Last week, Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. (“Harmonix”) released Rock Band 4 for Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
The game is available as both a standalone release and a bundle containing the game disc, a wireless guitar, wireless drum set and a microphone.
The last main Rock Band game, Rock Band 3, was released in 2010 for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. It has been 5 years since a new title was added to the main series.
After several years and a new generation of consoles, the multiplayer party game is hoping to revive the music game genre with new features and some forms of backwards compatibility.
Rock Band 4 supports downloadable content from previous consoles within the same family.
Playstation 4 players who own DLC from previous versions of Rock Band on Playstation 3 will be able to use songs from their music library in Rock Band 4; the same applies to Xbox One players who own Xbox 360 content.
Rock Band 4 works with instruments from previous games on both Playstation 4 and Xbox One.
To use wireless Xbox 360 instruments on Xbox One, players must purchase a Legacy Game Controller Adapter. Playstation 3 instruments should work on Playstation 4 out of the box. A full instrument compatibility chart can be found on the Harmonix website.
In addition to supporting previous hardware, Harmonix has redesigned hardware for the next generation consoles. The new Playstation 4 instruments no longer require a dongle and wirelessly connect directly to the Playstation 4.
According to Harmonix, the new fret buttons on the guitar have better action and activation which gives the guitar a better feel and more precision. The new drum set contains an updated microcontroller unit that natively supports analog inputs for more precise and accurate cymbals (sold separately).
Some users have reported issues with the new wireless guitars and drum sets. Harmonix and Mad Catz have released firmware updates to improve instrument performance. The firmware updates can be found on the Rock Band 4 website or through Mad Catz.
New features were added to Rock Band 4 that help it stand out from previous entries in the series. Many songs from pre-Rock Band 4 have been updated to support new features as well.
Freestyle guitar solos are a new addition that abandons the traditional idea of copying songs note for note and instead favors artistic expression. By loosely following the onscreen cues, Rock Band 4 guitarists can play unique solos that use pre-recorded notes to add new flavor to existing songs. The game also features an endless solo option for songs that allows players to freestyle all the way through some of their favorites.
Dynamic drum fills are another new addition targeted at Rock Band 4 drummers. Instead of playing the same fill for a song every time as in Rock Band 3, stylistic drum fills are chosen for each song and they can change each time. Both of the previous methods of drum fills are also available as options.
Vocal harmonies were originally introduced in The Beatles: Rock Band and carried over into Rock Band 3 and now Rock Band 4. Pre-Rock Band 4 songs have been updated to include harmonies as well.
A free feature update is expected to release in December to add additional features to Rock Band 4. Currently the only confirmed feature is “Variable Breakneck Speed” which allows players to choose how much faster their note lanes will scroll.
According to Harmonix CEO, Steve Janiak, Rock Band 4 will be treated as a platform and expanded upon. Janiak said, “We already have a team hard at work building new features for the platform, some based on player feedback, along with some surprises, including a new mode that changes gameplay in a really significant way that we think people are going to love.”
Rock Band 4 is not the only music game that will be released this year. A new Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero Live is also on the horizon. The battle of music rhythm games could be starting once again.