Even forgetting the spangly new instruments, though, Rock Band 3 is still the most comprehensive update of the rhythm band shtick since the original. The novelty might have well and truly worn off years ago, but the few remaining aficionados will find themselves with a well-crafted platform to access the 83 new songs on the disc alongside the (ever-expanding) 2000+ DLC tracks and imported Rock Band 1 and 2 catalogues. Or even those Green Day tracks, if that's your bag.
'But Martin', you might ask, 'what is actually on the disc?' There's a return (it had to happen eventually) of Skynyrd's Free Bird, for a start, alongside Queen's karaoke blinder Bohemian Rhapsody and Elton John's ivory-tickler Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting). For the grumpier amongst us, Slipknot make an appearance with Before I Forget, Anthrax chip in with Caught in a Mosh and, if you're anything like me, you might decide to round that off with J. Geils Band's Centerfold. And then play Everybody Wants to Rule the World five times in a row. There's a bit of an overall skew towards older, synth-heavy tracks to accommodate the keyboard but it's alright - there's still plenty of variety for everyone.
Tangible in-game refinements strike you as soon as you hit the menu screen. The front-end has been beautifully streamlined into a stylish background vignette of your band with a simplistic suite of options laid on top - "Play Now" or "Career", basically - and additional, individual menus for each of the four potential profiles signed into the console. Rock Band 1 and 2's fussy profile management has been effectively done away with, and now setting up each player and their associated instrument is a doddle.
The typical and oft-repeated 'World Tour' format has also been pared back into something more simplistic, and now your group goes from garage band to stadium filler in the background while you play whatever you want. Each track performed in any mode earns you fans, and the game pauses to dish out amusing cutscenes whenever you hit major milestones. In short, Quickplay now has the spotlight and Career runs behind the scenes.
Harmonix should be commended for successfully tweaking the format to accommodate how people actually play the game. If my living room habits are indicative of the general populous (though I imagine mine has a slightly higher-than-average Dorito consumption), then what people want is to bang out Don't Stop Believin' (DLC) and The Power of Love (on the disc) instead of battling through a prescribed and arbitrary setlist. It's an ingenious move, and a concurrent system of challenges ensures the bottom of the screen is always stacking up various accolades and accomplishments, unlocking new gear to play dress-up with the on-screen version of yourself.
Old-school style setlists are still around, however, tactfully reborn in the guise of Road Challenges. But even these are segmented into tiny chunks, allowing for both frequent breaks and to accommodate attention-strapped players who want to pop back to individual tracks every five minutes. Unless you're playing The Endless Setlist III, but I don't even want to think about that.
Where all this will take you, though, is almost entirely up to you. The unavoidable reality is that, for all Rock Band 3's considerable refinements and intuitive advancements, your current games and equipment will probably suffice if you're just after banging a few plastic keys to the odd tune every now and then. But if you've still got a passion for the genre, or you're seriously considering furthering your understanding of the instruments with Pro mode, Rock Band 3 might just be the most important rhythm game to date.