It can be hard to believe that the original Guitar Hero just came out only 5 years ago. In that time, we’ve seen music games flourish, evolve, oversaturate the market and then get pushed aside for the next big cash-in for publishers (Modern War Shooters.) Harmonix, the driving force for music games, has gone through quite a bit of change themselves in these short 5 years. The success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band has brought the company from obscure indie developer to one of the most revered developers in the games industry. Now their back on tour with their next big title, Rock Band 3.
Since its release in 2007, Rock band 2 has been a part of my regular games rotation and is always a blast to pull out at a party. I love the game so much, that in the 3 years I have been playing it, I have worn out 2 copies of the game 3 guitars, 2 drum sets, and a microphone that got smashed into a coffee table when I got just a little to into a song. I have a lot of great memories like the death of that microphone, and many others thanks to that game. While I had my fun with Rock Band 2, I can happily retire my disk for the new Rock Band 3 with no concern at all.
This game features a brilliant 83 songs everyone who ever liked rock will love, the inclusion of the keyboard and pro mode, Full support for the already existing 2000+ songs available via DLC and past games, and a streamline interface that makes it super easy to access all this new content. This may all sound like a bunch of simple bullet points on the back of the box, and it is, but I can tell you that it all really works.
When you start the game, you are instantly treated to the games self described “Overshell,” an ever present menu on the bottom of the screen that allows you to tweak all the little personal details a player may want to mess with, without the need to interrupt the game flow for yourself or everyone else. Want to skip the next song so you can grab a drink? Simply drop out without ever forcing the rest of the party back to the main menu and jump back in once you are ready. Everything from switching characters, instruments, lefty flip, you can even migrate your gamer tag to another instrument without logging out and resigning back in, its all handed from the overshell, and it works great.
The game also features some new and tweaked gameplay modes. Party shuffle mode (just like Guitar Hero 5) is where player can drop in or out during a song or just let the game play music on its own for as long as you let it go, but with the huge set list you can accumulate through DLC and song transfer, the game can really be its own Jute Box. Pro Trainer lets you learn the ropes to for the game’s new Pro instruments, none of which I have because the new hardware isn’t available yet to my dismay. Finally, the new career mode features a suite of tour options and goals that make playing it with friends fun and manageable in a short sitting or the all night play sessions.
Presentation for this game is simply a sight to behold. The game’s graphics have been lifted from the ground up and it all looks and runs great. There is a new character creator that lets you tweak many parts of your characters face and physique, while still keeping to the games art style. And finally there is no more money, so most of the clothes and instruments are unlocked from the start, leaving only the really over the top and crazy looking stuff to be unlocked via goals.
Goals are Rock Band 3’s ways of tracking your progress and skill, think of them as mini achievements (though some of them are achievements.) The menu for them clearly outlines what you have done and what is left you to do and how to go about do it. By Clicking on a goal, you will instantly create a setlist that will allow you the chance to complete those goals, ready to play that instant. All these little tweaks really ties into Rock Band 3’s main design goal, to let you do what you want, with as little button presses, interruptions and time to do it. The interface design of Rock Band 3 is Harmonix’s greatest success and worth the 60 dollars alone. Many games (even outside the genre) could learn a thing or two from successful execution of this new interface .
I really could go on all day about how awesome it is to finally get the Beach Boys in a game, all the little clever touches like how you can watch your characters on the loading screens set up for their gig, being able to sort your songs in every way you could ever want to sort them, the new facebook and community tools, and so on and so forth. But it’s all going to drive home the same point, this is the best music game ever made, hands down. If you ever loved a music game, even a little bit, it’s time to get back on tour, Rock Band 3 is a game not to be missed.