Review: Rock Band 3

The music genre is dying, folks. You know why? People are sick and tired of buying numerous games filled with the same gameplay mechanics and music no one wants to play or hear. Okay, that last part was just my opinion, but the numerous games and mechanics comment holds true. Let’s take a look at this list shall we?

Rock Band: Rock Band, Rock Band 2, Rock Band 3, The Beatles: Rock Band, Green Day: Rock Band, Rock Band AC/DC Live, and LEGO: Rock Band.

Guitar Hero: Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero III, Guitar Hero: World Tour, Guitar Hero 5, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, Guitar Hero: Metallica, Guitar Hero: Van Halen, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, Guitar Hero Encore: Rock The 80’s, Guitar Hero: Smash Hits, and Band Hero.

I’m not even going to list the not-even-flash-in-a-pan releases such as Rock Revolution or the recent Power Gig, however, looking at that its easy to see why people just don’t care for the genre anymore. It’s loaded! Activision has successfully taken one of their biggest franchises and rammed it into the ground. Knowing all this, though, how is it that people still get excited for a new Rock Band game? I’ll tell you why. EA and Harmonix are smart as hell.

First off, everyone can tell you that take out the heart and soul in the creation of a great game and anything you try to produce with that IP will never reach the heights it used to. Sequels throughout the ages that are given new developer houses or leads can attest to that. That is what essentially happened to Guitar Hero. Granted, Guitar Hero III and World Tour weren’t so-so bad, but the franchise changed directions immediately after the Harmonix team slip away from Activision. The guys over at Harmonixs knew how to sell this genre and make it lovable no matter what. The team knew that releasing too many titles and flooding the market would be a bad, bad thing. They even though that the release window between Rock Band 1 and 2 were too close so they chose to wait on Rock Band 3 awhile. Well guys, good thinking because it paid off. Rock Band 3 brings about a slew of new gameplay mechanics, a new instrument, new modes, a greatly updated story and quickplay features, and much more. Let’s try and delve into all these exciting changes that make Rock Band 3 a must-have for all music genre fans.

Taking some time off was a great move by the guys over at EA and Harmonix. Not only did they allow Rock Band 2 to flourish with weekly DLC and a ton of money on people buying band kits left and right, but it also helped the fan base of the genre to know who really wants their money. Rock Band and the team at Harmonix keeps the steady flow of new songs coming weekly. They have brought out some killer albums and some really great assortment of works. Updates keep the game working and support has been one for the ages. However, there came a time when everyone could see that Rock Band 2 was becoming outdated. Although Guitar Hero’s sales have been declining, the franchise did bring in some much need playlist functionalities that fans of Rock Band clamor for. Features like being able to change difficulty during songs and between, drop-in and drop-out for friends, skip songs and continue the playlist, and a pause feature that wouldn’t throw you straight back into that crazy solo and mess you up. All of these are in Rock Band 3. The new game doesn’t just borrow features, though. There is plenty of new and exciting things about Rock Band 3 that take the genre far and beyond where its been sitting at. Thankfully, Harmonix didn’t just ride the announcement of the Keyboard peripheral. They have several upgraded the story mode and even linked it with quickplay. All those gamers who relished in Rock Band’s quickplay modes can now earn some fun stuff and progress in a band’s journey. You earn fans for every challenge you complete while playing songs. Fans earn you new rides and other accessories while challenges unlock character creation items and instruments. Its nice to have some progress involved. The best part about these challenges are that my friends and I really weren’t trying for them. My one friend who plays bass, badly, was able to unlock a few challenges and earn us some mondo fans. You don’t exactly have to be an expert player to achieve everything in the game.

For those of you that are crazy good at these games will find themselves loving Rock Band 3. Beside the challenges, new story mode, and a new instrument to master fans can also indulge in the Pro modes. Now, Pro modes aren’t out of the box adventures. Unless you picked up a Keyboard bundle, you’ll either need to buy a Keyboard or buy the much more expensive Pro Guitar… or both. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying the Pro Guitar mode, but we do own a Keyboard and most of us have given it a whirl. Don’t be intimidated by the Pro Keys mode. You have 15 buttons to utilize during your play and they do range from the white and black keys but trust me, playing Pro on the Keyboard feels much more natural. For those of us that played both modes, we all agreed that playing Pro Keys just feels better than regular. Normal Keys is the basic 5-button system and mechanics that the guitar and bass use. In fact, you can even use the Keyboard as a bass or guitar. I may be contradicting myself here but playing the two string instruments on the Keyboard felt awesome. Why doesn’t Keys feel good on it? Well, its just not challenging enough. Pro Keys isn’t too hard to get into and is definitely worth the time and effort to practice. Overlapping keys with your fingers is an issue but you’ll soon get it down. The only issue I find with Pro Keys is when playing 3- or 4-player co-op, the “key board” is kind of small and it makes you sometimes double think your fingering and you may mess up. Getting your bearing back on a 15-button controller can be difficult. However, the peripheral is expertly made and can serve as one of three instruments. It is really worth a pick up if you want to cash in on what Rock Band 3 can really offer.

I’ll update this review if I ever get to try out the Pro Guitar.

Rock Band is now boasting over 2,000 songs in their franchise. They are hitting the right thing to market. The Rock Band store is absolutely gigantic. Fans should know that if you don’t plan to pick up Rock Band 3 soon or ever, you won’t be able to download the DLC songs from here on out. Well, you can but they won’t work on any game but Rock Band 3. Its a shame if you don’t, though, since the announced DLC for the upcoming months are spectacular. When you have a line-up of The Doors, Billy Joel, Rush, and more you can’t go wrong. Its very obvious to see why the choices are coming after the release of the new Keyboard, as well. While on the subject of songs, exporting can be kind of a pain with Rock Band 3. EA has announced that in order to export the Rock Band 2 songs you will need the original manual from the game or call them in order to obtain a new one. Also, it costs $9.99. We’ve been through this before when Rock Band 1 export cost about $5. It’s all about licensing and re-licensing. As with the first export, this new export for Rock Band 2’s set list also features songs missing so take that into account.

Rock Band 3’s set list is a pretty powerful one, however it is missing some key things. Its funny I said key since the new instrument is the Keyboard, right?! Then why is a good chunk of the new set list unfriendly with it? I can understand why DLC from before Rock Band 3’s time do not include Keyboard parts, but why would you include songs in this set list that don’t feature your newest $80 instrument? It sucks when trying to include everyone’s decisions in a playlist and we can’t pick certain songs because there are either no Keyboard or even no guitar part. It limits the playable songs in a party environment and can essential cut out a friend from joining in the fun during certain sessions because someone really wants to play John Lennon’s Imagine. Besides that, and the random Amy Winehouse song, the set list features some great songs that have been begged for and some that fans didn’t even think of but as excited to play. I really encourage players to get together and play Yes’ Roundabout as it is a great song to include everyone.

You can’t really go wrong with Rock Band 3. It features way too many upgrades to the franchise to pass up. The upcoming DLC is electric and the should add some more playlist depth for the Keyboard. As always, getting into a Rock Band game will cost some big bucks unless your content with the already established instruments. For that, I’ll say you’re missing out. If you have the means, you really should pick up the Keyboard. I can’t exactly justify the price of the Pro Guitar without testing it first however. You’ll have plenty to do with mastering the Keyboard, getting into Pro Keys, completing challenges, earning new items, progressing your band, and having a great time with your friends.


  • Keyboard peripheral
  • Strong set list
  • Amazing DLC announcements
  • Great set of new features
  • Playlist functionality
  • Drop-In, Drop-Out game play


  • Not every song includes the Keyboard
  • Pro modes will cost you some big bucks

Reviewed by Ron “Cennus” Hoffecker