Rock Band 4 Review (Xbox One)
Rock Band is back! This is not a drill, repeat, this is NOT A DRILL!
After a five-year hiatus, Harmonix’s music video game behemoth is back on your TV, and it’s CRANKED UP TO ELEVEN! Only, it isn’t really. More like…Seven? That sounds about right. For those of you who didn’t experience anything at all during the 00’s, Harmonix first brought the genre to our consoles with the mighty Guitar Hero a full decade ago. They naturally progressed from just a single, solitary, lonely guitar to a full band with their release of Rock Band, after they left the Guitar Hero franchise in the hands of Activision.
Enough history, it distracts from the now! The last games of the genre, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock and the virtually perfect Rock Band 3 came out in 2010. The core gameplay from the Rock Band series remains completely in tact, and that’s just as well cause there’s not a lot you can do to change it. The graphics have their traditional, cartoonish but well-animated style, which is also a major pro in my books; the animations in the Rock Band series were always more life-like than their Guitar Hero counterparts (looking at you, Smash Hits.)
If you don’t know what the core gameplay of a music game is, you have an instrument controller (a guitar, for most people), and you press buttons on the neck of the guitar and ‘strum’ along to the notes that fly down the track on the screen. There’s a variety of difficulty modes, ranging from Easy to Expert, and each level throws more notes at you than the last, until you’re hitting a button for every note played in the song. You can also play the bass guitar and drums, which work exactly like the guitar, or you can sing. If you’ve ever seen a Lips or other karaoke-style game, you get how that works.
So, what’s new? While it’s true that you don’t need to fix something that ain’t broke, new features are nice and Rock Band 4 has a few really innovative ones. Most notably are Freestyle Guitar Solos and Freestyle Vocals. The Freestyle solos let you choose to play your own guitar solo during the solo section of any song, replacing the audio of the solo completely. It sounds like a great idea that’s not technically feasible, as very few people who play these games will tend to have a clue how to improvise a killer guitar solo, but it actually really works. The game guides you during the Freestyle sections, giving you tips towards the pace and tone of your solo, but you can ignore those and play whatever the hell you want like a true Rock God! You just won’t get any points for doing so. It’s worth noting that you can turn Freestyle stuff off, and you can just play the solo as the band intended, but if you have the new Stratocaster guitar, your effects switch won’t do anything outside of Freestyle solos.
If you’ve ever owned a Rock Band game previously, and Exported your content with the code at the back of the manual, you can carry all of those songs over to Rock Band 4. While only Green Day Rock Band and Rock Band Blitz are available at the moment, Harmonix are steadily releasing Rock Band’s 1, 2, Lego and, most importantly, 3 in the not-so distant future. Those old tracks you bought are the gift that keep on giving! It’s just as well that you can reclaim all of your old music, because with less than 70 songs on the disc, the Rock Band 4 soundtrack is probably the weakest in the series’ history. Be prepared to spend some cash on DLC to beef up the setlist to your liking.
So, is it a case of out with the old and in with the new? Sort of. Some of the features from Rock Band 3 are missing and the game really hurts for a few of them. Like online multiplayer and a practice mode. The keyboards are gone, which not too many people will miss, but the lack of these fairly basic features strikes me as really unusual.
So what’s the verdict? I don’t think you’re actually reading this review for a verdict. You knew, the same as me, as soon as you heard that Rock Band 4 was coming out that you’d be buying it. But if you’ve exported previous games or bought DLC, then there’s no reason not to by Rock Band 4. It’s lacking some basic features, sure, but the new ones added in make up for it. Mostly. Ultimately, there’s no denying that it’s not as packed full of features and fun as Rock Band 3, but it’s like Avenged Sevenfold’s Hail to the King following Nightmare. Still a solid record, but it’s not the one you fell in love with.
8 blown out speakers out of 10