ESRB Rating: T
Reviewed for Xbox One, also available on PS4
Full disclosure: The reviewer is a member of the #rockbandroadcrew, and received the Band in a Box from Harmonix. The review is an opinion from the reviewer and may not be a shared opinion of the staff at EFG. Now that we got that out of the way, here we go.
Music games went away and it was the annualization of that genre that killed the excitement around it. This year, two very different companies return to the stake their claim on the genre this year: Harmonix and Activision. I have had the opportunity to play Harmonix’s Rock Band 4, which I am happy to announce, is a fresh, fun and welcome return to form for the franchise.
Whether you are planning to flex your pipes, play the plastic guitar, or bang on the drums all day, each experience felt both intuitive and innovative. Guitarists will have the opportunity to play freestyle solos, that give them the opportunity to be creative in those moments, without the need to recreate the song’s actual solo. It should be mentioned that when freestyle solo is activated, you will not hear the original solo, so the song can sound different. This might upset diehard fans of that particular song, but like nearly every other feature in RB4, freestyle solo mode can be activated and deactivated in the in-song menu at any time.
Drummers will find fills to be a little more leading, which helps better keep with the song’s original sound.
And vocalists aren’t left out. A freestyle has also been added to High and Expert difficulties, so if singers want to improvise a bit (as long as it is on key), they are not going to lose points for doing so.
But is it what you want?
So, there is a lot of different ways a player can come to Rock Band 4. You may be like me, and have played every major Rock Band release, purchased a ton of songs, and still have your plastic axe the thrash on.
You may be new to the music game genre and have never played a game like this before. The most important thing to remember is that your experience will likely be colored by your interest in playing through the songs you have access to. For me, that was over 250 songs if you include all the new songs that are on the disc. If you are new to the game, you may only have 60 or so songs to play.
The Band Tour mode is back with a few twists, offering some minor decisions that will decide what your experience with the mode is. You will come to a crossroads in the mode where one choice may lead to new, free gear, but less fans and the other option might give you more fans, but will lock you in to pre-determined setlists.
The flexibility of the mode allows for some replayability should you like to see what the experience is like if you should make a different choice, but the tour mode was, for me, an excuse to play a bunch of songs per venue to unlock new gear.
Also, there is Quickplay a “Play a Show” modes that allow for easy drop-in/drop out, song selection, and voting and, of course, high score leaderboards.
And voting is such a welcome new feature. The band member can choose the song they would like to play the most from five options and the game will randomly select one for the band. This fixes the fight over what to play next, and give everyone a chance at “their” song. If you don’t like what is listed, the fifth option is always See More, so you are not stuck.
Voting became a sort of fun mini-game while I played. My friends worked to choose any song that was sung by a female lead singer just to make me sing it.
(A short, stocky balding man singing Ironic by Alanis Morissette is really a thing to see.)
The DLC Scavenger Hunt
There is something I i don’t think anyone will find fun, and that is the slog to find all the DLC songs you own. You will have to systematically run through the alphabet to find each band, or song name Buy Injectable Steroids to check to see if you own it and if so, it will be listed as “purchased”. But here’s the kicker: some songs that you own will still be listed with a price. You will have to click into that song for the system to recognize that you own it, and then be prompted to download it. This process took the better part of two hours for me. In the end, it was a bit more frustrating than I think anyone should expect in 2015. That being said, I am certainly happy that Harmonix supported all of those old songs for this game.
Rock Band 4 is not a great stand alone game if you look at it as just the songs on the discs and the price of entry. What the game is missing out of the box, it makes up for in support, whether for the old instruments you have in your basement, or the hundreds of DLC songs that have been available for various releases in the franchise. Rock Band 4 is a music platform, and to me, it is my favorite way to experience music. Alone, or with friends, Harmonix has made a stellar music game that music fans will be playing for years.