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Rock Band 3 (X360)

Rock Band 3 (X360)

Rock Band 3 Review

Rock Band 3 (X360) Review

For decades there have been rivalries in video gaming as competing publishers release games designed to out-do existing popular titles. From Mario vs. Sonic to Project Gotham vs. Gran Tourismo these rival games try and better the latest instalment of the other franchise and overall it is a good thing for the consumer as they receive better products as a result.

One of the more recent battles for the hearts, minds and fingers of gamers has been Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band as Activision and EA each try to create the best guitar and band based gameplay. Over the last few instalments the honour of best music title has changed hands with Guitar Hero having a strong outing in the form of Legends of Rock then Rock Band peaking on "2". The recent release of Guitar Hero 5: Warriors of Rock saw a return to form for that franchise though. With a track list which returned to the games roots and a new quest mode which increased enjoyment of the single player game it was time for EA and Harmonix to show their hand and attempt to regain their position as number one.

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When first running Rock Band 3 it is very clear that the core mechanic of the game remains the same, using a single player guitar mode as an example, we play through a selection of venues to gain points and advance the band. We can of course choose to use drums, vocals, bass and now keyboards with the same basic gameplay as previous titles. Instruments have the colour coded notes running down towards us and vocals work horizontally across the top of the screen.

Mixed in with the venue to venue career mode are various challenges which we can attempt throughout each song. In some the aim may be to activate overdrive as many times as possible, others it is a case of getting as many song sections correct as possible. The points achieved in these tasks, as well as passing the song itself, all count towards adding fans for our band. Adding fans increases our notoriety and allows us to move from level to level. Passing challenges also has the normal benefit of unlocking items which help customise the in-game characters.

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With over 80 songs which are new to Rock Band there is quite a selection for us to play through in career or quick play mode and interestingly each venue is much more flexible than previous games of this type. Rather than be forced to play a selection of predetermined songs we can choose the default venue setlist or choose from two other options. These consist of random song types or custom song types. For example if we don’t like the look of a particular setlist we can select to have the game choose two random songs from the 70s, or maybe a classic rock themed random choice. This works well in terms of keeping the player interested when previous titles have forced boring or average songs upon players, giving them less reason to continue. Having said that, there are some minor issues with this random choice. For example, did we really expect to be assigned the Beach Boys, when we chose "Random Rock"… and when playing single player guitar and choosing "Random 70s" should the game have been allowed to choose Imagine by John Lennon which is a piano/keyboard only track.

Speaking of keyboard, the addition of this as an instrument isn’t the only chance to that aspect of the game. We can now have up to 7 players in our band through the use of 3 part harmonies on the vocals (moved over from The Beatles Rock Band). The game is then further enhanced by the ability to "Go Pro". This new mode features aspects such as notated guitar parts which are used in conjunction with a new set of controllers. The Fender Squire Stratocaster for example is a real guitar controller hybrid; essentially a full sized six string electric guitar which also acts as a controller.

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Music management has also received a makeover for the latest game. As well as allowing us to create and share setlists the game also allows us to play through some pre-defined lists immediately. For those that just want to turn on, plug in and rock out this makes for a much more accessible game. That is only a minor change though and the main reason for the overhaul of this area is the sheer number of tracks which are now available to players. We can import tracks from all of the previous Rock Band games and all of the downloadable content from those is available to purchase when running this version too. With tracks now running close to 2000 available the ability to filter and hide genre’s is beneficial; the game can even attempt to recommend tracks based on our personal preferences too. Recent press releases also tell us that full album releases will also continue to happen on Rock Band with the next big release allowing us to play though the whole of Bon Jovi’s Greatest Hits when it is released next month.

For those who prefer a more interactive, multi-player experience Rock Band 3 offers new party modes including persistent drop-in/drop-out and party shuffle mode. It even integrates with Facebook and Twitter to share our experience with like-minded gamers or just random friends.

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Rock Band 3 begins with a rather cool introduction video which sets the scene for the game and before long we head into the cartoonish style which will be familiar to fans of the franchise. The main instrument interface in Rock Band 3 looks great and the pattered guitar neck which our notes run down looks nicer than the competitions "highway". It is also a little easier to see the various status sections in Rock Band than Guitar Hero which is worth considering. So as far as the important aspects go it is two thumbs up.

There are areas of the graphics which could use some work though such as the over-use of effects in the venues. Various techniques are used throughout the game to fit in with music styles but some of the more psychedelic are distracting to the player and hinder rather than enhance the game. As a minor point, the venues, certainly early on are a little too generic too. The bowling alley for example could be any room in any public venue. Finally, a little more work could have been done to make the characters a little more entertaining, or human but considering most of our time is spent staring at coloured bars this is a minor issue.

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In terms of audio quality, there is nothing major to fault with Rock Band 3. Songs are reproduced well and with good quality. Crowd noise isn’t overpowering and really the only thing which will ruin the experience for players is the inclusion of a friend/vocalist who isn’t exactly Freddie Mercury in their level of talent.

For the tracklist, with this being a band game there will be songs where some players get a little bored. Those which are clearly geared for vocalists rather than guitar players for example but with a choice of 80+ tracks, the ability to randomise each level and a backup database of nearly 2000 songs there will surely be something to suit all tastes.

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With the latest Guitar Hero Activision attempted to take the game back to its roots, both in the list of songs included and the focus on guitar as an instrument rather than the band experience. A great level of fun was also seen in the game, from the quest modes excellent Rush level to quirky, comical aspects such as character animations in Bohemian Rhapsody. Rock Band 3 takes a completely different route, one which is much more serious.

It is clear from playing the game that EA and Harmonix are evolving this franchise to be a serious music game. One which still caters for the casual player but also pushes the genre to a new level with the inclusion of Go Pro and the associated "real" instruments. How successful they are at doing this is still to be determined but it is both an interesting and brave move which we hope succeeds.

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So, as things stand Rock Band 3 offers a massive band based experience. From single player to multi-player the gameplay options are huge and the number of tracks available crazy. Thankfully though EA and Harmonix have still delivered a game which is also simple to pick up and play, retaining the fun aspect we all love about this style of game.

Gameplay 87/100 The core gameplay essentially remains the same, until the new controllers are widely available, but changes to music management, setlists and the addition of 7 players takes the game to a new level.
Graphics 80/100 The main instrument interface looks great and works well but the venues are too generic and characters a little lifeless. Some of the visual effects, while entertaining for those watching, can hinder those playing.
Audio 90/100 Good quality reproductions of each song with a varied setlist which should suit all players.
Value 95/100 Loads of levels, massive amount of achievements to unlock, goals to achieve (over 700) and items to win. All mixed with a wide selection of gameplay modes and a massive track list. Players could get lost in this game for years.
(Not an Average)
90/100 With Rock Band 3 EA and Harmonix have created a game with huge depth. It will appeal to casual gamers and enthusiasts and has the potential to achieve the holy grail of music games as the new controllers and pro mode could attract "real" musicians who previously frowned upon titles like this.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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