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PLATFORM:  Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, Wii
ESRB

RATING: T
DEVELOPER:
Harmonix
PUBLISHER: EA/MTV GAmes
 
Harmonix created the clear leader of the music genre with Rock Band and only improved it with Rock Band 2, so should we expect anything less than greatness with the third installment? Of course not. The game is as much of a leap forward from the second as the second was to the first.

But are you tired of music games, and can you be bothered to pick up even more instruments to get the full enjoyment from the set? If the answers are yes, get ready for the best music experience available on consoles.
     
THE PITCH

“Start a band, and rock the world three times over!”

Yes, it’s the same thing you’ve done numerous times before, but no one’s going into this for the story mode, no matter how much improved it is. Come for all the great new songs, instruments, modes, and hundreds of achievements and unlockables.

THE PLAY



You know how it plays and if you don’t, what have you been waiting for? You’re not one of those “Why don’t they just play a real instrument” sticklers, are you? I always wonder what those folks think about shooters and sports games.

Even people like Prince will be impressed by how much of a genuine music-making experience this game has become. The keyboard (for one) adds a ton to the experience, and there’s really no sense in picking up this game without it. On its easiest setting you’re just hitting five keys, much like the guitar. In fact, you can even choose to play guitar and bass tracks with the keyboard and strap it to your back like a keytar. But it really shines when you choose to play in Pro mode, which emulates playing a real keyboard. You’ll doubtlessly have to start on Easy and work your way up, but on expert level you are playing the keyboard- hitting every single note exactly as you would on a real keyboard.
 
It’s helped by the fact that the hardware is actually a real midi keyboard that you can hook up and enjoy without the game, even if it will undoubtedly be daunting for newcomers. Fortunately there is an intensive trainer that will get you up to speed.


CHUDTIP: The keyboards are made to play with one hand, but it’s ok to cheat with both.

 
The inclusion of the keyboard plus the two extra vocal harmony parts (from The Beatles: Rock Band) means that you can have a seven person band this time. Of course, not every song has every instrument part but thankfully the system has been refined and it’s incredibly easy to jump in and out of the game and switch instruments, making it an even better party game than it already was.
 
The whole system has been simplified and streamlined, in fact, making it easier than ever to just start playing. It also smartly stole that jump-in/jump-out feature that Guitar Hero initiated, one of the only features that series had over Rock Band. Of course, getting in a game easily wouldn’t be so great if you couldn’t find a song, and with likely hundreds of songs in you library you’d think it would be a nightmare to find a song you like. But never fear- the game has dozens of possible ways to sort your track list and find just what you like.

Nearly everything has been improved. The long and torturous campaign has been demolished, giving you a decent-sized tour around the world that gives you plenty of options as to what songs to play rather than forcing you to play the same goddamn songs one by one to unlock the eest. Instead of earning cash to buy new clothes and equipment for your characters you earn them by completing one of dozens of challenges in the game. Everything has quite simply made better, and there’s no way that a fan of the previous two games could be disappointed.


 
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to try out Pro Guitar or Pro Drums modes, both of which require even more hardware purchases. But it’s nice to know that they’re there- if you ever want to take Rock Band to another level, or use it to learn a specific instrument (seriously) you can just pick up a set of cymbals for the drums or the real guitar when it hits in March (for 280 bucks!).
  
THE
PRESENTATION

 

As usual the Harmonix team has created some absolutely amazing mixes for these songs. You’ll hear parts you never heard before, your sound system will absolutely boom, and music will fill your lives.


CHUDTIP:
The Xbox 360 version has a lot of achievements related to the downloadable songs. Grab all four free tracks in the marketplace for an easy achievement. (Still Alive, Charlene, Promised Land, and that shitty Disney kid song)


The graphics look more polished as well, but that might just because of various new filters and camera angles used. But  it looks like your characters are actually playing the songs more than ever before. They’ll all jump in the air right before a breakdown, they’ll sing background vocals, they’ll get intense looks on their face when the songs calls for it. It’s nice to see that much attention to detail taken for each individual song.
 
THE
REPLAY


Well, Guitar Hero came out in 2005 and we’re still playing these games. If you decide to use the game as a music trainer you will be able to sink hundreds more hours into it. There are 2,000 songs on the marketplace and more hitting every single week, including Rock Band 3 (and keyboard) specific packs like John Lennon’s Imagine album and Billy Joel packs.
 


CHUDTIP: Get a bigger tv.

 
THE
VERDICT

 
The downside? It is another pricey investment (the keyboard by itself will lighten
your wallet by 80 bucks) and if your house is like mine it’s already
cluttered up with plastic instruments.
 
But Rock Band 3 is so good that you’ll wonder where they can go from here. What else could we possibly need, besides our weekly heaping of new songs? It’s even more polished, has more features and challenges than you’ll ever be able to finish, a set list that will undoubtedly have dozens of songs you’ll love, and of course the pro modes that will quite literally make a musician out of you. This is the best one yet.
 

9.4 out of 10