Rock Band 4: First Impressions

Is now the perfect time for a Rock Band reunion?

Harmonix is set to make a comeback with Rock Band 4 in 2015. My initial thoughts to this news were both skeptical and excited, I couldn’t help but feel that this would well be a make or break moment for the series if it doesn’t make an impact during its launch. In order to capture the attention of both newcomers and veterans alike, it’s clear the game will have to make a significant impact and bring something new to the table, unseen in previous games. During my time with Harmonix’s latest entry into the series, Daniel Sussman the game’s Project Director, spoke on the terminology of authenticity and innovation. Daniel’s focus on bringing something new and refreshing to Rock Band 4 that truly captures the aforementioned terms is apparent in the latest game. 

At its core, Rock Band 4 is still Rock Band, game mechanics remain the same from prior games and the on-screen UI is also identical. Where the game seeks to add new features and enhance its level of immersion to the player comes in the form of crowds. Keeping the players directly in the game as opposed to reverting back to the main menu, crowds can now yell their suggestions to the band, which they will, and then place votes towards, keeping the aspect of gameplay seamless in between songs. This is known as Shows and it features as an entirely new mode to the game. The next addition comes in the form of Freestyle Vocals. Rather than having to sing directly in key with the vocals of a song, as long as the player is singing in-tune with the song they’re free to add their own flare and expression while still being able to score points. However, this doesn’t mean you can scream like a constipated cat and still hope to impress the crowds. Real singers are born, the rest of us have to try, but do so with effort or get off the stage.

Something which stood out to me the most about the game was in its presentation. Rock Band has always been a game about immersion, and it’s this specific trait which will either suck the player in and have them flapping their whammy bar for the next four hours, or have them staring at a screen simply trying to match up coloured icons and fooling themselves into believing they’re enjoying their time with the game. It’s all about the experience. While Rock Band 4 still holds the same visual aesthetics as earlier games – that being cartoonish and bordering the line of exaggerated realism – Rock Band 4 is more colourful and detailed, delivering a more immersive environment for players to fantasize within. Large crowds, glaring lights, highly-animated characters, it’s all here. And as cheesy as the last one sounds, nobody likes stiff repetitive animations. Besides, we have RPGs for that. It’s fair to say that the game has a lot of character.

One thing in particular that fans will be pleased to hear about is backwards compatibility. Although the game will be launching with a brand new set of instruments which will be paired wirelessly to the console. As the game is being co-published by Mad Catz, older instruments from the earlier games will work just as fine and will do so hassle-free. Players will also be able to import any songs they’ve purchased on the last generation of consoles, extending their music library long-passed the seventy songs being released with the game. 

Despite the enjoyment I had with past titles in the series along with the newfound enjoyment I’ve now experienced with the upcoming release, I do remain skeptical over the game’s longevity. There’s no doubt in my mind that Rock Band 4 will be an entertaining game that will get people together screaming bad melodies and making a racket while their neighbours beat against their walls, but my main concern with the game is its staying power.

As early as it is to question and with the game having no confirmed released date except for 2015, Harmonix has already stated that they have no plans for any sequels and that Rock Band 4 won’t just be a game, it will be a platform that’s constantly updated throughout the course of this console generation. This easily cancels out the need for a sequel and aids in keeping the series relevant, but will it be enough to keep players interested a few years down the line whether or not their favourite tunes are added to the game? New songs, game modes, social-media integration, streaming, virtual reality? Who knows… but the game will be at E3 this year where more information will be revealed.

What are your thoughts towards Rock Band 4? Will you stepping back on to the stage? Is this your first time getting busy with the band? Do you think the game has staying power or will it be irrelevant a few months after launch? Let us know down in the comments section.