Rock Band 4 E3 2015 Hands-On Impressions

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It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to pick up our plastic instruments and live out our rock fantasies in the comfort of our homes. That’ll all change this October 6, though, when developer Harmonix is finally bringing back Rock Band and all the fun that comes with it. Luckily, Harmonix seems quite aware of the oversaturation that killed the genre in the first place, and has stated that they’re working to make sure your instruments from previous Rock Band games work with the new one, as well as produce new ones for anyone who has lost them in the time since music games ruled the world.

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The demo Harmonix had at E3 was ingeniously set up like a stage, with groups of four heading up to play songs from an impressive ~4,000-song library, containing everything from Paramore to Tenacious D to Billy Idol. The gameplay itself is a snappier, more responsive version of the tried-and-true Rock Band gameplay, with the player hitting notes on a track to play the song. Guitar, Drums, Bass and Vocals are all back, and you can play them in any combination. The graphics are an enhanced-looking version of the breezy, cartoon-y look of past games. It looks and feels just like old times, and that’s not a bad thing. When it comes to music games, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Rock Band 4 seems to know exactly what to innovate on and what to leave alone.

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What is new, though, is the way you’ll be interacting with the crowd. As in previous games, the crowd will react to how many notes your hitting, but Rock Band 4 expands on that by having the crowd do other things like request songs and scream for encores. There now is also a system that allows you to pick a set list beforehand, or even change songs at the tap of a button, negating the need to return to song selection to play again. While the demo was limited to one song per group (for obvious reasons), the new song selection tools look like they will certainly make the game flow better and is a welcome improvement.

A new Rock Band for a new age means the shredding has to be turned up. By a lot. This time around guitarists will help the band really stand out in the new “Freestyle Guitar Solo“. During a song’s guitar solo, players will be able to compose their own face melting riffs using any combination of the buttons they can come up with. The better it sounds the more points the band scores overall. Rock Band is also helping out the vocalists who like to sing but sound like a cartoon chicken being rung by the neck. Not only does the USB microphone have a better more actual microphone feel, but the vocal range it can convey is much broader than before. The game will also help singers by letting you set your song to be a mix of your own vocal with one from the actual track. Harmonix managed to tweak this very well, to the point where you can distinguish yourself from the song while not completely butchering it. Rock Band 4 will also have a new story mode so players can bring their bands back together and conquer the world.

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Rock Band 4 releases on the PS4 and Xbox One on October 6, 2015. You can pre-order the game or bundle at all game retailers for 30 additional DLC tracks. Find out more on the game’s website here.