Review: Rock Band 3 (and the art of perfecting your game)

Rock Band remains one of my favorite games of all time. I still remember taking the bus after school to the mall, buying it, and walking out of the store carrying the huge box it was packaged in. I got on the bus with it; ignoring weird looks until I managed to get home and rip open the box with glee. The rest is history.

Rock Band has evolved significantly since the origin of the series in 2007, and it really shows in Rock Band 3. Key features added to this version include the addition of the Keyboard, Pro Instruments and the Rock Band Network (RBN).

First and foremost, Rock Band 3 is an excellent party game. I'm sure anyone who is even remotely sociable knows that getting 4 people together and jamming on Rock band is some of the most fun you can have. Rock Band 3 builds on this by making it even easier to create and save setlists, organize and select songs, and drop in and out during songs with the push of a button.

In my opinion, the setlist is one of the best seen in a long time, since the glory days of Guitar Hero 1. It has a little bit of something for everybody on there. If you don't find anything you want to play, Harmonix is adding new songs as DLC every week. RBN is also there for more selection of songs. Independent bands and musicians can create and sell their own music to fans using RBN, and there is definitely a lot of songs to choose from.

New to the series is the addition of Pro Instruments - Controllers that simulate real instruments and help teach you to play for real. These controllers are expensive, but if you want to pick up and learn how to play guitar or bass for real, Rock Band 3 has you covered with a variety of tutorials ranging from beginner to very difficult. The keyboard is also great, but not really my cup of tea (I prefer guitar).

Rock Band 3 is definitely a worthy purchase as a party game to play with friends, or as a tutorial to help you learn to play for real. If you have the money and the time, I very highly suggest you pick it up and rock out.

But wait! We aren't done just yet. I wanted to give you, the reader, an overview of Rock Band 3 at a deeper level. You may be wondering to yourself - how do people get the highest scores possible? Well, let me show you. For all intents and purposes, I am talking about guitar and bass only. There are different ways to score higher on all the instruments.

To understand what I'm talking about, the reader needs to have an understanding of certain terms. Here is a list of what these terms mean:

FC: Full combo. Hitting 100% of the notes in a song without overstrumming or breaking your combo in any way.

OD: Overdrive. You activate this when your OD bar is at least halfway full to double your score multipler for a short time. OD can be activated by tilting your guitar upwards or pressing the select button.

Path: The times in which you activate OD during a song. Since OD last only a short period of time, it is best to activate it when you are playing the most amount of notes possible, such as chords. The goal is to use all the OD in a song with none leftover at the end.

Squeeze: Activating OD slightly late at the same time as you hit a note so you can "Squeeze" in a extra note at the end of the OD phase for extra points.

Early Whammy/Lazy Whammy: Some songs with certain paths require you to not whammy on certain OD sustains, thus "Lazy whammy". In some songs you can hit the OD sustain note earlier and whammy it to get enough OD for an activation where you could normally not activate. This is rare and does not come up very often.

Now that you (hopefully) Have an understanding of some of the terms and tactics used to get a high score on Rock band 3, let me talk about some of the basics. If you FC a song without activating OD anywhere and holding all sustains for the correct time, then you have a songs "Base score". The goal is to find a path for the song that will get you the highest amount of points possible by activating OD at the points of the song that will give you the most points possible. In most songs this is usually the chorus or the solo, where the guitar has as many notes as possible.

Let's assume you have the perfect path for a song. The goal is to squeeze as many points as possible out of the song during your OD activations. It is up to the player to decide how hard they want to squeeze; If they squeeze too little, they won't get any extra points. If they squeeze too hard, they may just miss the note they are activating on entirely. It is hard (although entirely possible) to squeeze by tilting the guitar to activate OD, but most players (including myself) find that using the select button to activate offers one much more control over when they plan to activate.

To squeeze, you both hit and activate OD at the exact same time on a note, but you hit the note slightly late. Rock Band 3 and all music games have a timing window in which you are allowed to hit a note either slightly early or slightly late due to latency issues. You play the song as normal until your OD phrase is about to run out. As soon as it is about to run out, you hit the note as early as possible. Since you hit the beginning of your activation early, hitting the last note slightly late will allow you to get in an extra note under OD; thus giving you more points.

It is assumed that if you are going for a high score you are playing on expert and can FC the song at will. While this is unrealistic for most players, these tips work on other difficulties as well. Pretty soon if you master all these tips and practice, practice, practice.. You can pull this off:

Thank you for reading and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments below. Rock on!