Initial Impressions of Rock Band 4

Harmonix threw together a launch party on October 6th in Austin and invited some of the internet's biggest gaming humor groups to come down and try out Rock Band 4, which was streamed live through YouTube. Local favorites RoosterTeeth and ScrewAttack, along with newcomers FunHause showed up to test the new equipment, and see just how durable it is. FunHause, I'm looking at you. Way to break the drums.

While it supplies hours of entertainment to gamers everywhere, I want to jump in and talk about the new things I saw in the game that weren't really mentioned on the box or in online advertisements.

Other then the fact that it was obvious that everyone on stage Tuesday night got a chance to access all songs from the past games and every available DLC, there are a lot of new songs and artists to look forward to with Rock Band 4. The base game has about 65 songs, ranging from the 60's to today's music. There is a lot of variety, something I always appreciated with this franchise.

There is also day one DLC. Now I'm not a big fan of this with most games since it's cheaping out on the original product. Why couldn't you put these into the original game? But with Rock Band and Guitar Hero there is a bit of leeway. They have to deal with licensing issues to be able to use the songs in the game. This is why some songs had to be pulled from their library years ago when the licensing contracts ran out. Depending on the record label, that could take weeks, months, or years to get a response back. So you fill your game with the ones you could get a solid yes on, and add in the rest at a later date. And these set of songs were given the "okay" after the game was finalized. It happens. I did notice that Janice freekin' Joplin is on the DLC. Janice! She's my rock icon. I don't know how Harmonix did it, but bravo. That must have been a pain to get approval for.

Freestyle mode during the game is really damn cool. I couldn't tell if this was point based, or if you need to have a full power bar, or what. But at certain points in a song you can trigger freestyle with your instrument and play however and whatever you want. The keys you play will be in tune to the song so it'll somewhat be cohesive to the rest of the music. At times you'll have to move your keys along a winding path highlighted in blue for bonus points. For the most part, you just grip it and rip it. It's not the pure chaos I was anticipating. Downside is that it's only for guitars. Lame. There is a freestyle vocal game mode that as long as you sing on key, you can change up the lyrics however you want. But it's not the same as guitar freestyle.

Clarification for the adapters if you want to use older Rock Band gear: if you have PS2 or PS3 gear you don't need to buy an extra adapter. Just plug and play since it's all USB based. Sweet, right? Sadly with the XBox One you do have to get the adapter. Double lame.

Hyperspeed mode is still there, and if you select it it applies to everyone in your band. Make sure to warn your partners before you go down this route.

In career mode you get to go down 2 paths (business or casual, hah) to "stardom" which unlocks different clothing, songs, and venues. The game also allows players to drop in and out of songs in a set list as they wish. If they want to take a break, they can! And you won't get penalized for having someone sit out. It also allows you to swap instruments with ease and maintain your gamer tag as you do so. How that works, I have no clue. But let's say you're the singer. You decide the next song is something you can't handle, but you know the guitar really well. You can swap your controllers, lock in your instrument of choice, and you're set. Again, no clue how the game is able to do that, but I'll roll with it.

With the built-in streaming app on the PS4 and XBox One you can stream your jam sessions. However, you can not record them. Legal thing with music. So yes to the Live Jam. No to the recording.

I'm still iffy about getting this game. Rock Band is something that works best when you have other people to play, a full band ideally. And it's a challenge to get 3 friends to come over and spend a few hours together. We're adults doing adult things. Yea adulting. But I do think that taking out the online mode (there's no online mode), practice mode, and no keytar has allowed Rock Band 4 to be refined into a solid musical game. Maybe I can convince a friend to buy it and just show up randomly to play.

Oh, and thanks FunHause! I was not aware that Cheap Trick was in the game. Best performance of the night.