A couple of months ago I pre-ordered the game’s guitar bundle and for a whopping $129.00 before tax it didn’t disappoint. Granted, some people will complain that the music isn’t to their liking, and unless your are a rock and blues aficionado you may not recognize some of the indie band and artists, but after playing 18 straight songs and slowly learning the lyrics, I admit I fell in love with the catalog. (I haven’t tried the GameStop pre-order song pack. Most of the songs and artists on it are new to me.)
Opening the box was a pain, but only because I didn’t want to rip it apart, which I ended up doing anyways. The new wireless guitar requires 2 AA batteries, is identical to the old Stratocaster in size, and has the pertinent PS4 options button and compatibility. To operate optimally, the game has a feature to calibrate the controller with the TV and sound system, automatically unlocking a trophy for completing this task. The only original Rock Band instrument we have tested is the USB microphone and it works with the software but I have a few issues synchronizing it with the cowbell notes. After a few songs, I gave up on trying to hit the notes and take the score penalty.
To my surprise, the game play has been updated to include the ability to do your own solos on the instruments and allows you to freestyle lyrics in hard or expert mode. In most cases, the game analyzes your vocal range and if you perform within the parameters on the screen it will grant you points for improvising. There is also the ability to connect up to three microphones and play in harmony mode, a featured introduces in Rock Band: Green Day. Another cool thing is that players can choose which song to play next, via a voting system, and if there is a tie the machine selects from the approved choices. During the Career or Tour mode, you can vote for the set list songs and eventually, when you select the Tour Bus, you can choose your own set lists. Completing the sets for each venue unlocks cash and fans that can be used to purchase items and unlock showcases, and in some cases the audience will ask for requests or an encore. Completing the requests and encores result in earning trophies and a little street creed. We encountered the encore request when we decided to quit the game during our first “Playing a Show” session and later when we were touring in career mode. Sadly, the Endless Set List challenges were replaced by Freestyle and Quickplay achievements, but for those who didn’t like these it is a win. For a list of achievements click here.
What impressed me the most was the ability to use my own profile when I played on my husband’s side of the PS4. An achievement would unlock based on our efforts or just mine and it would get logged under each individual profile. If I made progress towards and achievement and he joined me later, he would get credit when the conditions for the achievement were met (in Career mode, the moment he played outside the city or continent, even if he didn’t play the set lists to progress through the game, he would get the trophy to pop up.) This is immensely important to us since we can play together with all the people registered on the console and they all earn credit separately, a major win for siblings and people sharing a console.
As always, the game is full of humor, gags and extravagant costumes. We laughed when we read the comments made by our manager and stylist, and later the remarks made about our van or our band identity. I appreciate the thought that went into designing characters and tour experiences that make you feel like a true band out on the road without all the inconveniences the life presents. Every time you secure a better vehicle or cooler and grander venues your crew enjoys all the perks of becoming superstars, and with the new instrument controls and solo options you start to believe you could become a musical virtuoso too.
Harmonix promised, and inserted into the game, the ability to upload your previously purchased music catalogs into the new game but I couldn’t get it to work. Magically, as I was about to hit the publish button on the article, the PSN Store link through the game worked and we were able to click download on all the previous songs we had purchased. Yay! We checked a few minutes later and the downloads didn’t go through. 😦 Turns out MrEnginerd hadn’t authorized my PS4 as his primary account. (As of 10/11 at 5:00pm it works!) I know Mad Catz and Harmonix are still working on making the old instruments and songs work with the new programming and it may take a while before they succeed. Expect to hear more by November.
Overall, I highly recommend this game based on the co-op achievement credit functions and on the fact that you can have 4 band members plus two back up singers in your crew. It takes karaoke to a whole other level and allows for families to enjoy some gaming fun without having to be expert gamers. The price for the new bundle is high especially since you can get generic “knock off” guitars later on for about $25-$30, and there is an option to purchase the game on its own for $60. The drum kit bundle cost $250 which was a lot more than I was willing to pay for the guitar, drums and mic; I still have my old set taking up space in my family room. This will make for an excellent holiday present and if you get it earlier, you can turn it into an awesome Thanksgiving family tradition.
Rock on! \m/