Dust off that old guitar...controller, Harmonix is back with Rock Band 4 and they are now teaming up with Mad Catz who have handled the hardware.
Gaining a head start in the current gen music race before the highly anticipated Guitar Hero Live, Rock Band 4 hopes to stay ahead by relying on the band aspect of the game. Yep its pricey if you want the whole experience almost matching the price of a brand new console but the quality of the instruments and that feeling you get when you and your mates are playing flawlessly in tandem, knocking out the monster riffs and banging beats with the volume turned up to 11 is unmatched and indescribable.
Rock Band has been around a while now and is the only competitor to rival the successful Guitar Hero franchise. With the fourth entry, it debuts on our current generation of consoles which of course means flashy new graphics and more content....doesn’t it? Well graphics, yes it’s got nice clean visuals with a make shift band on stage rocking the notes you whip out but enough about that, how does it play?
Harmonix has favoured refined gameplay over evolution. Kind of out with the old and back in with the old with a bit of new. You still need to match the coloured notes on screen hitting them with either a drum hit or a strum at the correct time. This has become the staple of music games however the brand new guitar controller (we got a Fender Stratocaster to try out) now has five more buttons higher on the fret board as well as the five in the original place to assist in knocking out those solos, I’ll come back to those. Fans of the series will be instantly at home here needing little or no training, especially with the new freestyle solos option turned off which leaves in each songs original solo. Turning it on however allows you to create your own face melting solo and it is fantastic. When the solo hits, different looking note sections guide you to make your own solo although you can just go wild like a Stevie Ray Vaughan on speed. What is cool about these new solo sections is that you can’t fail them, even on expert difficulty so as long as you have the main riff and bridge nailed, your laughing.
Rock Band 4’s new career mode takes on a lite RPG aesthetic. Starting of as a house band, you progress to become a huge prodigy in the music industry. How you get there though is entirely your choice. Choose a manager to handle things for more money but less of a fan base or go it alone for a huge following but less spends and the ability to choose your own set lists. It’s a great refreshing take on a music games campaign mode and ideal for a game like this, it’s fun to play too. Success here unlocks more venues, songs and money to spend on your created characters image whether you want a cool hat Lemmy style or monstrous face paint and a new axe to grind.
Mad Catz have updated the instruments for the new consoles. The guitar has a more resistant and tougher strum bar and more subtle fret buttons. The drum kit has extra padding meaning you can smack them as hard as you want and a more solid feeling microphone. Rock Band 4 is backwards compatible too which means you can dust of them old instruments to use with this game with the use of a USB dongle.
The weakness here is its on disc track list. It had a lot of artists and songs that I had never heard of. Of the 65 songs on offer here, I knew about 15. Older players may know more as they date back to the 60’s but artists such as White Denim, Lightning Bolt and Heaven’s Basement were beyond me. It did have a fair few well known songs but I wanted newer released songs by big bands. Metallica were completely absent and their songs were the best time I ever had on the last generation. It was disappointing. The saviour comes in DLC thankfully with hundreds of songs available to buy online.
Old refined gameplay that we all know and love.
Solid new instruments feel as expensive as they are.
New freestyle solos are a blast.
Easier and more accessible.
RPG lite career mode is fun to play through.
The heavy cost of the full band kit.
Even the guitar controller is pricey.
The weak on disc track list.
Rock Band 4 doesn’t evolve how we play music games but instead brings the fun and excitement of traditional band gameplay to the current generation and it does so brilliantly. The solidly manufactured new instruments were a joy to play and kudos for making old instruments compatible. The track list is the thorn in the side but the extensive DLC library is more than enough to save the day. Harmonix may have played it safe here but Rock Band 4 is tremendous fun.