Rock Band 3 Review (Xbox 360)

Throw everything you know about Rock Band out the window, because there is a newer and more badass version in town – Rock Band 3.

When Rock Band 2 launched in the fall of 2008 – it was a welcome improvement over the prior version. It came with a much larger song-list, and improved graphics, yet its menu navigation still needed a bit of tightening up. Still that alone didn’t prevent us from having a blast playing it. Two years later Rock Band 3 delivers in spades. All areas of the game have been vastly improved and perfected. If you ever thought Rock Band stood in the shadows of Guitar Hero – it no longer does and pushes that bully right to the ground.

Rock Band 3 opens up very differently than previous versions, this time instead of a rock band playing on a van, you find yourself watching random people getting out of cars, running around dirty streets holding instruments trying to make it to their next gig – at what appears to be a throwback to the good old days of CBGB, all while ‘Break on Through’ by the Doors plays in the background. However the band is not playing inside, but on the roof. The biggest change here is that the people running around aren’t computer generated but they are infact real people! This rightaway sets the tone for the game and how this isn’t just about wannabe musicians and their plastic instruments anymore. This is a game for the authentic musician too.

Taking design cues from its recent standalone releases like the Beatles and Green Day. The characters are now more smoother and richer than ever. You can see details like cheek bones, clothing, height, and weight in even more detail than before. The cut scenes are rich in detail and actually display a cohesive story that shows a practically destitute band whom is aiming for mega-stardom. While playing through songs, the scenes are reminiscent of both Green Day and the Beatles games, offering sometimes trippy sequences during gameplay that can often distract you at times. You will find yourself playing everything from dive bars to arenas by the end of the game.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy Rock Band 3. You can follow the career mode which lets you pick a logo for the band as well as a name. The name I chose seemed to be so unique that I unlocked an achievement. However, I will save myself from public embarrassment by not telling you what it is now. Then you can customize your character to your heart’s delight. Once again, the details here are amazing and you can contour your face so that anyone playing in Rock Band together will not look alike. In career mode you will stick with the same band until the end – that’s if you play the entire section of the game in one sitting. If you come back to the game at a later time, you will be lumped with new band mates, but you will still all play together forever – or until you shut your console off. Each one of your band mates has names: The more unique ones are Party Foul Floyd, Miss Dee Campbell, or Mothership Q. There are 20 characters in all that can be modified or used the way they are.

Career mode also entails 40 different challenges that encompass Subway Road Challenge, Van Road Challenge, Bus Road Challenge, and Final Road Challenge. Within those challenges you will see you and your band traveling to different locales and playing setlists that cover all different genres and decades as well as the ability to select your own tunes to play.

During Career Mode you can always check in on your stats to see how far you have come along or how many more fans you need to progress to the next challenge. There is a meter displayed on the top of the screen next to your logo that will show you how many more fans you will need to proceed to the next level. You will not be able to unlock other Career modes if you don’t collect enough fans. That means hitting more bars and clubs till you get enough to move on.

So lets say you want to just show off your skills quickly with your Rock Band 3 catalog. Quickplay is still very much intact. You can create a setlist and have at it for a quick and fun good time. The Xbox Live feature is also very much here and improved as well. Got friends hanging out in the Xbox Live Lobby – you can get them to join your band or vice versa. You can also start a Road Challenge from the band’s bulletin board and play the best one with your friends from the U.S. to the U.K. However you will all have to be a card carrying Xbox Live member for you to take advantage of this feature. So get ready to spend some money.

Gameplay is really where Rock Band 3 shines. Players can now jump in and out on various instruments during game play. There is no more going back to the menu screen to have them sign-in. So if you have someone who just walked through your door, and they want to play drums –  They can join any active challenge by jumping in and hitting the cymbals. Also, the songs seem more intuitive than ever. If you played Lady Gaga’s Just Dance on Rock Band 2 – it won’t look the same on Rock Band 3. This is the same for pretty much all of the songs. The targets seemed to have moved and become a tad more difficult even on Medium. I didn’t even attempt the Hard mode yet. Also, you’ll get a few surprise orange targets in medium this time around – which you’d never experience previous versions. However there is always the no-fail option that will keep you alive if you choose to play that way. Overdrive is also still intact and better than ever. When activated, a countdown of how much overdrive time you have left while playing streaks will be displayed.

Yes, streaks – ‘Streaks’ are collected in addition to stars, but they are shaped like spades. The max number of stars and streaks you can collect are 10. When you end a set, the stars turn into streaks and are added to your bank that unlocks goodies and other unique content that you use with your band or character during the game.

So what could make Rock Band 3 anymore trippy than what I already discussed – How about the addition of the Keyboard? Yes, playing Songs like “Here We Go Again” from White Snake will make you yearn for AquaNet and conjure up images of Tawny Kitaen writhering on a car. Believe me, it wasn’t easy getting the hang of this new instrument. Just like it wasn’t easy the first time around for the drums, but I nailed that. The keyboard may resemble the real thing but it isn’t exactly. Again its all about hitting targets but his time you will need three fingers on one hand or two to create chord combinations on white and black keys. However this only adds to the over all enjoyment of the game and you quickly realize how many songs actually use a keyboard in their songs…not just guitars and drums. The keyboard now represents the synthesizer on many a track however songs liks John Lennon’s Imagine will make tickling the ivories even more intense feeling.

Some other instruments that will be introduced into the fold that will take Rock Band 3 to new heights, is the Rock Band 3 Mad Catz Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar Controller and Rock Band 3 Mad Catz Wireless PRO-Cymbals Expansion Kit Pro. They will unleash the kind of feeling that will not only personify the quality of the game but also unleash true musician skills. You will be able to play real-life chords and notes, albeit in a video game, but still the sensation of you playing a typical rhythm game will be almost non-existent. When I attempted to play the Pro Guitar – I’m not a guitarist by any means and I completely flunked out – however I got no calluses because the fretboard consists of thin plastic buttons. However when I handed it over to a real guitarist – they were like this is no toy! This is the real deal. He made like the wind and pounded through World Turning by Fleetwood Mac doing his best Lindsey Buckingham impression. Harmonix has also teamed with Fender to create the Rock Band 3 Squier by Fender Stratocaster Guitar Controller, a full-sized, six-string electric guitar that also functions as a game controller that will be compatible with Rock Band 3 Pro Mode. The Rock Band 3 Squier Stratocaster will be available in early 2011.


Rock Band 3 has taken the rhythm game genre and turned it on its ear. They have improved the overall graphics, gameplay, career mode, and cut scenes. The addition of the Keyboard just shows how this video game franchise has been able to grow and change over time. Rock Band 3 continues to reign as the ultimate party game. Just throw in some bad singers, mix in a few beers, and I’m sure you will trash your home as any full-bloodied rock star would. As long as Harmonix and MTV keep new songs flowing that especially take advantage of the new pro instruments strengths, then many won’t be putting this down till Rock Band 4 is released.

Pricing for Rock Band 3 is as follows:
• Rock Band 3 for Xbox 360 / PlayStation 3 system: US MSRP $59.99,
Rock Band 3 for Wii: US MSRP $59.99,
Rock Band 3 for Nintendo DS: US MSRP $29.99,
Rock Band 3 and Keyboard Bundle for Xbox 360: US MSRP $129.99,
Rock Band 3 and Keyboard Bundle for Wii: US MSRP $129.99
• Rock Band 3 Mad Catz Wireless Keyboard for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 system and Wii: US MSRP $79.99
• Rock Band 3 Mad Catz Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar Controller for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii: US MSRP $149.99
• Rock Band 3 Mad Catz Wireless PRO-Cymbals Expansion Kit– Universal: US MSRP $39.99
• Rock Band 3 Mad Catz MIDI PRO-Adapter for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 system and Wii: US MSRP $39.99

Check out our other post for the complete Rock Band 3 Song List.

The Good: Better than ever graphics, menu controls, gameplay, and intuitiveness. The keyboard kicks it up a notch as well as the addition of the Pro instruments. This isn’t the Rock Band of yore for the kiddies.

The Bad: Replay value could drop after awhile once the initial thrill wears off. New instruments are pricey.

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