Guitar Hero was never our cup of tea because we didn't like the music. Rock Band seemed stupid because we'd rather be in a real rock band than a plastic one. It was the release of The Beatles: Rock Band and DJ Hero that got us to buy into the "music game" culture. We enjoyed both games, but they never left a big enough impression on us to explore other titles. As such, we never found ourselves particularly excited about Rock Band 3.
Still, EA were kind enough to send us a copy of the game so we should say something about it, right? The reason we've opted not to review Rock Band 3 properly is because it requires a big investment. As nice as it was for EA to send us a copy, we'd need to spend around £250 to review all of its features. That's because Rock Band 3 introduces a few new peripherals: keyboard, pro-guitar and drum cymbals. The new features strike us as a little odd. The focus is clearly on bringing the Rock Band experience more in-line with real music. But we have to question why people wouldn't just spend £250 on a real instrument...
Perhaps we shouldn't talk about the game's "pro" music features. After all, they are the reason we're not writing a real review. We didn't try them. You should probably go elsewhere for information on that.
So what's Rock Band 3 like as a traditional Rock Band experience? As far as music games go, it's actually pretty good. The presentation is fantastic, with menus backed by slow-motion shots of your in-game band doing their best pouting and "hard-man" look. The presentation's all very "Q Magazine". It does a good job getting across the aspirational aspects that rock-stars embody in all of us. And it works.
There's plenty of progression too. Rock Band 3 has an XP style system (replaced by "Fans") which reward practically everything you do in the game. Creating characters, buying DLC, finishing songs, hitting notes, launching over-drive; all factor into the "Fan" progression system.
The campaign's the same old rags-to-riches affair. You start out in gungy old clubs, before hitting the big-time and launching stadium-wide tours. The song selection is fine, but it's not really our bag. The Cure make a welcome appearance, as does Amy Winehouse and John Lennon. To be fair, there's a pretty good variety — but it's going to depend heavily on taste. A lot of the songs are geared towards the new keyboard peripheral, which make sense. Well, it makes sense if you've bought one anyway.
Perhaps the biggest draw of Rock Band is that DLC is a huge component of the franchise. If you've bought new copies of previous Rock Band games, it's super easy to import the music into Rock Band 3. Likewise, Rock Band's DLC catalogue is absolutely enormous. It makes concerns about the actual game's track-listing less of a big-deal, because you're able to customise the experience into what you want it to be. The single-player campaign does a good job ensuring that you don't have to stick rigidly to the on-disc tracks too. The game will give you the ability to pick set-lists from certain genres, etc. It maintains the feel of what the campaign's trying to convey, while ensuring you're playing songs you actually like. Which is nice.
So Rock Band 3's really good then? Absolutely, the presentation's fantastic, the tablature's fun and the song selection's fine (with those DLC hooks making it into something special). The pro instrument supports seems like a natural progression for the franchise, but you're going to have to really want it. For us, it doesn't appeal. Why wouldn't we just pick up the guitar sitting in the corner of our living room?
The biggest question both Harmonix and NeverSoft will be asking themselves is: what's next? In that regard, Rock Band 3 almost feels like the perfect game.
Rock Band 3 is available now for the PlayStation 3.
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