Rock Band 3 Hands-On Impressions

Rock Band 3 Demo Available

Early last month, Ben Kendrick and I had the chance to check out Dance Central at the MTV Games offices in New York. While we were there, we also got to check out what's brewing with Rock Band 3, from peripherals to new in-depth modes. Now that the embargo has lifted, we can tell you what we saw and share our impressions.Rock Band 3 brings some new additions to the franchise, such as pro modes, trainers, beefed up career mode, challenges and more. Each addition adds a new dynamic and experience to the game, and should definitely target a wide variety of gamers.

The Pro modes are based on two peripheral instruments, the guitar and the keyboard.

Rock Band 3 Pro Guitar

The Pro Guitar mode references the use of the Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar from Mad Catz or the Rock Band 3 Squier by Fender Stratocaster. The Mad Catz guitar is a multi-button peripheral that houses a button for every string/fret combination. The Rock Band 3 Squier is a real Fender guitar with a midi-out box that connects to your console in order to translate your strumming into the game language. Labeled as Rock Band 3's "flagship" initiative, the Pro Guitar mode is a tool to help you develop as a musician through gameplay using the Pro Guitar Trainer feature.

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Within the feature, you can learn the basics of guitar or bass from how to hold the guitar, to open notes and power chords. Compatible with any song in the game, and future DLC, you can break down each song in the trainer to learn it note-by-note. With the ability to practice each verse, or slow the song down to a consumable pace, this feature can surely help you learn the notes and perform them on a real guitar or bass.

Rock Band 3 Pro Keyboard

The new addition of the keyboard also comes with a Pro mode and trainer. There will be a native keyboard peripheral, but midi-out keyboards will also be compatible. Similar to Pro Guitar, you have the opportunity to learn how to tickle the ivories with Rock Band 3. Note charts will switch octaves, and keyboard solos are present to challenge your fingers. The trainer will start you off by learning basic keys and graduate you to Pro keys as you progress. Once you've mastered your instrumental diversity, take a stab at the re-designed Career mode.

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The new Career mode has your band starting as garage-band icons. Your first venues have you rocking out in basements and jumping on subway trains, making way to more gigs in order to increase your notoriety and gain fans and fame. The more gigs and goals you achieve, the more points your band gets for your Career Score. As your Career Score increases, your band will be affected in various ways, such as traveling around in a van or a jet. Your bands' goals can be achieved in Career mode, as well as every other game modes like trainers and Road Challenges.

Rock Band 3 Career Mode Menu

Road Challenges introduce one to five hour experiences in the form of challenges to complete within a single session of rocking out. The challenges, like Metal Challenge, Indie Rock Challenge, and 80s Rock Challenge for example, will connect to your band's career when completed. The challenges add to the game's goals and achievements, and help drive the band's success. The Road Challenges also bring the opportunity for bonuses, in addition to the five-star ratings, with gameplay variants such as "Streakmania", "Overdrive Chain", and "In the Spotlight".

Aside from the new modes, the menu system has been revamped. Rock Band 3 makes navigation easier with the overshell menu system, allowing players to modify game options and logistics for each individual band member. Players can easily drop in and out of the game menu to play and manage their band or character.

Character customization has also been enhanced with the Character Creator. There are a ton of fully customizable options, making Rock Band 3 the most in depth character customization in the franchise. You will be able to modify facial structure, body type, clothing and more. When your band is created, the game uses your creations in the game animated vignettes, making the game more personalized. As your band gains rank in Career mode, the vignette environments change to reflect the band's progress by visualizing streets, subways, tour stops, venues and more.

Rock Band 3 will come with 83 tracks, from 83 different bands, which have previously been leaked and confirmed. In addition to the new songs, the Rock Band franchise will have nearly 2,000 songs by the launch of Rock Band 3, all from on disc to DLC. Additionally, Harmonix will continue to release weekly DLC, building your library with strength in numbers.

Social features are also integrated in the game, adding a new way to compete with friends. Your profile can be set up to push feeds to Twitter and Facebook, showing off your achievements, high scores, and setlists. You can even share your favorite setlist with your friends, or create a Setlist Battle to challenge a friend with.

Rock Band 3 Gameplay

The game looked extremely polished, and followed suit to what we saw with Dance Central in terms of realistic and fluid motions of the characters on screen. With the increased quality in visuals, and the in depth customization of characters and bands, the experience of Rock Band 3 is already positive.

The most intriguing feature is the trainer mode. Now you'll have something to say when the devil's advocates tell you to pick up a real guitar. The peripherals are darn-right intimidating at first glance, but become a lot more tame when paired with the trainers. The fact that you can break down each song, and slow it down to learn it, truly makes the mode a valuable addition to those who want to a new experience with Rock Band and learn guitar, bass or keyboards.

Career mode's revamped update, with integration of the other gameplay modes, is more than welcomed. Being able to build your band's career while playing other modes is huge, allowing you to not feel guilty when you aren't making progress in the storyline.

Having nearly 2,000 songs at your disposal with the launch of Rock Band 3 should make the purchase set in stone. In addition to the plethora of songs, the shuffle feature and the ability to jump in and out makes the game an even better party title than is predecessors.

With the new modes, revamped features and graphics, training and social integration, Rock Band 3 is the most in-depth music and rhythm game yet. Wether you're an early Rock Band adopter, or looking to pick up your first rhythm game, Rock Band 3 is making it difficult to consider any other titles.

Rock Band 3 takes the stage October 26th for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and DS.

Pricing is as follows:

  • Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, $59.99
  • Nintendo DS, $29.99
  • Software and Keyboard Bundle for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, $129.99
  • Wireless Keyboard (Mad Catz) for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, $79.99
  • Wireless Fender Mustang PRO-Guitar Controller (Mad Catz) for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, $149.99
  • Mad Catz Wireless PRO-Cymbals Expansion Kit (Mad Catz) — Universal, $39.99
  • Mad Catz MIDI PRO-Adapter (Mad Catz) for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, $39.99

Are you excited for Rock Band 3? Which feature are you looking forward to most? Let us know in the comments or let us know on Twitter @GameRant @jonlavallee @iambenkendrick!

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