I’ll Review Anything: Rock Band 4


There was a time when the entire gaming world was entranced by playing real music on plastic instruments. It was just a few short years ago so I’m wondering what people did with all their fake guitars and drum sets? Did they pack all of them up and throw them in some dusty part of the house to be forgotten? Did they decide to dismantle them and bring them to the dump? Well, I kept mine under my bed and I glad I did! That’s because ever since I got the game last month, I’ve been playing Rock Band 4 every single night!

For those who aren’t in the know, Rock Band 4 is the fourth game in Harmonix’s rhythm music franchise where you play fake instruments or sing to the tune of your favorite songs. It’s sounds dorky and… well, it kind of is. But that’s not the point! The point is that playing Rock Band was just a whole lot of fun because there’s just an energy you get when you pretend to be this rock star and actually shred some sick riffs or play that really cool drum fill! It’s all about finding the right rhythm and just nailing those (fake) notes at just the right time that makes it such a rush!

Rock Band 4 feels much like the Rock Band games of old. Actually, it feels specifically like Rock Band 2 as the latest game totally gets rid of a lot of the stuff they included in Rock Band 3. Harmonix decided to scrap most of the features from their 3rd entry to the series, which can irk some fans. They got rid of the keyboard controller as well as any Pro instruments. So, if you have the keytar controller or the Pro Guitar, you’re going to keep them wherever they were. I personally don’t care for it and I’m actually glad they went back to a simpler time when just simply rocking out on your standard fake instruments was all you needed.

Speaking of old instruments, I’m happy that Harmonix made Rock Band 4 backward compatible with the old instruments. I still have my MadCatz Fender Telecaster that I got when Rock Band 3 came out and my old plastic drum set from the very first game still in working order. I would’ve had second thoughts of getting another set of fake plastic instruments as they can be pricey! Oh, I want to get new fake guitars and drums. But I don’t want them too much to pay a whole lot to get them so I’m sticking to my old instruments… for now.

It's a matter of "want", not "need."

It’s a matter of “want”, not “need.”

And the instruments aren’t the only things backwards compatible. Most of the music tracks are as well! If you’re like me and have amassed a large number of songs, Rock Band 4 is a great way to get to play them all again. Thank God Harmonix was smart enough to make sure that most of their old content could be downloaded and played on their new game. I would’ve been very upset if I had to purchase each and every track I bought! Oh, I probably would’ve done so but I’d be mad as heck!

Playing Rock Band 4 is just like a nostalgic walk in the park. The gameplay is solid and I can’t really say anything wrong with it. Once you get everything set up, playing all those songs once again just feels so good! I can still remember the feeling I had when I first played Paramore’s That’s What You Get way back in Rock Band 2 and I felt the same wave of happiness roll over me when I played another Paramore song, Still Into You, on Rock Band 4. It’s also a whole lot of fun if you get a group of friends with different instruments and play your favorite song and you just nail each and every note. It’s such a rush!

As good as Rock Band 4 is, it definitely takes a step back in a lot of places. You have to get a patch to play online, which means you couldn’t do that out of the box. While it didn’t affect me all that much, I do find it really strange that Harmonix left it out in the first place. Downloading your old songs can be extremely painful. You do get access to all of your old songs which is a plus. But you have to go through all sort of weird hoops to actually find all of them! You have to go track them all down in the music store! They’re listed as free so you would think it would be a snap to sort out the lists via price range, right? But there isn’t an option to do this! That means you have to go through each and every song to find the ones that are free to get them!

Also, you have to make sure that you actually opt to download them. If you immediately back out of the purchase window, it’ll say you purchased the song but you can’t select it again to start the download! Instead, you have to exit the game, highlight Rock Band 4 from your console and go to the Downloads section to find and download it! I guess that’s how the PlayStation 4 works but it’s just such a bother!

And you’ll need to download a whole bunch of songs because the tracks that are on the Rock Band 4 discs feels pretty anemic. I guess that’s because Harmonix already got most of the really good songs before. Some of the songs are extremely boring to play! 4 Non-Blondes’ What’s Going On is a snoozefest. Brad Paisley and Keith Urban’s Start a Band doesn’t exactly makes me want to jump on my feet. Dream Theater’s Metropolis – Part 1 seems to go on forever and ever! That’s not to say that they’re bad. It’s just that they don’t suit my tastes in music. There are some gems like The Cure’s Friday, I’m in Love and Halestorm’s I Miss The Misery but the tracklist generally feels very weak when compared to earlier entries.

The character creation system and standard career mode is also rather lacking. Career mode does have a few twists as you have to make some decisions that determine if you get more money, fans or outfits in the next tour. That’s fun but there are no more cutscenes showing your characters like in Rock Band 3. I loved watching Robin’s Adventures (the name of the band I created) taking the subway, setting up before the show, partying at the pethouse and more. Rock Band 4 just shows text! What a letdown!

The character creation system didn’t help with my disappointment. It took a while before I was fully satisfied with my Rock Band 4 version of my old Robin’s Adventures as there aren’t a whole lot of options to dress your character with. One of my characters, the bassist named White Robin, has always been kind of a tomboy and always wears a suit and a top hat. You can unlock the suit but you can’t unlock a top hat! I gave her a fedora but it’s just not the same.

I really wanted to post pictures of Robin’s Adventures in all their glory and even use the Share function on my PlayStation 4 to record some footage instead of showing YouTube clips of other people playing the game. Problem is, Rock Band 4 disables that function. I guess that’s to prevent the piracy of music in a sense and to stop the possible numerous copyright strikes playing the game and featuring online can potentially get. But it’s a huge missed opportunity. I would’ve imagined people streaming Rock Band 4 and getting requests from the chat on what to play next. That would’ve been fantastic!

I may have a lot of complaints but I’m betting the folks at Harmonix are working to remedy some of these issues. They already fixed the online component as now allows you to play online with the patch I mentioned. They’re also consistently updating their library of songs, making sure that the game has a continuous stream of fresh content. You gotta pay for the content so choose the ones that you like only! And it looks like Rock Band 5 will be the game to play moving forward as it seems Harmonix is going to use it as a platform for future Rock Band games in the near future.

In fact, they already released their first expansion pack for the game: Rock Band Rivals. I’ve already downloaded the Rock Band Rivals pack but I’ve yet to play it thoroughly so I can’t really review it. There are a lot nifty things I’ve seen so far. The idea of a documentary showing the rise (and possible fall) of your band looks like a nifty addition. Maybe I’ll go review Rock Band Rivals in the future.

Despite my huge love for Rock Band, I have to say that it’s only for fans. There’s just too much of an investment for curious newcomers as you need a slew of peripherals to get the full experience. If you have the cash, know someone who is willing to part with their old plastic instruments or you can find the dump where fans disposed of their old instruments, I’d say go for it. Fans should definitely consider getting Rock Band 4 as it can reignite your passion for the genre.

Have you played Rock Band 4? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!

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