Rock n’ Roll Dreams Do Come True
I still remember my first ( Rock Band ) band. I was at a Goodwill store with some friends a few years ago, and they had a copy of Rock Band 2 , the drum kit, and one guitar. $15 later, we were at my house, putting on some rather admirable concerts. Those were good times, but I always felt as though something was lacking. As much as I enjoyed the game, I doubted there would be enough pull to convince me to majorly invest in a full band kit at launch and the DLC.
Now, years later, Rock Band 4 has come into my life. Today, the series feels like it has everything to make a serious investment and commitment worthwhile, and I’m more than happy to jump in, encourage friends to join me, and make a dedicated effort to maintaining a virtual band and keeping up with the catalog.
Perhaps it’s because Rock Band 4 makes a great first impression. All of the DLC I purchased before will be waiting for me, so it isn’t as though the money I kicked in years ago was for naught. The one PlayStation 3 guitar I have from that Goodwill trip still works on my PlayStation 4. Having 65 tracks on the disc is a big help too, especially since it turned out I was more familiar with the roster than I thought after hearing the refrain of a few songs. Put simply, Rock Band 4 is easy. It’s accommodating. The game welcomes you back with open arms, new favorites and old, and encourages you to pick up practically where you left off.
But before you can do all that, you need to set your Rock Band 4 instruments up. This is a surprisingly daunting endeavor. The PlayStation 4 only supports up to 4 bluetooth controllers simultaneously, and each guitar and drum kit counts as one. This means only one PS4 DualShock 4 can be connected, with all instruments tied to that player’s account. There’s no reminder about this though, which can result in a troublesome setup the first time you play.
Especially since I encountered a rather odd bug with the Rock Band 4 guitar controller. One of the people in my band is left-handed, so whenever he took a turn on the guitar, it had to be shifted to lefty mode. After about the third time he did this, the guitar stopped working. We had to exit to the PS4’s main menu, delete the peripheral from the Bluetooth devices list, re-register it, and only then would it resume its normal functions.
Once someone does get all of the band equipped, Rock Band 4 is mostly smooth sailing. Everyone’s part is clearly defined on-screen, with opportunities for unison notes clearly labeled. Every person gets their own chance to stand out in the band, even if they have an instrument that might typically play a smaller part, due to the optional Freestyle Guitar Solos and Overdrive drum sections. The former allows someone playing guitar or bass to emulate suggested styles, with no way to really “fail,” while the latter offers pre-set drum sections for people to riff on.
It’s the vocal section that I felt received the most love with Rock Band 4 , something that was appreciated by the less dexterous members of my band. If more than one microphone is plugged in, you can sing lead vocals or harmony. People who are accomplished enough can even chime in with backup vocals while playing another instrument. It not only enhances the game, but puts various karaoke titles to shame with its offerings.
Did I mention how easy it is to get in and out of things and arrange things to your liking? Because Rock Band 4 goes out of its way to meet your every desire. Want to step away for a few songs while everyone else plays? You can drop in and out. Difficulty levels can be adjusted at any time. If you fail, but the rest of the group is still going, you can opt back in at a lower difficulty level. It even feels like it’s better for beginners, due to a no fail option that I’m sure people unfamiliar with the series will appreciate as they’re finding their groove.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. There was some minor stuttering the first time I played with a group larger than three, but this was rectified after a Rock Band 4 patch was put out. It’s something to be aware of that may happen with some players, but it’s also something that was remedied in my copy and could very likely be a non-issue for those who choose to continually update their games.
As tempting as it is to jump right into quick play or a set to see these Rock Band 4 features in action, especially since it is so easy to get in and get out as you please, the Career Mode is what is going to keep this entry from turning into one of those games you keep in a closet unless there’s a party. The career mode is an actual RPG-style experience where you aren’t just managing your performances in specific songs, but also ensuring the band is on the path to fame and fortune. You get to make decisions about which paths to take, which can result in fan, monetary, or style rewards. Up to four people can participate, with each using their own custom character.
It’s quite a robust feature, and even the decisions a player makes in the story mode reflect actual tendencies in music. For example, if you go the corporate route, your manager makes all of the decisions. You don’t choose the setlists for locations. Going for fans gives you the freedom to do what you want and when.
The limited track selection for the career mode is its only downside. It isn’t uncommon to have to repeat a track, especially early on, due to the number of available shows and the way tracks are offered for performances. There are limited options early on and with such a varied on-disc setlist, it’s quite possible to have a small segment available with only two or three songs you know. This isn’t so much an issue for the guitar, bass, and drum players, but is to the detriment of singers.
Still, it’s a relatively minor flaw, considering the rest of Rock Band 4 works so well. Harmonix has always worked to provide a tight and comprehensive experience, and this installment in particular outdoes itself. Everything looks good, with characters for custom bands having a variety of personalization options. It sounds fantastic. Most importantly, it plays well whether you’ve got a full group of four or going solo. The accommodations made to ensure the inputs are perfect for your setup, the ability to customize everything right down to the vocal parts, and crisp presentation make for a game that people will want to keep in their living rooms and enjoy for weeks, rather than play once then pop into storage.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
The custom characters can be awesome caricatures and every player’s part is clearly defined on screen. 4.8 Control
It’s easier to rock out on guitars, drums, and vocals due to improved solo, overdrive, and free-form sections. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There’s a great track list with a lot of variety on-disc, the audio quality is excellent, and players can customize the backing track volume. 5.0 Play Value
65 base tracks is a great value and being able to import old DLC only makes it better. Plus, the career mode offers quite a bit of replay value. 4.9 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best