series has consistently entertained and challenged in the same breath, allowing you to see how silly your friends are trying to match Freddie Mercury's high notes, and offering a fleeting glimpse of the greatness of rock stardom.

So we come to Rock Band 3, the latest title in the venerable series, and arguably the most rounded of the lot. First off, the new tracks: With artists like Them Crooked Vultures, Blondie, The Vines and Dire Straits, the varied 83 new songs are sure to boost your hard drive's collection, and the backwards compatibility with previous Rock Bands allows you to build quite the library of rock greats.

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Also included in this new game is the ability to use a new peripheral - the keyboard. Resembling a rock keytar - complete with strap if you fancy going vertical, the keyboard can be a dizzying prospect at first, coming with all the keys and various different settings. The keyboard is nicely implemented into the usual Rock Band play style as well, though the odd fingering can be a little difficult to get used to at first. The game does however provide a long and detailed tutorial mode, and before long you should be jamming with the best of them.

The heart of the game remains largely unchanged - you and a bunch of friends get together, plug a load of sturdy, plastic instruments into your Xbox and get on down, tapping keys, slapping drums, strumming or wailing like a dying cat to the falling torrent of colours on the screen.

The interface has been simplified, thankfully, so getting your party all plugged in and a set-list set up is the work of moments, and swapping back and forth in difficulty settings no longer requires exiting to the main menu - which is a blessing, considering how often I had to turn the difficulty down on some of the more face-melting songs (Rammstein's numbers are always incredibly difficult for a guy with fat fingers!) As well as the usual friendly modes, the game's world tour mode returns, with the addition of 'Road Challenges'.

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These mini-tours are a great way to build your band in career mode, and usually have your rock-noobs playing two or three gigs, while trying to achieve certain conditions, such as pulling off three overdrives in one song, or nailing that complicated guitar solo halfway through 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

Nailing these challenges grants you loads of new fans - the game's currency of sorts, and allows your band to rise higher and higher on the ladder of rock.

The career mode is just as fulfilling as ever, and going from the basements of rock to stadiums of screaming fans is still as thrilling.

Outside of career mode the online battle of the bands mode returns, allowing you to play with and against other gamers across the world. There is very little lag, and the streamlined interface makes finding willing rockers easier. Finding someone who can actually hold a note while singing though... is very much a challenge. This is especially obvious if you have more than one mic.

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Rock Band 3 has included vocal harmonies this time around, and pulling them off can be especially difficult without a little practice. That said, once you've got it down, you'll be rocking with the best of them.

If you're looking for something a little more challenging, Rock Band 3's 'Pro' mode could be just what your fret board-loving fingers have been waiting for.

This mode does away with the traditional multi-coloured button approach, and is far more like playing an actual guitar. The notes are more complicated, timing is key and the game is much more intense, with a lot less in the way of visual clues to guide you. This unusual approach is backed up by a robust tutorial mode of its own, which has the added effect of actually teaching you the basics of guitar as it goes.

Unlike a traditional guitar lesson, where some beardy old chap barks chords at you, Rock Band's simple practice mode actually makes learning the basics easier, allowing gamers to work on their fingering, and possibly improve your real-life rocking. The only downside to this new mode is that it requires yet another new peripheral - a guitar with actual stings and a sensor box, modelled on the Fender Squier Stratocaster.

This little number will set you back £50-80, depending on where you shop, and it's worth asking yourself how much you'll use it before you invest, especially as an actual guitar doesn't cost much more.

The drums offer a similar pro mode, but again, while this adds depth to the game, it requires you to buy another plastic peripheral - three free-standing cymbals - and further adds to the price tag somewhat.

Graphically the game looks better than ever. The animation of your band is smooth and lip-syncing right on cue as always. Though the backgrounds to the various menus aren't all that important, the bands milling around and chatting make for a nice backdrop to the action of lining up that perfect set list, and though you're going to be too busy to actually watch the band on screen - staring as you are at the constant fall of coloured bars and chords - the animation for the band rocking out is top notch.


All in all, Rock Band 3 could be the pinnacle of the rhythm game genre. It offers more modes, songs and challenges than ever, and the pro mode extends the lifetime of the game considerably, as does the backward-compatibility with the previous Rock Band titles. That said, the steep price tag and need for new peripherals might put off some gamers, but even without the shiny new plastics the game offers excellent value for money.

Besides, you'll still want to see your mate butchering 'Heart of Glass' on the microphone won't you?

The bottom line
8.5 / 10

Good stuff

  • More tracks, more modes, more rock
  • Easy interface
  • Rock challenges are fun

Not so good stuff

  • Basically more of the same
  • New peripherals don't come cheap
  • ...and the pro modes don't really work without them

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