Rock Band 4
Rock Band 4 is a rhythm game developed and published by Harmonix Music Systems, with physical distribution initially handled by Mad Catz at launch and Performance Design Products from 2016 onward. It was released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on October 6, 2015.
Why It Rocks
- Unlike Guitar Hero Live, Rock Band 4 uses the familiar gameplay of its predecessors.
- Excellent sound design.
- Improved graphics over the last generation, running at 1080p and 60 frames per second.
- Over 2,000 DLC songs are available. Also, pre-Rock Band 3 songs were updated to include vocal harmonies.
- Returning players can import most of their DLC library and previously exported Rock Band titles for free if they stay within the same console family (i.e. Xbox One from Xbox 360 and PS4 from PS3) and use the same profile. Prior to December 1, 2020, players could import all 83 songs from Rock Band 3; however, it required the purchase of an export key for US$15.
- Players can use most of their old Rock Band hardware on the newer consoles; however, the Xbox One version requires a separate adapter and the PS4 version requires the original PS3 dongles.
- There are gameplay modes which cater to both causal and hardcore players. For hardcore players, there is "Brutal Mode", where the difficulty is set to Expert, more of the note highway is hidden the better you play, and "No Fail" is disabled; successfully completing a song on "Brutal Mode" earns crimson stars.
- Freestyle guitar solos allow the player to put their own spin on solos. This feature is optional, allowing players to play the scripted solo instead.
- Freestyle vocals allow the player to improvise on vocals and still score if they stay in key.
- Instead of releasing new titles during the Xbox One's and PS4's lifecycles, Harmonix will release bug fixes, quality-of-life updates, and new features, both free and paid, for Rock Band 4. The first paid expansion, Rivals, added new gameplay modes and several songs over time.
- There are quite a few well-known songs, including "Brown Eyed Girl", "Somebody Told Me", and "Uptown Funk".
- U2, Van Halen, The Protomen, and Elvis Presley make their Rock Band debuts.
- There are costumes and items that are from other game series (e.g., Mass Effect, Psychonauts, Fallout 4, etc.) available for customization. There is also a skin to dress your character as Sterling Archer.
- Rock Band 4 removed several features introduced in Rock Band 3, most prominently pro guitar and keyboards. The omission of keyboards becomes more apparent with keyboard-heavy RB3-era DLC as well as the proliferation of 2010s pop songs as DLC.
- At launch, several features present in prior Rock Band titles, such as practice mode and online play, were absent. Practice mode was eventually added as a free feature update, while online play requires the paid Rivals expansion.
- Besides adding Freestyle Vocals and Guitar Solos, Rock Band 4 does not really differentiate itself from past games in the franchise as Rock Band 3 did.
- DLC entitlements from the Rock Band Network library were not carried over in the seventh-to-eighth console generation transition. This is due to technical and licensing restrictions since RBN content is categorized as user-created content. While some of the most popular RBN songs are being remastered as standard DLC, this requires a new purchase.
- Periodically, certain DLC songs have to be delisted from the Music Store due to music licensing agreements expiring. However, Harmonix does attempt to give advance notice when songs have to be removed, and users who purchased the song(s) in question prior to their removal from the store can still play the songs and redownload them if necessary.
- Weak on-disc soundtrack compared to its predecessors.
- Rock Band 4's base soundtrack only has 65 songs, while both Rock Band 2 and Rock Band 3 had over 80 on-disc songs each. However, the Rivals expansion added several songs as free DLC over time.
- Unlike prior installments, which balanced between classic hits and modern songs, nearly half the soundtrack is from the 2010s, and many of those songs are from relatively lesser known artists.
- Even for better known 2010s artists, the game uses lesser known songs rather than the big hits (e.g., for Mumford and Sons, "The Wolf" rather than "Little Lion Man", "The Cave", or "I Will Wait"; for Imagine Dragons, "I Bet My Life" rather than "It's Time", "Radioactive", or "Demons").
- For the series' returning artists, many songs are either new material or lesser known songs, since most, if not all, of their well known songs were either previously released as on-disc songs or DLC OR withheld to be released as future DLC (e.g., for Lynyrd Skynyrd, "That Smell"; for Heart, "Kick It Out"; for Rush, "A Passage to Bangkok"; for System of a Down, "Spiders").
- Shallow character and band customization.
- No options to adjust a character's height, weight, or facial features aside from facial hair.
- Shoes are paired to pants and skirts.
- Some accessories such as bracelets and gloves are tied to tops.
- Overall clothing selection is limited.
- No assets for creating custom t-shirts, tattoos, or band logos.
- Licensing issues with Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe prevented European PS4 users from importing some of their previously purchased DLC and game exports until May 2017.
- Since no new instrument controllers are being manufactured, finding gear can be difficult and expensive.
Rock Band 4 received generally positive reviews, although it is not as well received as prior installments. The game received praise for maintaining the spirit of its past installments and backwards compatibility for players' DLC libraries and instrument controllers. The game was criticized for its weaker soundtrack, shallow customization options and missing features at launch; many reviewers also considered Rock Band 4 to be a regression from Rock Band 3 due to the removal of keyboard and pro guitar gameplay.