Title: Rock Band 4
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4 (reviewed on Xbox One)
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Madcatz/Harmonix
Release Date: Out Now
Price: $59.99/59.99 Euro
Tagline: Its like a nice plate of comfort food, but missing half the items on the plate.
Family Friendly: Click here to read more
Verdict: Wait for a Sale

If I didn’t have a calendar in front of me on my desk as I wrote this review, I would have to ask myself if it was 2010 all over again. I mean, here we are with a new Rock Band game, a new Guitar Hero game and the debate rages once again over who has the better rhythm franchise. Sadly, I do not own a TARDIS and I am still in 2015, but the resurgence of the rhythm game has happened. One of those rhythm titles is Rock Band 4, a longtime fan favorite in the genre and coming from a developer that seems to know what its fans want from a rhythm game. Unfortunately, somewhere in the mix, a few things got left out and Rock Band 4 is not the game we were necessarily waiting for in 2015.


In simple terms, the gameplay that returns in Rock Band 4 is pretty much identical to the last time you saw it in Rock Band 3. You have charted note highways for bass, guitar, drums and vocals that you will play, pressing the proper colors and strumming accordingly. This base gameplay, beyond a slight visual tweak to the gems is exactly the same and is probably what most Rock Band fans would want. Note that I did say four note highways. If you were one that enjoyed the keyboard, Harmonix has left you behind as the keyboard, along with pro-guitar have been left behind in this new title. Sure the two instrument types were only there for the last Rock Band title, but it seems a bit rough to cut them loose for fans of those instruments.

One of the bigger changes in Rock Band 4 is the way that solos are treated for each of the tracks. Normally, you were greeted with a series of notes that you would be scored on based on the percentage of the notes you hit. Harmonix has introduced freestyle solos, which give the player a more dynamic way to live out the dream of shredding on a guitar. While the idea is an interesting twist, in practice, it does not quite play out all that well. The fixed solos had a precise sound similar to the guitar solos in the real music title, but the freestyle solos never quite sound like they fit and instead feel clumsy when actually trying to follow the areas needed for the freestyle solos. Players can choose which one they prefer from the options as the default freestyle type.


The set list included with the main game works well enough, peppered with hits from both current radio and classics going back to the 1960’s. the problem here right now is that including tracks on a disc for classic bands can be troublesome when you have already sold their best hits via DLC. Look at a track like “A Passage to Bangkok” by Rush. Sure, it is a solid track, but far from things like the entirety of 2112, Limelight, Tom Sawyer, and more. But all of those tracks have been available via DLC and are available right now to import if you owned them in prior games. So picking a soundtrack can be challenging. But like I said, it is serviceable and it will be fleshed out nicely with your own DLC tracks.

As a nice touch to those that have been loyal to the Rock Band, Harmonix has done all they can to allow players to move forward both their DLC music tracks and their instruments. Once you start up Rock Band 4 and sign in, DLC tracks that you own can be downloaded through the built in store. A fix has released that marks DLC correctly now in the store, but it is still a one song at a time process that can be very time consuming if you have an extremely large library. A one touch import library function would have been nice, but it is not the end of the world and the downloads are pretty fast for each song. I have been playing Rock Band 4 on the Xbox One and using the wireless adapter, I have been able to use my Guitar Hero 5 and Warriors of Rock guitars. Pretty much most of the wireless instruments since Rock Band 2/Guitar Hero 4 World Tour seem to work with the adapter. Wired Instruments however are a no go on the platform outside of the microphones, so if you own one of those nice Ion Drumkits, you are kind of out of luck.


All of this is nice enough, as Harmonix is trying to keep the experience the same for those that have loved the Rock Band experience. The problem is that the series has made several strides backwards in Rock Band 4, feeling more like Rock Band 1 than Rock Band 3. Gone are things like challenges, online play, custom set lists, leaderboards in career mode and even the ability to use your custom characters as fill-ins for band members. You can get scores on the leaderboards in Quickplay mode, but you cannot build set lists, so it is playing one song at a time to set top scores, a somewhat laborious task.

Also missing from Rock Band 4 are a lot of the options to personalize the game. The character creator loses a lot of outfits, hairstyles and even body types for you to create a unique character. Even things like the tattoo creator or the Band logo creator are missing in action.


While it is a tremendous feat to see all that Harmonix has created with Rock Band 4, as they have held good on getting previous DLC purchases in the game along with the ability to use past game instruments. But even with all of that in play, Rock Band 4 feels like an incomplete game. One has to wonder if all the time needed to re-chart old songs and working on licensing issues to get songs in place hurt the game as a whole when it came to content. Rock Band 4 is a decent attempt to revive the rhythm genre on the new consoles, but it is too far a step back from Rock Band 3 to really be a solid entry in the series.

Hard Core Rockstar:

  • All your purchased DLC is here, or coming soon
  • Most of our plastic instruments work with adapter
  • The core experience is the Rock Band engine that we have come to love and enjoy

Washed Up Rockstar:

  • Freestyle solos never feel like they fit musically with the song being played
  • Numerous features from previous Rock Band titles are inexplicably missing
  • The import process for your purchased DLC is too complex and lacks a one touch import button

Family Focus
As with all prior Rock Band titles, Rock Band 4 is very family friendly for anyone from 7 to 70 to play without any real issues. Some of the songs you play may have some lyrics with innuendo, but beyond that, this is a true game that can be experience by the entire family.

This review was prepared using retail Xbox One code purchased by the reviewer.