Music, games on whole new level

Rockband3

"Music game developer Harmonix has certainly been busy for the past five years; they almost single-handedly made the rhythm-game genre into a cultural phenomenon, starting with the first two "Guitar Hero" games and continuing with the "Rock Band" franchise. The most recent iteration of the series, "Rock Band 3," takes the franchise and rhythm genre as a whole to new heights. With new modes, an improved user interface and a number of new peripherals, "Rock Band 3" provides an outstanding music experience that serves as the pinnacle of rhythm gaming.

"New to the "Rock Band" series is a keyboard peripheral, as well as Pro Mode, which serves as a response to the "lack-of-realism" complaint. Utilizing new and realistic-looking guitar and bass peripherals, new cymbals for the existing drum controller and the aforementioned keyboard, Pro Mode simulates the actual notation and hand placement of songs, growing progressively more realistic with each difficulty level, to the point of playing the exact song, note-for-note.

"As the keyboard is the only new peripheral currently available, the pro guitar and bass will be available on Nov. 16, it was the only instrument used in Pro Mode. The device feels sturdy and can be used to play keyboard parts for new songs, as well as guitar and bass for songs that do not feature keyboard parts. The keyboard tutorials are helpful for learning how to play the piano, beginning with basic hand placement and scales and progressing onward to intervals and other complex aspects of the piano. In addition, every song has its own Pro tutorial, so players can learn to play their favorite in-game songs outside of the game itself.

"The user interface and menu system has undergone a complete overhaul since "Rock Band 2," making it more suited for party play. Changing song difficulty, skipping songs and even adding or subtracting players is streamlined, eliminating some of the hassles that plagued past games. The character creator has also been modified, providing more organization and allowing players to set their own "stand-ins" when playing alone. In addition, the game’s "Road Challenges" replace the "Band World Tour" mode of previous titles, and force players to perform different goals within each song such as playing perfectly for a particular section or using the special Overdrive meter as little as possible.

"Perhaps the most important new feature of "Rock Band 3" is its setlist, which includes a number of songs that utilize the new keyboard peripheral such as Night Ranger’s "Sister Christian," John Lennon’s "Imagine" and "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake. In addition to the 83 pre-packaged songs, the game is compatible with all previously released downloaded songs, and players can transfer the songs from their "Rock Band" and "Rock Band 2" discs for use in "Rock Band 3." Keyboards and Pro Mode are not available for previously released content, although Harmonix has stated they will soon allow players to purchase upgraded versions of some songs that contain the new features. All downloadable content moving forward will have support for the new peripherals and modes.

""Rock Band 3" represents a bit of a "last hurrah" in the world of music games, as more and more consumers are growing weary of having to buy another set of plastic instruments whenever a new title is announced. Although downloadable content will continue to be released on a weekly basis, it is hard to imagine a "Rock Band 4" in the future. That said, there likely will not be a need for another sequel, as "Rock Band 3" manages to create the definitive music gaming experience in its own right.