Rock Band 4 Review: Did we really need another Rock Band game?

While it may have  not been on my list of most anticipated games of 2016, I must confess at one time I loved playing Rock Band. Oh the endless amount of hours my friends and I would waste tearing through a “jam session” where we could have probably put that effort towards learning how to play real instruments. Nevertheless, beating on plastic fake instruments turn out to be a lot more fun than many would have imagined. That being said, all good things must come to an end and no matter what major band they could sign to a licensing deal, the whole Rock Band/Guitar Hero trend came to an end.

Fast-forward to the release of Rock Band 4, a game that actually came out in 2015. EA re-released the game this past holiday season in the hopes of luring fans back to the franchise by re-bundling the Rock Band 4 along with the game’s first DLC, Rivals. With the gaming landscape not being what it used to be, would Rock Band be able to return to its former glory?

Right before the game’s initial release, EA and Harmonix were very adamant that this would be the Rock Band to end all Rock Bands. Essentially, they don’t want you to expect Rock Band 5 anytime soon. Rock Band 4 was released to be a platform where they would continue to build on with expansions and endless licensed DLC. This didn’t bold well for the game’s initial release because it launched with a pretty limited soundtrack. Even after the relaunch, the bundle with Rivals didn’t include any additional songs. Being pretty familiar with the franchise, I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of playing System of a Down’s Spiders for the millionth time. In fact, a majority of the songs included in the game are tracks that have already appeared in the franchise before.

One feature I did like in Rock Band 4 is the ability to download the previous song from the previous titles. So say at one time you purchased Rock Band or Rock Band 3, as long as you were still using the same PSN account you can download the those title’s libraries for free. You can also do this for the AC/DC live edition. Noticeably missing are The Beatles and Metallica packs. My guess is that EA and Harmonix could not reacquire the rights. Still it is pretty nice that you can download all those songs from the previous games, that is until you see the endless library Rock Band 4 has for purchase.

I can’t tell you how flabbergasted I was once I saw just how much DLC was available for the game. To break it down for you, each song will run you about $2.99. They are also available in packs which can range form $2.99 to $19.99. Just to give you an idea, there are more than 243 packs available for purchase in the game. In an age when you can spend just ten bucks a month to stream over a 20 millions songs on Spotify, it seems pretty hard to justify charging twenty dollars for twelve songs that you will never hear outside of Rock Band. I know that they are not the same thing, but it just doesn’t sit right that you have to pay six dollars for three songs. It almost makes me wish that Rock Band had a subscription service within the game. I honestly would not have had a problem paying five to ten bucks a month for the entire Rock Band archive. Then again, I could see how that could not work for the developers because once players lose interest and subscriptions decline, they would still have to play a crazy amount money for royalty fees.

When it comes to the actual gameplay, to sum it up bluntly….it’s Rock Band. That’s basically it. There’s really not much Harmonix could have done to build on the game’s basic premise. I think after the keyboard controller and the real-life guitar, there really wasn’t a lot of options left to explore for the franchise. One of our writers was able to get hands-on with the Rock Band VR at CES, and he mentioned that it will bring new life to the franchise.

The game still has its Freestyle Solos where you basically just wale on the buttons. There are still Groove Combos where you chain together key strokes perfectly and build up your meter to rock out and get more points. There really isn’t anything game changing to the game’s initial design. The game is a solid title for someone who is just coming into the series and may have never experienced it before. Being a new player to the franchise, at least you get all the upgrades that have come over the years in one single title.

As far as the Rivals expansion pack goes, it really isn’t that essential unless you are one of those people who at one time drooled at the prospects of joining a Guitar Hero/Rock Band tournament. The best way I can put it is, if you are the kind of person who plays Dragonforce songs on Expert Mode, then this is the mode for you. This the perfect mode for people who are really good at the game and want to battle it out with other really hardcore players. It’s a solid Rock Band game, but with the franchise now in its 10th year, you can definitely feel the fatigue. It’s a great game for someone who’s never had a chance to play it before. As for someone used to follow the franchise in previous years, there is not enough reinvigorating features that make this a title worth owning.

Rating: 2/5 Atoms

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Mike Villarreal
Mike Villarreal 1340 posts

Mike once killed a man with a plastic butter knife. True story. #ViolentGentlemen