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Rock Band 4

is a 2015 music video game developed by Harmonix. read more

Developers Harmonix...
Status: Released
Release: 06-Oct-2015

is a 2015 music video game developed by Harmonix.

Rock Band 4 allows players to simulate the playing of music across many different decades and genres using instrument controllers that mimic playing lead and bass guitar, drums, and vocals. As the fourth main installment in the Rock Band franchise, it was released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on October 6, 2015. Mad Catz, who also developed new instrument controllers for the game, marketed and distributed the title worldwide. The game shipped with more than sixty licensed songs; additional songs are available as downloadable content, which includes a library of over 2000 existing songs from prior installments.

Rock Band 4 represented Harmonix's return to the franchise after an almost three-year hiatus, following the diminishing popularity of the rhythm game market that started in 2009. Announced on March 5, 2015, Rock Band 4 refocuses on the core gameplay of the franchise, reducing the emphasis on musical instruction that was employed by its predecessor, Rock Band 3, while emphasizing the game's social interactions, as well as new features enabling players to incorporate improvisation into their performance—such as "freestyle solos" on guitar, and "freeform melodies" on multi-part vocals.

Rock Band 4 offers backwards compatibility with content and hardware from previous versions of Rock Band within the same console family; wireless guitar and drum controllers from PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Rock Band can be used on the PS4 and Xbox One versions (with PS4 using an existing USB dongle, and Xbox One requiring a newly-produced USB dongle), and DLC songs purchased on prior installments on PS3 and Xbox 360 can be re-downloaded at no extra charge on PS4 and Xbox One in a ported form that supports the game's features. Harmonix plans to release free and paid DLC that will add new features and content to the game over time, in lieu of releasing yearly installments.

Critical reception to Rock Band 4 on-launch was positive, with reviews praising the game for not significantly deviating from the gameplay mechanics of prior installments, as well as the higher degree of creative freedom offered by the Freestyle Solos feature, and its backwards compatibility with previously-released content for the Rock Band franchise. The soundtrack of Rock Band 4 was characterized as being weaker than that of previous installments due to its use of lesser-known songs and artists, while the game was also panned for removing features present in previous versions, such as online multiplayer and practice modes.

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The gameplay of Rock Band 4 follows that from previous games in the series: the player or group of players use special instrument-based controllers or microphones to mimic playing the instruments by following scrolling cues on screen and attempt to play through a song and score points. Players score points for successfully hitting notes, earning a scoring multiplier for hitting a continuous series of notes without mistakes, while failure to hit the right notes can penalize the players' performance and could end the song prematurely. During the song, certain phrases are marked with specially colored notes, which if played correctly, fills the player's Overdrive meter. Once sufficiently filled, the player is able to trigger "Overdrive" through various means depending on instrument, which doubles their scoring multiplier as well as boosting the band's overall performance meter. Players are rated using a five-star system based on their score, and possibly earning a gold star rating if playing on Expert difficult with a high score.

At Rock Band 4 release, the game supported three main modes. Quickplay allows the players to select any song to play that is on disc or in the downloadable content library of songs. Players can also engage in Shows which are a series of songs broken up into a number of sets. Some songs in these Shows are predetermined, but others are left to be voted on during a short period between songs by the band members; individual members also have the opportunity to select a song from a limited list during periods of the current song when their musical part is inactive. The available options are based on what songs the collective band members have in their library and the band's chosen theme, and voting options may include specific songs (including one selected mid-song), or broad classifications such as by genre type, release year, or song length. To aid in the cooperative nature of the game, any scoring multipliers and remaining Overdrive are carried over between songs in Gig lists as well as between sets in the Career mode.

The main mode for Rock Band 4 is a Band Tour career mode which IGN described as a role-playing game. Within the narrative of the Band Tour, the players' band starts off as a small town group with a handful of fans. En route to becoming more popular and successful, the players are tasked with the option of what types of gigs they want their band to play, with various risks and rewards that influence: how many fans the group attains per geographic region; what future gigs they will have available; and how much in-game money they earn (which can be spent customizing their band's clothes and instruments). While there are a number of possible sets that the band can select from with more unlocked as the players progresses in the game, the primary means of advancing the band's narrative is through multi-part Tours which consist of 3 to 6 different shows to be played in order. At the start of each of these Tours, the players will have two options that will affect what type of song sets they will see on the tour and the benefits of completing each set and the overall Tour. For example, players are able to have their band take a corporate-sponsored gig, which will earn the band a large amount of in-game money, but may impact their band's reputation and limit future venues, while taking on smaller shows will not produce as much money, but increase the band's renown and open more possible gigs. Subsequent Tours may require the players to earn more stars from other, single Sets that are available, before that tour is available.

Sets during Band Tours may feature pre-determined song lists or song lists decided by the band similar to the main Sets mode, with available songs limited to certain criteria as overall band difficulty or genre type. Players may also be presented with the option to swap out a song for a crowd-requested one, or to also play an encore song in the same manner as with Sets. The band is not only rated on their general performance based on the five star rating, but as well as the players' stage presence impact the rewards from these gigs, which are based on how well the band performs in unison, such as hitting "Overdrive" together, drummers completing drum fills, and vocalists improvising. Taking crowd requests and completing encores also boosts this stage presence. These will increase the rewards in terms of fans and money at the end of a successful set.

With Freestyle solos, the guitar player (rightmost track) can improvise their solo, using guides provided by the game, here showing the transition from a chord-heavy to single-note riffs (pre-release visuals shown).

Rock Band 4 now has the use of Freestyle Guitar Solos, an optional feature. If this feature is disabled, guitar solos in songs are presented as they were in previous Rock Band games with more of the same note-matching aspects in beat with the original song's solo; the player scores as they normally do as during regular song sections, with an added scoring bonus based on the percentage of the solo notes hit correctly. When this feature is enabled, instead of the predefined solo, the game shows suggestions for the solo style to emulate at that time, such as single notes or longer licks, chords, or tremolos, using different patterns to highlight the guitar player's on-screen track. The track markings also indicate which set of fret keys on the instrument control to use, which determine the pitch of the notes. Players cannot fail these freestyle sections, but they are scored on how well they hit the suggested style during the segment, and they can retain their scoring multiplier by performing the proper playing style on each section of the solo. The game includes tutorials to help explain these mechanics to players. Further, the audio feedback from these solos has been refined as to make whatever the player performs stay consistent and in-tune with the other active and backing instruments.

Drums players for Rock Band 4 are able to count down to start the song as often done by real-life bands. Rock Band 4 will change how the drummer can trigger overdrive: unlike past titles, where the drummer would gain a free-form section and then strike a specific pad to activate overdrive, which Harmonix found would throw some players off, Rock Band 4 presents one of a random number of pre-created drum fills that fit the timing of the song when the drummer player has Overdrive available. This feature is backwards compatible with all previous songs in the Rock Band library.

Vocal players are able to use two- or three-part harmonies as previously used in The Beatles: Rock Band and Rock Band 3, and through contributions from the Rock Band fan community, existing Rock Band songs that feature vocal harmonies but originally released for the series without harmony support, is updated to include harmonies for free. Higher difficulty settings for vocals allow for "freeform melodies" where as long as the vocalist is in tune, they can improvise to a degree to add their personal touch to a song. This improvisation is scored separately from the in-tune scoring, thus presenting an additional challenge for this advanced mode.

As with previous Rock Band titles, the players has the ability to create custom avatars for their band members within the game, which are displayed in the background visuals while playing through a song. The avatars have several custom aspects such as hair styling, make-up, clothing, and instruments. In-game money can be used to purchase more customization options, while some come as rewards for completing certain parts of the game. Rock Band 4 ships with more pre-made characters to allow players to get into the game faster, and atop more options from previous games, removes restrictions on gender-fixed items; for example, mustaches and beards were only an option for male characters in previous games.

In an interview with Vice in June 2015, Sussman stated that the game would not ship with support for online play, as surveys taken prior to release, and their own tracking, showed that only about 10% of previous Rock Band players used the online feature, and thus focused on building out the local play features first for release. Sussman commented that it may be released as part of future patches to the title. However, there were additional online features that they had available at launch.


Rock Band 4 is designed by Harmonix as a platform title which can be updated periodically, as opposed to released new disc-based version. These updates are anticipated to include bug fixes and new gameplay features to the base game.

The first major update released on December 8, 2015 includes addition of "variable breakneck speed" which allows players to change the rate of scrolling notes on screen, and an auto bass-kick option that will remove the need for drum players to hit the bass pedal and focus only on the drum pad notes. "Brutal mode" is a challenge mode where, as the player continues doing well on a song, the notes on the scrolling highway will disappear some time after they appear on it, but will still need to be played on time; the speed at which they disappear is based on how well the player is playing, and by clearing the song, the player earns "Crimson Stars".A new "Score Challenge" gameplay mode will allow players to track what their friends are playing and then asynchronously challenge their scores on the same song, include light-hearted taunts should they win. The update will include additional clothing and instruments for the in-game characters, including Vault suits as part of a promotional tie-in in Bethesda's Fallout 4.

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Rhythm games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero had been widely popular during 2005 to 2008, but due to oversaturation of the market and the onset of the 2009 recession, the rhythm genre suffered major setbacks, and the genre's popularity had quickly waned. Harmonix had released Rock Band 3 in 2010, and while well received by critics and fans, had only an estimated one million retail sales, lagging its dancing game, Dance Central, released during the same period. Harmonix would continue to support Rock Band 3 through 2013 with additional content patches and over 280 consecutive weeks of new songs provided as downloadable content (DLC), as well as producing Rock Band Blitz, an arcade-like rhythm game that did not require instrument controllers, but used existing music libraries. In April 2013, Harmonix released its last regular DLC, stating that they were focusing on other projects. The company noted that they would look to reintroduce Rock Band in the future, when they felt the time was right to bring back the game.

Development of Rock Band 4 began in the last quarter of 2014. This followed from several factors. Harmonix's former CEO and current creative director Alex Rigopulos explained that the studio had awaited both a "critical mass" of adoption for the next-generation consoles, and a "clear and compelling creative vision" for the game before beginning work on a successor—prompting the franchise's hiatus. Rigopulos said that internally if they were going to bring back Rock Band band, they wanted to "really make the best game that we had ever made; that we had a vision for what Rock Band 4 was going to be, that made it worth making, really". A clear vision of the goals for the game came about more than a year prior to the game's release. Harmonix's Greg LoPiccolo added that they did not want to try to introduceRock Band 4 during the new consoles' first year where they would have to compete with major franchises. Funding for development was aided by $15 million in investments from Spark Capital and Foundary Group, not only to support Rock Band 4 but the remake of Harmonix' Amplitude and future projects involving virtual reality.

Following the aggressive focus on musical instruction within Rock Band 3, Rock Band 4 instead puts a larger focus on the franchise's core gameplay, multiplayer, and the overall feeling of the experience; Rigopulos felt that the franchise had become too "sprawling" in functionality, and that "there is an existing gameplay core that is very powerful and very fun, and we don't want to tamper with that core. At the same time, we need to bring something new to the experience." Owing to this renewed focus, the Pro Guitar and piano keyboard modes were dropped from the game. Rigopulos stated that Ubisoft's competing Rocksmith series "is serving the audience that wants actual guitar instrumental instruction very well." The new Freestyle Guitar Solo feature was something that Harmonix had built a prototype for in early 2014; at the time they did not have a clear concept of its use but found the mechanic to have potential and built up parts of Rock Band 4 around it. Rigopulos also noted that they were not trying to develop Rock Band 4 with competition from Guitar Hero Live in mind; that competition had caused the original over-saturation of the rhythm game market in 2009. With Rock Band 4, Harmonix' goal is a smaller but known fraction of the market of both old Rock Band players and new ones, such that meeting those numbers would make the game financially viable even if it does not outsell Guitar Hero Live. This goal also helps to manage the costs of the game as they do not have to manufacture as many instrument sets as they had done previously.

Harmonix developed a new game engine called Forge, also used for their remake of Amplitude, to take advantage of the upgraded hardware of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, allowing the game to run at 1080p at 60 frames per second; product manager Eric Pope stated that the engine included better lighting, character models, and animation. The game was not released for the Wii U or the personal computer market, with product manager Daniel Sussman stating that two issues that would limit a personal computer version is existing music availability, and the lack of security for the specific music tracks which the PlayStation and Xbox consoles already possess. Sussman stated that either platform could be possible in the future if there is market demand, but their present focus was the safest route to bringing Rock Band to mass market through the major console platforms.

On January 13, 2015, Harmonix announced three new DLC songs, the first in nearly 21 months. The sudden release, along with a survey posted by Harmonix a few days later, indicated the possibility that the studio was planning to develop a new Rock Band game for eighth generation consoles. On March 5, 2015, Harmonix officially announced Rock Band 4.

Rock Band 4 is expected to be the only retail release of the franchise for the current generation of consoles; Rigopulos called the multiple-release cycle "taxing" on both the studio and consumers, and instead sees the game as a platform which they can continuously improve over the life of the title without excessive work. In August 2015, Harmonix stated that they already have plans for post-release patches, both free and paid, to add new gameplay functionality to expand the Rock Band 4title, with plans to release a free patch in December 2015 to include an option for "Variable Breakneck Speed", which affects the rate at which notes scroll on the screen, among other features.

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Mad Catz handled the global production, sales, and promotion of the retail game, while Harmonix handled the digital content and sales. Mad Catz developed updated guitar and drum controllers for Rock Band 4; the company noted that while it did not want to "reinvent the wheel", the controllers still featured technical improvements, such as reduced wireless latency and a more sensitive tilt sensor on the guitar. Guitars feature switches that have much longer lifetimes compared to previous controllers, while the drum controller included reinforced pads to prevent damage to the sensor, and includes a double-bass kick setup out of the box. The drum kit can be expanded with an optional set of three hit-sensitive pads that act as cymbals, which allow the player to use the game's "Pro Drum" mode as introduced in Rock Band 3; in this mode, certain gems will be marked as cymbal hits instead of drum hits, requiring the player to make that distinction to score points. The microphone had also been redesigned, and is able to sample at a higher rate to help with the vocal improvisation sections. At PAX East, a special Penny Arcade-themed guitar with artwork of Gabe was made available as a limited edition exclusive.

Harmonix stated that it had "aggressively" worked with console manufacturers on means to allow guitar and drum controllers from the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Rock Band to be forward compatible with Rock Band 4; Harmonix and Mad Catz both agreed that while technically difficult to complete, this compatibility was necessary to support the Rock Band community. Rock Band 4 on PlayStation 4 natively supports PlayStation 3 Rock Band instruments by means of the USBdongle that they require to operate. Achieving backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 instruments was more difficult, as they had used the console's native wireless controller capabilities instead, which had changed between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. On Xbox One, standalone copies of Rock Band 4 are bundled with a "Legacy Adapter" to allow use of wireless Xbox 360 instrument controllers, including those developed to support Guitar Hero games. Due to the inclusion of this hardware, the retail price of Rock Band 4 on Xbox One was increased by US$20. The Adapter was developed by Mad Catz by experimenting with all legacy Xbox 360 controllers they wanted to support and verifying what inputs they sent via wireless connection. They also worked with a former Microsoft employee that had experience with the Xbox 360's wireless features for additional insight.

Existing USB microphones remain compatible with Rock Band 4. Harmonix was also working to get backwards compatibility for the Stage Kit, an add-on hardware unit for Xbox 360 owners that allowed for a smoke machine and light show display in time with the song.

Owing to the game's focus on core gameplay, and concerns that consumers may be unwilling to buy additional hardware for specific games early in a console generation's lifecycle, Rock Band 4 did not feature additional accessories. At retail, the game is available in a band bundle, with a guitar, drum, and microphone, and a guitar-only bundle.


Rock Band 4 ships with 65 songs on disc, spanning from the 1960s to the 2010s. The studio also worked to ensure that as much of its existing library of downloadable songs would be compatible with the game upon its release as possible; 1,500 songs were available at launch. Nearly all existing official Rock Band DLC is compatible with Rock Band 4 within the same console family (i.e. PlayStation 4 can only import songs purchased on PlayStation 3, and Xbox One can only import songs purchased on Xbox 360). Previous disc exports from the previous disc-based games in the series (excluding The Beatles: Rock Band), the Track Packs, and from Rock Band Blitz will eventually be available for players, as long as they have previously performed the disc export; there will be no option to export these songs into Rock Band 4. Rock Band 3 on-disc songs are expected to be exportable into Rock Band 4 in December 2015. "If you bought a Rock Band song, it should be yours in Rock Band 4," said Sussman. "Everything that you have already exported will come over." Harmonix has stated they will explore the logistics of bringing songs created by the Rock Band Network into Rock Band 4 after completing the transition of all official DLC, packs, and disc exports. In most cases, existing songs will be updated to use both Freestyle Guitar and Vocals within Rock Band 4.

Harmonix expects to release more DLC, though the schedule for this is not yet established. According to Rigopulos, while the previous weekly schedule worked well for them, they will experiment with different release mechanisms and pricing structures. In addition to "Panama", more tracks by the band Van Halen are expected to be released as DLC, as well as additional U2 songs.

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Rock Band 4 received positive reviews from critics, who judged that the game does not significantly deviate from its past, otherwise strong, iterations, but considered the soundtrack to be weaker than previous games. Review aggregation websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Xbox One version 79.64% based on 22 reviews and 80/100 based on 26 reviews and the PlayStation 4 version 77.98% based on 29 reviews and 78/100 based on 47 reviews.

IGN praised Rock Band 4 for remaining "every bit the magical cooperative gaming experience the series has always been", with a particular focus on its continuity in gameplay with previous installments, and its "party-friendly" improvements to managing multiplayer play. The Freestyle Solos feature was also praised for allowing players more creative freedom in their performance. The game's on-disc soundtrack was considered "weaker" than previous installments, describing it as primarily featuring "B-list" musicians, lesser-known songs by notable acts (such as Rush) that had not yet been featured in Rock Band, and lacking a number of major acts that had historically made appearances in the franchise. However, it was acknowledged that the game's backwards compatibility with songs purchased for previous versions provided a "massive incentive" for players with pre-existing libraries. The Tour mode was praised for its unpredictability and humor, although noting that it was more fun with a larger library of songs beyond those included with the game.

GameSpot noted that the Freestyle Solos "genuinely enhance[d] the core experience", explaining that players "can actually create some really cool sounding stuff. Like, surprisingly cool. And it's weirdly addictive. It's not the same adrenaline-fueled, fist-pumping thrill of nailing every note in a really technical section, but there is an unexpected sense of discovery and reward". Although praising Rock Band 4 for maintaining the "spirit" of prior installments, it was panned for not distinguishing itself enough from them, such as describing the career mode as being an iteration of a structure already used in previous music games (including Rock Band 2). Regressions were also noted, such as a lack of practice modes beyond Freestyle Solo tutorials, the shallowness of character customization, and the removal of online multiplayer. The soundtrack was also described as "underwhelming", albeit acknowledging several "seriously inspired choices", such as The Protomen.

NPD Group reported that Rock Band 4 was the tenth best selling game for October 2015 based on units, while accounting for price, was the fourth best selling game.

Shortly following the game's release, it was discovered that some of Harmonix' employees has submitted very positive customers reviews as anonymous users for the game at Harmonix stated that they amended their employee policy to require them to identify their employment at Harmonix as part of such reviews or to remove them, and stated the posted reviews were "inappropriate actions". Separately, PlayStation 4 users of Rock Band 4 in Europe were unable to download some of their previously purchased DLC from the PlayStation Store, at least four weeks after the game's launch. Mad Catz stated that the issue stemmed from technical and licensing difficulties between the various countries served by the European PlayStation Store. Harmonix affirmed there were issues with more than 400 existing songs due to difficulties with licensing between them and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe but that they expect to have these available by early December 2015.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Rock Band 4, which isreleased under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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