Thursday, March 5, 2015

Rock Band 4 is real and I couldn't be any happier

It's (officially) happening.  A franchise I loved so dearly throughout my high school years is returning and I honestly couldn't be more excited.  Of course, with every new game comes new information about how the game will work.  There are a few surprises when comparing Rock Band 4 to its predecessor, Rock Band 3, and I want to go over these changes with my opinions.  I'm going to refer points from the recently released Q&A for Rock Band 4 from Harmonix.

No Wii U Support

As much as I would love Wii U support, Harmonix has decided to stick to the PS4 and Xbox One for RB4.  As I pointed out in my previous post, this is probably a better move for them.  They mention that the larger RB audience is on the PlayStation and Xbox franchises, and for the most part that's true.  Looking at music store support, Xbox has had more releases with the Rock Band Network debuting first on the Xbox 360, followed by PS3, but no Wii Rock Band Network.  The Wii's music also lagged behind as the original Rock Band for Wii didn't have an online music store to purchase DLC from.  Wii users were relegated to buying physical track packs at stores to play additional music for Rock Band 1.  Is that to say there may be a Rock Band 4 for Wii U after the initial release?  Who knows, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

DLC will work, for free

Hooray!  The DLC you bought years ago on your previous console will be ported over for free, as long as you're on the same family of systems (PS3->PS4, Xbox 360 -> Xbox One).  I'm glad they're putting in the effort to bring old songs forward to the new platforms, and at no charge to us.  While it's unfortunate that cross platform DLC isn't going to work due to "DLC ownership... managed by the 1st parties", it's not surprising.

Back to the roots; No Keys, No Pro Guitar/Bass

So, instead of continuing to expand on instrument types and ways to play, Rock Band 4 is going to go back to the basics.  Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vocals.  No Keys.  No Pro Guitar & Bass. A surprising move, but one that I think makes sense.  While there will still be Pro Drums (confirmed) and Harmonies (I assume), Pro Guitar/Bass and Keys were two features that I believe were underutilized in Rock Band 3.

Keys was an addition that worked well when it was present. That's also its setback.  Not every song had keys support.  20/83 songs in the Rock Band 3 on-disc soundtrack had no keyboard track.  Some keyboard tracks were hacked in, being charted instruments like trumpets or whatnot.  The Keys weren't given as much love as the other instruments, and it shows throughout the DLC library, where many songs released during the Rock Band 3 era don't have keys support.  Most of the time, it didn't feel like an essential instrument to the plastic band, but rather like underutilized support.

Pro Guitar/Bass was also a great feature when it was present, but it was too hard for users to get into.  In order to play Pro Guitar/Bass, you had to purchase either the Fender Mustang Pro Controller, or the Squier Stratocaster for Rock Band 3.   With the Fender Mustang Pro, the problem was that it wasn't a real guitar, and while I'm sure the controller itself was a good mock up of one, it still isn't the real thing.  With the Squier Strat, it saw a very limited release.  I never saw one available in Canadian retailers, and there weren't very many manufactured. Along with the controller issues, many DLC songs didn't have Pro Guitar/Bass support.  In general, with a simple track pack of 3 songs, only 1/3 songs have Pro Guitar/Bass support.  Not a lot.  It's obviously very time consuming to chart real guitar/bass compared to five coloured notes.

In short, both Keys and Pro Guitar/Bass were just too much of a hassle to deal with for the users and it ultimately fell apart.  That being said, Pro Full Band FCs are still amazing to watch.

Harmonix hasn't revealed anything about soundtrack or features of Rock Band 4 as of yet, but I'm excited to see what they have to unveil in the future.  I guess I need to find a way to get a PS4 now.  Oh, and I have one request;


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