Thursday, 28 January 2016

Rock Band 4

Get ready to put on your favourite man-liner (man eyeliner), squeeze into those leather chaps, and touch an electrical current to get your hair standing nicely because my band, The Bollockers, are back! Except, it’s all plastic instruments and it’s me just standing around shouting to my friends: “Guys, you wanna play the new Rock Band?” while they scoff at me.  

Out now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 comes Rock Band 4 from developers Harmonix. Despite its absence for half a decade, virtually nothing has changed since Rock Band 3; In fact, there’s less to Rock Band 4 than its predecessor simply in the fact that they keyboard is no longer used for the set list in Rock Band 4. Apart from that and the lack of pro modes, nothing has really changed. But it also proves that absence makes the heart grow fonder. The thoughts of picking up a plastic guitar and playing songs when the new generation came along two years ago would have generated a large, audible sigh. Now? It was pretty great.

The trump card Rock Band 4 has though is its legacy. If you carried over previous games’ set lists to the next game last time around, or if you bought a bunch of songs, they’re all here, thousands of them! This means if you were a fan of previous games, you have a ton of content here to enjoy.

Therein, though lies the problem:  It just feels like threading the same old notes again. While that feels great for a time, it isn’t long before you realise why you stopped playing them in the first place; a fun thing to take out at parties but ultimately an expensive party trick. Thankfully though, most Guitar Hero and Rock Band instruments can be simply set up and be used in Rock Band 4. While it’s a simple plug and play for PlayStation 4, the Xbox One requires an adapter that is sold at a premium meaning you’re expected to pay a little bit more on Xbox One.

Rock Band 4 is very much a game that has the series stripped back down to its essentials. Gone are pro modes and the keyboard instrument and it’s just all about the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. The set list available in Rock Band 4 fares on the weaker side. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not inherently bad songs but they’re also not the list you’ll see and get amped to play one after another. There are definitely some massive names to be found including R.E.M., Queens of the Stone Age, Ozzy Osbourne and more but they aren’t exactly their biggest hitters. You’ll be relying on the thousands of downloadable tracks to keep the party going.

The career mode is interesting, even if it can feel a little bare. Rather than start off in a dive-bar, and slowly build up the band’s popularity, the career plays out more like an RPG as you make choices as to what’s more important to your band: money or popularity. It’s an interesting take but the set list included isn’t strong enough to make it an essential play. It’s nice to have something to explore the varied set list.

Rock Band 4 is very much aimed to bring back in the old crowd that miss playing on plastic instruments. It doesn’t change things up much at all but to be fair it was a formula that proved very successful. It’s very much a game made for those pining for more and that’s exactly what they’ve got. We may never see a Rock Band 5 and that’s fine because Rock Band 4 feels more than just a game, it’s a platform that will continue to grow and expand.

Rock out with your plastic instrument out 3/5.


Jason Redmond

Rock Band 4 at CeX

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