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Rock Band 3 Review

Update: I’m really taking to the keyboard. For some reason, it’s just easier for me to play than the guitar or drums. Might have something to do with the fact that my fingers have spent the better part of every day on a (computer) keyboard for the last 28 years, since I was 5. :-) I’ve never really developed the muscle coordination/memory for guitar or drums (not to mention having to use the bass pedal!).

However, I’m finding that I while I’m still at the medium/hard comfort level on guitar, I can dive right in to Expert on keys and do OK. Haven’t failed a song yet. I’ve even taken to playing Expert guitar parts (which I’ve never been up to before) with the keyboard during the road challenges/while I’m grinding to earn fans and unlock stuff. It just flows, and it feels pretty cool.

I picked up Rock Band 3 for the PS3 on launch day (10/26/10), along with the new wireless keyboard instrument. I’m not a hardcore player, but we love to play as a family and with friends, and have amassed the whole collection of instruments (two guitars, drums, mic, etc.) and a whole bunch of songs. The track list, along with the new keyboard, made Rock Band 3 a must buy for me. Here are my initial thoughts after a couple days of play.

Rock Band 3 Wireless Keyboard PS3

The keyboard is great – feels good, easy to pick up and play. Of course, it’s a whole new set of finger memories to learn, and since I mostly play guitar, that trips me up sometimes. But I’ve only been playing a couple of hours. Mostly experimenting, customizing characters and our band (“The Rockin’ Out Band-crofts”), etc. Most (but not all) of the songs in RB3 have a keyboard part, but none of the songs from earlier iterations will. Fortunately, you can choose to play the Guitar or Bass part with the keyboard, which on most songs, is just fine. And on songs like Freezepop’s “Less Talk More Rokk”, where the original part was a “keytar” anyway, it’s downright perfect.

Besides the 80+ songs on the disc, RB3 will automatically pick up anll the songs you have on your hard drive. In my case, all the songs from Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, and a all my DLC. I also did the Rock Band 2 “export” – it’s actually a 2GB download, using the unique code on the back of the RB2 manual – the disc never has to be inserted. The export costs $9.99, and not all songs come over (70 of the 80+ in RB2).

The graphics and band activity in the background are awesome. Your band is always hanging out, doing things appropriate to where you’re at in thr game (playing in basement and bars to begin with, etc.). The graphics are crisp and gorgeous. Text looks very nice, and while I’m not enough of a typenerd to know what font they use, I do appreciate that it looks great. Sound is excellent, too, though I had to manually switch to Dolby Digital output. You’ll have to recalibrate your setup for lag, which is a snap of you have one of the Rock Band 2 guitars with a calibration sensor on the front.

The song list, where you’ll probably spend most of your time besides playing songs, has a ton of controls, filters, and ways to look at your library, which is a very good thing, because if you’re anything like me, you have a ton of songs to manage. I’m at 320 or so, from RB1, RB2, RB3, and DLC. You can filter by source, parts, ratings (including new “Family Friendly” and “Supervision Recommended” ratings), and a bunch more criteria.

I’m not very far in the “career” mode, but it’s mostly focused around number of fans, completion of Road Challenges, and other Goals. You ant progress without dabbling in all the various goals – for example, I’ve done the first couple sets of road challenges, but even though I’ve got gold medals in all of them, I can’t unlock the next set until I “level up” my band by gaining more fans, by completing other goals. It feels like a nice balance, and if you don’t want to worry about career progression and unlocking songs, you don’t have to. All 80+ songs are playable from the start.

Speaking of goals, there’s an astounding number of them to complete, ranging from the traditional (“get 5 stars on these songs”) to the humorous to the insane (Endless Setlists, and the “Obsessive Compulsive” – play every note in every song perfectly). You will never complete all of them. I wonder if anyone at Harmonix has even done that.

Stuff I haven’t tried yet: harmony vocals, drums, online play, deep logo/outfit/tattoo customization.

Overall, I love the game. It’s the best rhythm or music game out there. Leave a comment or hit me up on email or Twitter if you have any questions about something I missed.

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