Most people scoff at me when I tell them that my most anticipated game of 2015 is Rock Band 4. However, I feel it’s easily justified. After the greedy folks at Activision pushed away Harmonix from the Guitar Hero series I knew I would be on board with whatever they came up with next.
That holiday season of 2007, Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band clashed and made the biggest splash ever with rhythm games. While each year I would go back and purchase games from each franchise, Rock Band was near and dear to my heart. Harmonix’s constant support with weekly DLC and not only satisfactory guitar gameplay, but fulfilling percussion and vocals made me fall in love instantly. I purchased over 300 songs via DLC and through the Rock Band Network. These times were the most enjoyable in gaming for me. I am a musician before Rock Band. I’ve played Guitar for the last 8 years, Bass as well, I know some Percussion, and I’ve been a band geek all my life, playing Flute and Trumpet in all my intermediate and high school life. Rock Band was the perfect party game that I had weekly gatherings with friends. It connected me with my fellow band geeks, and those who didn’t play an instrument. Syncing up the guitar, drums, bass, and vocals for the perfect overdrive score was always a goal we had in this time.
Now, regrettably, there was a massive over saturation of these rhythm games and the genre was dried up by the end of 2010. There’s been that hole, that weekly ritual and daily routine missing from my life. So when I attended PAX Prime this year, Rock Band 4 was the first thing I went to. Waiting in line for a good 30 minutes, I got to watch other full bands pick their songs and I eagerly watched the gameplay and some new additions. The most notable being the guitar solos.
These sometimes take over important parts of the song and can be frustrating. With my band we chose to play, “My God is the Sun” by Queens of the Stone Age. This to me is the ideal song for Rock Band because it’s fun and offers an excellent part to each instrument and the vocals. I was having a great time until I had to improvise the solo at the end for the guitar. There were instructions on what do to while I was waiting in line, but it didn’t translate well to remembering what to do whilst playing the game. It took me out of the moment and I hope they’re optional in the full game, though it’s a worthy idea. I will say that while in line, it was a very enjoyable wait. I felt as though I was with numerous other music lovers. Singing along to “More than a Feeling” by Boston and the crowd echoing every word with me. Some other songs just seemed odd to have demoed.
While everything announced thus far has been playable, Dream Theater’s “Metropolis Part 1” was gruelingly long, what seemed to be an 11 minute affair and the band playing it wasn’t too accurate either. Naturally the setlist is pretty balanced between all types of rock and roll; new and old. From Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic” to the Arctic Monkey’s “Arabella” there’s a superb selection of songs that’d fit the Rock Band name. The best moments for me was when fans picked some older songs as much of the DLC was playable. A guy picked “Tribute” by Tenacious D and from start to finish, most of the crowd and myself were belting out the song with him, even though the rest of the band was dreadful.
It’s moments like these that make Rock Band one of the more enjoyable party games available. The development team at Harmonix has changed and evolved. It’s a fear because capturing the spirit of Rock Band or Guitar Hero is what they’re trying to hit. Thankfully, they’ve got all the right notes to that formula. Hopefully the self-made guitar solos will only be optional, but other than that gripe I had a blast with Rock Band 4. It reignited all the passion I’ve had for the series and I’m ecstatic to delve into the final product when it releases in early October.
[Words by Paul Minnich]