Delivering a solid encore.
When Harmonix announced that Rock Band 4 was finally becoming the platform the series had always strived to be, I had my doubts. We had heard this promise before, and sequel after sequel continued last generation. With Rock Band 4 though, the developer seems to be sticking to their guns, and instead of releasing Rock Band 5, their latest outing is actually an expansion to what already exists.
Harmonix has made several quality of life improvements to the core game over the past year, but Rock Band Rivals throws the most notable changes it has seen to date. What should be noted is that instead of focusing on new tracks, this expansion is really all about the upgrades. In fact the only way to get some new tunes to play in Rivals was to pre-order the expansion itself.
MSRP: $29.99 (expansion only), $59.99 (bundle with Rock Band 4)
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
The biggest addition is the new Rivals mode. This is now front and center in the entire Rock Band 4 experience. Players can join crews of up to 10 people, and accumulate score to take down other crews. Everything players do in Rock Band 4 attributes to their crew score, including weekly spotlight songs, and even a progression system, because every game needs an XP meter now. Individual instrument performances and leader boards galore, this mode is the heart of this expansion.
For those that don’t care as much about leader boards and besting their friends, Rivals also has something in the form of a new single player mode called Rockudrama. Think of a VH1 Behind the Music series and you get the idea. This mode lets players take part in three-song gigs, followed by live action video of people who knew your band. It is novel, and oftentimes even funny, and gives another reason to pick up the game for solo players.
The Rivals impact can be felt through the entire game though, including the Rockudrama. Players can wage earnings on their performance before each song. As I said there are a lot of nice touches in this expansion. The new sorting options for my song library are also appreciated. I have nearly 400 songs to shuffle through, and the original Rock Band 4 made that much more complicated than it needed to be.
Rock Band Rivals also introduces new instruments from new partner PDP, but sadly for this review we were not given access to them. They look slick, and I would be super happy if they brought back the clicking on the guitar, yes I hate the silent one on the current Rock Band 4 controller.
Rock Band Rivals is tailored for the fans that care about competition, which is likely the biggest install base for the plastic instrument game. It is also worth noting that online play is coming, but as of the time of this review, it was not available to test out. Harmonix has made good with making Rock Band 4 a platform, and with these updates it will also keep me coming back to rock out. Rock Band games are a time sink with me when I get back into them, and fresh content will always do just that.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.