Rock Band 3 hit shelves in North America yesterday, and for months leading up to now, the vast majority of talk surrounding it has been in the revolutionary improvements Harmonix has made to the pro-level instrumentation and game modes. Realistically speaking, these are only going to appeal to a small portion of the fist-pumping audience that plays these games. A large number of music genre gamers are people content to play the medium difficulty of any given instrument and may be wondering just what the big deal is about Rock Band 3. Well to partially answer that question, here’s 4 incredible improvements made to the Rock Band platform that are immediately apparent after a mere 2 hours of offline play that don’t require yet another battery-sucking plastic peripheral:
- The Band World Tour as You Know it is Gone – Wait, what? That’s an improvement? In this case, yes. The franchise has been known for this mode since it’s inception, and in the second iteration, they added a challenge-style side mode which boiled down to some reorganized setlists. RB3’s substitute for the Band World Tour, combined with the aforementioned challenges, comes in the form of the Road Challenges. These multiple gig, mini-tours, offer essentially the same gameplay with a nice glossy revision to it. Rather than a given gig-venue combination forcing you into a particular setlist, it gives you the option of 3 variations. In some cases, these are pre-selected songs, sometimes random songs, but in others, it offers you to make your own setlist from a truncated complete list (i.e. “Pick X Metal Songs”). The truncated list of choices can also divide the selection in more than just genre barriers, including many other filters, one of which I witnessed as being “short songs.” The filters incorporated also take into account all previous Rock Band songs and DLC to date. A nice surprise.
- Drop In/Drop Out From Any Menu – Let’s face it, we play Rock Band because our lives aren’t devoted to making music. We don’t always have set schedules, and no matter how much time we want to devote to video games, we end up needing to attend to other responsibilities. Any time you’re at a menu, you can add or drop individual instruments at will. It seems like such a basic concept, but it’s implemented so seamlessly, that I can’t wait to see how it operates in a party atmosphere. It’s even possible with one player. In between gigs on one of the Road Challenges, I was extremely pleased to see I could drop out on guitar, pick up the keyboard and drop right in without leaving the pre-gig confirmation screen.
- Everything Works Towards Forward Progress – In earlier iterations, if you wanted to improve your band’s fanbase, you needed to take that band into the Band World Tour. In RB3, everything you do works towards a quite comprehensive list of overall goals. With each subsequent goal conquered, your fan amount raises and unlocks new content. To the gamers that love collectibles, this is a wet dream, as there’s a goal for just about everything in the game, from the easy to expert. It’s also intelligently implemented to include the trickle down effect to easier goals when you’re talented enough to play on a harder difficulty.
- Improved In-Song Pause – While that may sound a little silly, if you can tell me that you weren’t frustrated by that guy in the band that paused during your kick ass streak in a solo you were rocking, then you obviously haven’t been playing this game socially for long enough. The new in-song pause allows for you to recover much better than ever before by adding perhaps the only thing Guitar Hero has done right in the last 4 years, a couple second rewind in the song. It affords you to collect where you were and continue, as well as removing that silly, never-quite-timed-right inevitable group statement “Ok, everyone ready? annnnnnnnnd… go.”
The truth is, at first impression, this game does just about everything right that it can to insure that no matter whether you’re playing for technical perfection in Expert Pro mode, or playing the most casual pick-up jam, you’re going to have fun doing it.