Today I’m here to tell you all about the very long-awaited Rock Band 4. 5 years in the making, this game had a LOT of hype surrounding it and was setting itself up to either be a triumphant return to its glory days (a la Dragon Age: Origins) or will be a letdown on a massive scale (remember Duke Nukem Forever?)

It turns out, Duke Nukem may be working at Harmonix now that his alien killing days are over.

Well, let me first start off with getting the game. Here-in lies part of the problem. A lot of the bundles in certain areas were delayed for weeks or even months so a lot of people didn’t actually get the game. And don’t think that this problem only hits the people who like physical media. There was an option to download a digital copy of the game and just use your legacy instruments, but if you are on the Xbox One you require an adapter to use old instruments and depending on where you ordered your adapter from, you may notice that they are backlogged and even people who pre-ordered it are seeing anything from a two-day to a month delay on receiving the adapter, which is now sold out almost everywhere so those who didn’t pre-order have no hope of finding one.

So right off the bat, a few people are annoyed.

Even TV stars play it! Too bad it's not all that good yet.

Even TV stars play it! Too bad it’s not all that good yet.

The next little hiccup with the game is in the DLC. Harmonix advertised one main selling point of this game more than anything else. More than the new guitar solo mode, the new soundtrack, or any other feature the one thing that was publicized everywhere was that this game was backward compatible with your old DLC. All the songs that you bought before would work with the new game and that 1,500+ songs would be available Day One. And technically, as long as you never bought anything before and wanted to drop $3,000 right now – that’s true.

The problem is that while Harmonix did get all those songs to be available for download in the new game, getting the Xbox One and Playstation 4 to recognize your download history from the previous generation and let you download these songs for the new game is a chore, to say the least. First off, they need to be downloaded individually. 1,500 songs – one at a time. Next, if you had any of the larger song packs or albums that you downloaded, the new generation may or may not recognize that the individual tracks it now has listed was part of that pack and you might be prompted to pay for it again. And lastly, any songs that were available as an export of a different game (Rock Band 1, 2, Lego Rock Band, Rock Band: Green Day, and Rock Band Blitz) are not recognizing your export codes so all of these are prompting for you to repurchase them as well.

Now, Harmonix has said that they are working on fixing all this. And that soon™ we will have our songs, but if you are going to tout Day One backward compatibility, and do so so prominently, you should really make sure you can deliver on those claims.

Also, on a different DLC note, Harmonix made the interesting choice to offer platform-specific pre-order bonuses instead of included the extra 20 songs on the disc to bolster an only moderately interesting soundtrack. 10 songs were only available if you pre-ordered the game on the PlayStation 4 while the other 10 were only available if you pre-ordered the game on Xbox One. And the Xbox pre-order had to be a digital copy of the game. If you spent the extra $200 to buy a physical band-in-a-box bundle, you get nothing. That left a sour taste in the mouth of some fans who would rather have seen those extra songs be included on the disc since they were readily available Day One anyway. And their distaste grew when it was discovered that there were problems redeeming and installing those pre-order songs anyway.

But, let’s get past those many disappointments and mistakes and get into the game itself.

I know this article has adopted a negative tone so far so I want to make it clear that I’ve been a fan of the franchise since its conception and own every entry in the series that has come out. I even have Rock Band: Beatles and I don’t much enjoy the Fab Four. So just know that I am a fan and have been the whole time.

Now that I’ve prefaced it, this game continues to disappoint once you start playing.

When you get into career mode, you will be asked to create a character(s). Your options for doing so are ridiculously limited. Harmonix does plan on releasing a free update to this feature soon™ but until then, you have almost no choices for how your character will look. And if you, like me, want to create a full lineup of characters so that every member of your band looks like you and your friends, you will be disappointed because the option to stand-in your characters for the other band members is currently not working properly and you will get the game’s built-in characters instead. And while it used to default to gender-appropriate singers for songs when you were not playing as the singer, that is no longer the case here.

However, once you get past those inefficiencies, the story mode is a good improvement on the one featured in Rock Band 3. It offers different options as you progress that will change which options for venues or setlists you have going forward in the story.

And once you complete the story mode and decide to just play a show with friends, there are some noticeable changes. First, the new navigation screen is not well-liked and you’ll see why. While the navigation feels more smooth than the clunky song list screen in Rock Band 3, it also takes longer to navigate through your songs because it navigates by band name instead of letter. And the screen has much less information on it than it did in Rock Band 3. Before, while on a song, you could see the difficulty for each instrument, you previous best score, your leaderboard standing, the album art, year, and genre, and your friends’ scores on that same song. Why they felt it necessary to remove all the information from the screen, I do not know, but from reading through the many posts on the Harmonix forums, I can say that is a choice they probably are not proud of.

But when you find the song you want to play you will discover another change. Set lists are gone. You can no longer choose more than one song to play. You can instead pick your first song, and then go to a new voting screen where every member of the band gets to put in a vote for what to play next. You will be presented random options of specific songs, artists, years, or genres. While this is a fun and novel idea, it presents some issues: First off, if the game only features one song by an artist, it should not say “A random song by Santana feat. Rob Thomas”. That could only ever be one song so just specify that song and reserve the “a song by” pretext for a band that has more than one song available. Second, and more importantly, sometimes you want to pick your own songs. If you’re the singer, for example, you might want to stick to songs you’ve actually heard before. I like to push myself a little in the game and sometimes try a new song, but I would normally avoid screamo songs because I like my vocal chords to remain in their current working state. However, if your friends are in squirrelly moods they may all vote against you and force you to play something you have no interest in and your options are then either have a less-than-great time playing the song or end the song, back out to the song list, and start over. Of course, you could always play Quicklplay mode instead for you can pick one, and only one, song to play through and then immediately return to the song selection screen. But sometimes you want to play more than one song, you just want to control what those multiple songs are.

I’m not saying the voting option is bad. I used it with a couple buddies and we had a good time and found some new fun songs to do, but we also all agreed that even with the fun we were having, we’d still really like the option to just pick a list of our favorite songs and play through them.

And lastly, I’ll talk about playing the actual songs. The real meat and potatoes of the game. If they get this part right, the rest really doesn’t matter as much.

Sadly, they didn’t quite hit this nail on the head either.

The new guitar solos let you perform a free-form solo and just go nuts on the guitar like you were The Edge up on stage. Of course, you probably aren’t, so your solo might not be better, or even comparable, to the one that is actually part of the song. So if you’re an audiophile like me, you’ll probably find it annoying that the guitar solos for your favorite songs have been replaced with a chance to daftly fiddle around like the guitar-playing cousin of William Hung. Also, if you do go for the free-form solos and really get into, using both hands to do some fancy Van Halenesque fingering on the smaller set of frets, you will then find that when the song cuts back to the regular guitar part, your hands are now not in the position they need to be to play and you will miss notes, killing your streak and also your immersion.

But, despite everything I’ve said, I want to bring up a positive point. After opening this game and downloading what DLC I could, I then played the game for 8 straight hours. And never once in that time did I want to stop playing. So even with all the problems in getting the game, getting the DLC, and the shortcomings of the game itself, Rock Band 4 remains a fun experience. And in the end, the goal was to create a fun party game experience so Harmonix actually did do exactly what they intended. Are there still issues? Yes. But Harmonix is promising updates to fix the DLC, improve the character creation, and release new features. And in the meantime, the game really is a fun game despite everything else.

Plus, if you’re going to buy it after release, you don’t have to worry about the delivery issues and the DLC issues don’t matter if you’re a new player with no DLC history, so if you’re getting into Rock Band for the first time this will actually be great for you.

Rock Band 4 Review
The Good
  • Large Song Selection
  • Decent Soundtrack
  • New Story "Tour" Mode
The Bad
  • Availability Issues
  • Broken DLC
  • Unpolished Gameplay
6Overall Score
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About The Author

Dean M
YouTube Content Creator

Saying I have an obsession for video games is a bit of an understatement. Like Ash Ketchum my goal is to collect them all! I currently have over 1,600 games spanning more than 40 consoles and almost as many years and I have played all but a very small handful of them (I can't bring myself to open the older sealed games - even if it is the only copy I have of the game.) I like all genres and platforms but RPGs are my favorite and nothing beats the SNES if you want to have a good time while gaming. In my time away from gaming I'm a big fan of the outdoors (a bit of a 180, eh?) and a huge fan of animals. I have a dog, two snakes, and a dove and I love to spend time checking out zoos or volunteering at animal shelters.