Allow Rock Band 4 To Make You A Plastic Rock God Again
During the early 2010s (what do you even call that period? The tennies?), Rhythm games had reached their plateau of relevance and the giants of the genres released their swansongs into the world. Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock and Rock Band 3 both released during October of 2010 and marked the unofficial death of the rhythm game genre. Its downfall can be attributed to a variety of factors. The most prominent was Activision’s flooding of Guitar Hero titles which got ridiculous with them sometimes releasing two major Guitar Hero games in a single year. The other factor is that rhythm games have just run their course and they weren’t relevant in the eyes of gamers anymore.
Rock Band, however, kept the rhythm gaming scene alive for a bit by releasing DLC on a weekly bases to the point where the game had over 3000 songs in its library. Dedicated fans still got their weekly fix and nearly every relevant song in the world appeared on the game. This continued for quite a while until Harmonix decided that the practice just was not profitable or worth it anymore and they stopped producing new content for the game. After that, rhythm games went into dormancy and were only really played for nostalgic reasons.
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Recently, seemingly out of nowhere, rhythm games are making a comeback or rather a resurgence. Both rhythm game giants, Rock Band and Guitar Hero have announced their plans to release new games this year for the new generation. Guitar Hero Live are sort of reinventing the wheel with a new controller and a new realistic aesthetic, while Rock Band 4 is focusing on what makes rhythm games great. We’ll be looking at Rock Band 4 for this preview.
Name: Rock Band 4
Genre: Ozzy Osborne
Multiplayer: local, online planned
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 6 October 2015
Price: $250 full bundle (guitar, drums, microphone, game), $130 (guitar bundle)
I’ll not waste our time talking about Rock Band’s core gameplay features since most of us know it already. Notes come down and you have to hit them in order etc. We’ve all at least seen it. What I will focus on is the new features in Rock Band 4 and how it sets itself apart from its predecessors.
The first major change is that there will be a fully fledged career mode. Previous Rock Band games did have career modes, but they were rather bare in their presentation. A linear set of songs and some rewards for completing them. It was merely a delivery of the setlist with some additional rewards. Rock Band 4’s career follows a band’s story from a few fans to becoming a worldwide success. In the process of this, there will be choices over what to do in a sort of RPG-esque fashion. Do you take a van to allow you to play more venues or do you do a corporate gig to get more money. These choices will have an impact on the progression of your career as a band. However, Harmonix has stated that there’s no way to “lose” in this mode, but it will have a risk/reward structure for earning fans and money.
There are also major gameplay changes that can be found, mostly in the form of freestyle parts for the guitar and the vocals. Drums have always had the ability to have freestyle fills when you activate Overdrive, but guitar never had this ability. Freestyle guitar solos are optional and when enabled, you will receive a blank slate that you can use to craft your own solos. The solos are in tune with the song and whatever you hit will sound like it fits naturally with the song. Bonus points will be awarded for using certain techniques during the freestyle and so on. It does sound rather great in practice and can be an entirely new avenue of creative expression within a game that limits you to five buttons. The sounds can be modified by using the higher and lower buttons on a Rock Band guitar or the whammy.
Vocal freestyle is a bit simpler. As you sing, you can modify what you’re singing and will be awarded for doing so as long as you sing in the same key and it makes sense. It’s kind of hard to explain without practically demonstrating, but it makes sense if you watch the preview video above. These new features aim to diversify the experience which has historically been rather methodical. You indeed play the same songs over and over and it’s nice to have variation now.
Harmonix realised that their fans will want to use the expensive equipment they bought for the previous generation on the new generation hardware and have been hard at work trying to make these devices compatible. PS3 instruments will work with the PS4 versions by means of the dongle that had to be used with the previous generation of instruments. Xbox One and 360 compatibility, however, requires a separate wireless dongle that can be purchased along with the standalone game. Unfortunately, the instruments won’t work cross platform, but that is understandable.
They also wanted to focus on making the DLC you bought in previous Rock Bands compatible with Rock Band 4 and they have since confirmed that this will be possible within the same console family. Xbox 360 to Xbox One and PS3 to PS4. Cross-platform won’t be possible once more which is disappointing for gamers that have migrated to different consoles in the new generation like myself.
Rock Band 4 features a rather robust setlist of songs from a multitude of genres. It features something for everyone, as the series is known for doing, but the greatest selling point is still the game’s massive 3000 DLC library. Here’s the complete setlist:
|What’s Up?||4 Non Blondes|
|Toys in the Attic||Aerosmith|
|Hail to the King||Avenged Sevenfold|
|Violent Shiver||Benjamin Booker|
|Fever||The Black Keys|
|Friday I’m In Love||The Cure|
|Metropolis – Part 1 “The Miracle And The Sleeper”||Dream Theater|
|Knock ‘Em Down||Duck & Cover|
|Suspicious Minds||Elvis Presley|
|Centuries||Fall Out Boy|
|You Make Loving Fun||Fleetwood Mac|
|The Feast and the Famine||Foo Fighters|
|I Miss The Misery||Halestorm|
|Kick It Out||Heart|
|I Am Electric||Heaven’s Basement|
|Halls Of Valhalla||Judas Priest|
|Somebody Told Me||The Killers|
|Dream Genie||Lightning Bolt|
|All Over You||Live|
|Uptown Funk||Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars|
|Your Love||The Outfield|
|Miracle Man||Ozzy Osbourne|
|Still Into You||Paramore|
|My God Is The Sun||Queens of the Stone Age|
|Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo||Rick Derringer|
|A Passage To Bangkok||Rush|
|No One Like You||Scorpions|
|Light The Fuse||Slydigs|
|Dead Black (Heart of Ice)||Soul Remnants|
|Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong||Spin Doctors|
|Birth In Reverse||St. Vincent|
|Spiders||System of a Down|
|Brown Eyed Girl||Van Morrison|
|At Night In Dreams||White Denim|
|The Seeker||The Who|
Rock Band 4 looks to be taking what Rock Band is known for, the rhythm game parties, the social aspect and the feeling of simulated rock stardom and refining it without reinventing. This can be enough for budding rhythm game fans that want to relive those great moments of plastic guitar goodness. There is the obvious question of its relevancy, but it seems rhythm game fans are ready for a second coming. Harmonix has also stated that Rock Band 4 will serve as a platform and “sequels” won’t be produced en mass like they did previously.
Suspected Selling Points
- Rock Band has a refined pedigree
- The inclusion of previous generation hardware and software
- New features might elevate the core gameplay to new heights
- Harmonix promises continued support way past launch
- The exclusion of some features such as keyboards and pro guitar
- The relevancy of the genre after its prolonged hiatus
- The cost and availability of the new instruments
- There might not be enough features to justify returning to the franchise
Between the two rhythm game giants, Rock Band 4 seems to be taking the “safe”route in the sense that they’re refining what made the franchise so beloved rather than reinventing the wheel. Rhythm game fans are dying for a new generation spin on the classic franchise and we will see if this will ultimately stick. Prepare for more drunken nights where you keep kicking the bassist and the drummer “accidentally” throws his sticks in your face.