I have always been a fan of the Rock Band series. When the first game came out on the same day as the original Mass Effect, I purchased both titles and actually didn’t get to Mass Effect until a week after buying it. I was addicted to Rock Band. Throughout the years, I played and purchased Rock Band 2, Rock Band 3, The Beatles: Rock Band, Green Day Rock Band, Lego Rock Band, and the instrument-free Rock Band Blitz. My DLC song cache is at over 1000 songs. Needless to say, I really enjoy this series of games.
After 2010’s Rock Band 3, Harmonix supported DLC for 3 years before ending a consistent weekly release schedule which started in 2007. With Rock Band 4 finally released, it’s like the series never even left. The game is instantly recognizable and if you’ve played any of the other titles in the series, you won’t miss a beat. Rock Band 4 has a more fleshed out career mode called “Tour”, quickplay and the new “Shows” mode which is really fun in a party setting.
While Harmonix gave players more in-depth decisions within the core modes of the game, there are many modes that are missing (at launch).
There is currently no online play and some competitive modes that have been included in previous installments of the series are notably absent though Harmonix has announced that December’s major update will bring a few of these features and more into the game.
Rock Band 4’s gameplay is very familiar and that is not a bad thing. Players pick up a plastic guitar, a USB microphone or sit down to play the drums while colored notes scroll down the screen. Strumming or hitting the notes successfully will emulate the appropriate noise of the current song. Missing a note will alter the song in a way that alerts the player about his/her misstep. There is very little to differentiate between the gameplay from other installments, but that doesn’t mean that Rock Band 4 doesn’t have a few tricks up its sleeves involving gameplay. Players can even use legacy instruments (an adaptor is required) if they don’t want to buy a new set.
There are freestyle guitar solos that provide wonderful amounts of fun as well as strategy. During these solos, orange or blue sections will appear. This signals which fret board to use. Orange portions use the solo fret board and blue portions use the standard fret that all plastic guitars contain. In addition to the part of the guitar that must be used during solos, there are variations that will elevate your multiplier. It’s a nifty mechanic that will allow players who want to let loose have some fun without consequences. Though, if freestyle solos are not your cup of tea, you can change to the usual solo format with the push of a button.
Another cool addition is the freestyle vocals. Players rocking out on hard and expert difficulties will be able to utilize this gameplay mechanic which allows players to take vocal liberties with songs as long as they are in tune with the song. Nice little touches like this “amplify” the already stellar formula shown throughout the series.
The most important part of a music game is the soundtrack that comes with the title. Rock Band 4 contains a solid set list (though not as strong as the previous games) that made me appreciate genres and artists I may never have given a chance before. I also discovered new bands that have already been added to my I-pod. “Birth In Reverse” by St. Vincent, “Little White Church” by Little Big Town, and “Mainstream Kid” by Brandi Carlile introduced me to some indie rock, country and blues which aren’t necessarily my “style” of music. The set-list also features some iconic artists. Ozzy Osbourne makes an appearance with “Miracle Man” while artists such as Dream Theater and Foo Fighters feature some lesser known songs. Most, if not all of the songs are fun to play, but some people may be turned off by the lack of recognizable tracks.
Fortunately Rock Band 4 allows for the use of legacy DLC. This means that players who purchased DLC from the previous Rock Band games will be able to transfer those songs over to the Xbox One (if they were purchased on the Xbox 360.) This adds to the longevity of the game and helps make the multiple modes in the game feel fresh. I haven’t downloaded all of the songs which I bought in the past on my Xbox One due to harddrive space, but the extended tracklist is a very welcome addition when playing through Tour. In Tour mode, a majority of the sets feature voting on a song or choosing a setlist. If you are only using the on-disc songs, be prepared to play repeat songs on a constant basis. The tour elevates difficulty as you progress so for the first few sets, you will only have access to novice songs.
The Tour is actually a pretty fun mode that attempts to give players a customized campaign. It’s okay, but the type of set-lists you play depend on choices you make during certain points in the game. Some appearance changes can also occur due to choices. Whether it’s through a bug infestation or a sponsorship, you will notice you characters changing throughout the campaign. Shows are fun to play (especially with friends) because you get to vote on the next song. Throughout my years of playing Rock Band, me and my friends have spent hours arguing over what song to play next. Rock Band 4 sets to eliminate this problem by allowing players to vote on the next song. Sometimes a choice will be “Prayer” by Disturbed while other choices could include “Songs from 2013”, “Songs with a female vocalist”, “Short songs”, and so on. It’s an awesome addition that I am glad was put into the game. Most of my time playing Rock Band 4 was spent in the “Shows” portion of the game because it’s always fresh and unpredictable when it comes to what song you will play next. Instead of scrolling through menus for a long period of time, “shows” keep the game rolling at a steady pace.
Rock Band 4 is the type of game that never wears out its welcome. The gameplay is solid and the songs are diverse. The fact that players can transfer DLC is an added bonus. While the game lacks modes at launch and there are not many recognizable tracks on the disc, there is no denying, that rocking out is still as fun as it has ever been. With Harmonix updating the game for the foreseeable future, Rock Band 4 is currently attempting an endless setlist of its own. I can’t wait to see what else Harmonix has in store for us. Grab a guitar and get ready to rock, the crowd is ready… the question is… are you?