Rock Band makes its return later on this year, so I took a trip to London to see whether it deserves a chance at a belated encore on the latest generation.
The first thing to get out there is this. ALL of your instruments from the previous generation, provided you’ve not switched ‘allegiances’. All of the peripherals from ps3 work on ps4, and the same is true with the 360 and Xbox one. This has been made possible thanks to harmonix’s partnership with Mad Catz, who have stepped up from being the hardware manufacturers (as they were with previous titles) to being Co-publishers on the game. It was also stated that Microsoft have given a lot of help to the team in order to bring the 360 peripherals over. This also applies to Guitar Hero instruments, so those of you (like this editor in particular) who purchased the World Tour bundle back in the day can look forward to RB4 without any apprehension.
Additionally, those who are thinking of making the choice between the big hitters in the music genre this year may also be swayed by the fact RB4 is going to support your entire DLC library from past games, including any songs you’ve exported from discs. The only exception to this is the Beatles’ standalone game, so if you’re still looking to play along with the Fab 4, you’ll need to hold on to your PS3/360 for a bit longer just yet.
In terms of the gameplay, it’s quintessentially Rock Band, with a couple of twists . It’s been stripped back to the “core band” experience, focusing on the drums/guitar/bass/vocals setup, essentially discounting the keyboard from rock band 3. Whether this is down to lacklustre sales of that unit or more of a key direction decision, I’m not sure, although Harmonix stress that its the latter. One new addition is the freestyle vocal mode, where as long as you’re singing in key, you’ll get points. This allows for a lot more “performance” aspects to shine through when your turn on the mic is nigh. As well as the vocal freestyling, drum fills have been overhauled to add a bit of drum tutoring into the game, instead of the “bash as much as you can as fast as you can” mantra that seemed to be prevalent in previous games.
Another new feature is the “Play a Show” mode, which will start you off with a track of your choosing, then at the end, give you a series of options to choose from. Whether it’s to play “A song from 2014”, “a band with a female singer”, or straight up “The Trooper by Iron Maiden”. Your band can vote for these, and the one with the most votes determines the next song in your set. When you’ve finally had enough you can select the option for your final song. It’s a neat introduction which looks like it could settle some of those arguments we’ve doubtless all faced in a party (but *I* want to play Lady Gaga!), this new mode should keep the music flowing without having to slip back into menus.
All said, Rock Band 4 looks like it’s going to be putting in a worthy showing on this new generation. Harmonix said that this will be the only Rock Band game to release on the new consoles, with future support being provided through patches and DLC. To their credit, Harmonix seem to have learned their lesson with regard to the sheer volume of releases that led to the genre’s bubble rapidly expanding and subsequently bursting in a surprisingly short space of time. It looks like they’re determined to make amends for that, and bring the music genre back with a reassuring degree of familiarity. With the promise of the title being essentially a gateway into your DLC history, and being able to dip into it without the expense of new hardware, it sounds like the ultimate party game is about to make a welcome comeback after a prolonged absence.