Rock Band is back.
Anyone who loved the original must of let out an Ian Gillan-esque falsetto shriek when the announcement was made that the title would be returning in all its plastic glory.
Will it reignite our inner rock star with A Whole Lotta Love, or will it be the terrible comeback album that serves to sully the glorious past?
Upon unboxing I immediately grabbed the guitar and memories of the finger bending cords I would religiously play whilst doing my chosen anthem justice came flooding back.
The accomplishment felt upon completing Iron Maiden’s “Run For The Hills” at 100% are akin to pulling off a lengthy Street Fighter combo, but this time with virtual rock gods as our M Bison.
Now you can’t review Rock Band 4 without mentioning the trump card it has on its competitors - the “band” itself. By adding drums and a microphone to the kit, it makes the game a much more fun social experience.
The collective peripherals set it apart and as much as I have dreams of guitar solo stardom (I’m not bashing Guitar Hero here, I hope to pick that up too) It doesn’t compare to working in unison with the missus channeling Keith Moon on drums - albeit somewhat more aggressively - with myself taking control of the axe upfront. Like a Cockney White Stripes if you will.
Rope in willing friends and your living room quickly transforms into Wembley Arena, becoming so immersed within the game that you find yourself demanding only blue M&M’s and wearing sunglasses indoors.
But what has Rock Band added to this new incarnation? How have they harnessed the powerful cutting edge next-gen technologies and used them to their full potential?
...well to be frank, they haven’t.
The one new addition to the gameplay is guitar freestyle solos. At predetermined moments during the song all notes disappear from your screen and the highway is yours to shred away. It’s at this point you lift up the fret and give it your best Slash impersonation, with the output realistically sounding as though you’d know what you’re doing if ever clutching the real thing.
The feeling of having full "artistic freedom" is a refreshing addition, although everything else in Rock Band 4 feels somewhat stripped back.
The create a character menu has only two body shape options and just a handful of face types. There’s no online co-op or versus mode at launch and no sign of any keyboards this time around. A backwards step in some eyes but to me this is quite favourable.
There's less chaff to bog down the core gameplay which is just as good - if not better - than it has ever been. You still have the amazing soundtrack of tunes you’ll recognise alongside ear worms that'll slowly make their way to your favourites on Spotify.
You can also export almost all (I hear Harmonix are working on getting all) previously purchased songs over to Rock Band 4, extending the already impressive track list. Surely it’s affirmative that the songs should take precedent over character options in a music game anyway?
What does remain the same is the intuitive and sturdy instruments by Mad Catz. The hardware missed any call for an unnecessary make over - but hey, if it’s not broke why fix it?
The tour mode is the arch of the game with your band starting on the bottom run of the music industry ladder. You pay your dues with small gigs initially - building up to longer set-lists & a better wage, whilst making decisions on transport, stylists, managers, sponsorship deals etc…
The game has it’s tongue firmly in it’s cheek with tidbits of fun comedic scenes between the gameplay. Your decisions throughout provide a variation of outcomes and bonuses, which makes a second and third play through a necessity.
In summary Rock Band 4 has the number in the title for a reason - it’s a sequel. Not a reinvention of the brand or a reboot but a sequel fair and true. Harmonix know the genre well and haven't tampered with a winning formula too much. They've taken out the dead weight (sorry keyboards) & have kept it about the music and its USP: the band and multiple user capabilities - to which it does extremely well.
So should you buy it?
I’m going to avoiding the generic out-of-ten or percentage route. Quite simply: do you buy it full price, wait for a price drop or leave it all together?
On this occasion I’m inclined to say pick it up now and if budget allows definitely go all out for the full band in a box.
However the more affordable option of the game and guitar pack will equally keep you strumming happily for many hours.