Harmonix have finally bit the bullet and parted company with their financially stricken hardware partners, Mad Catz. The pair had recently launched the new wave of the Rock Band franchise, Rock Band 4, but were beset with reported harware stock shortages at launch.
Announced yesterday, Harmonix have signed a new hardware partnership agreement with accessory maker, Performance Design Products, or PDP for short. PDP will develop and produce hardware for all future Rock Band 4 releases, including a major feature update coming to the title this autumn.
Harmonix CEO, Steve Janiak;
As we look to fully achieve our goal of creating this console generation’s category-defining music gaming platform, we need to partner with a truly world-class manufacturer that can operate at the scale Rock Band requires. PDP has a well-deserved reputation for innovation, customer satisfaction and quality. They have the logistical and technical expertise to support Harmonix’s ambitious plans for the future of Rock Band, with new hardware alongside a major Rock Band 4 feature update coming this Fall.
Rock Band 4 has already released five free title updates, and I’m hoping, nay expecting, that more gaming accessories for the title will become available to those of us still relying on their 360 controllers for plastic guitar-strumming fun.
When you think of the Rock Band franchise, great rock DLC springs to mind. Now, I’m not normally one to be disappointed with Harmonix’s choice of artist for DLC, variety after all, is the spice of life. Today’s DLC however, is personally an anticlimax.
Costing £1.69 each from the Store, Rock Band 4 has today received the following DLC release:
Daft Punk ft Pharrel Williams – Get Lucky
Kelly Clarkson – Heartbeat Song
Outkast – Hey Ya!
Now, obviously, this adds to Rock Band 4’s diverse array of artists, and those of us who enjoy the more extreme side of music will be pleased to learn that further tracks will be released throughout the month from the likes of:
Zac Brown Bread
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
J. Geils Band
Five Finger Death Punch
In addition to these, more details have been revealed about the February title update for the game, also released today. This will address or add the following issues and features:
Scores earned during Play a Show mode now post to the leaderboards.
New Rock Shop items include Raz’s helmet from Double Fine’s Psychonauts as well as Whispering Rock t-shirt.
Ends several scoring exploits, including the Band Overdrive issue.
Implements several fixes that improve scoring issues with the Freestyle Guitar Sole system.
Audio mix adjustments which result in a more ‘full’ and ‘live’ mix, as well as several minor bug updates.
Harmonix have also reset the leaderboard so that everyone starts rocking on a level playing field.
Here’s the trailer for the more pop-based DLC that’s out for Rock Band 4 today.
It’s about that time again. Time for a Grunge revival. The genre that peaked in the ’90s holds a special place in my memories and was formative in my musical taste development. Harmonix have been busy, looking at the best tracks they’ve yet to release from three of the Grunge scene’s best-loved bands. They’ve come up with three corkers too.
Releasing on the 19th of January are:
Soundgarden – My Wave
Stone Temple Pilots – Wicked Garden
Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike
From these three, my personal favourite would have to be Stone Temple Pilots. The recently departed Scott Weiland’s vocals are haunting in this career-defining track. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell belts out My Wave from the band’s massively popular album, Superunknown. This release is rounded off with Grunge supergroup Temple of the Dog’s Hunger Strike. This track from 1991 features dual vocals from Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder in a track that promises to test even the best vocalists in the gaming world.
These tracks will cost £1.59/ $1.99 each when they become available on the 19th.
The year is coming to a close and so it’s time once again to take a look back at all the great games that have been released in 2015.
Every day up until the end of the year we’ll be revealing our top three games from a number of different categories, all the way up until the coveted Game of the Year reveal.
Next up is Music Game of the Year.
Third Place – Just Dance 2016
Just Dance 2016 is the most accessible version of the popular dance title so far, allowing you to use the Kinect or a smartphone to track your dance moves. It certainly made for an inclusive experience, and with excellent modes, a focus on fun, and impressive movement tracking, grooving around your living room has seldom been so fun.
Dave Moran said in his review:
Just Dance hits all the right moves again, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and doesn’t expect you too either. It’s bold, it’s bright and most importantly it’s fun
And that’s what we’re after from our rhythm games: fun.
This music category would have been severely limited if it wasn’t for these next two title reviving the plastic instrument strumming, and whilst Rock Band 4 doesn’t shake things up much, it does offer a hugely impressive rooster of songs to jam along with.
Phil Kowalski said in his review:
Let’s face it, the Rock Band title has oodles of playability. Even if you’ve got the rhythm of the average X-Factor contestant, you’ll find picking up a guitar and following the colours a pretty simple affair…
And this accessibility, tweaks to the career mode, and the absence of the title to make the heart grow fonder, all came together to make Rock Band 4 a Christmas number two in the charts.
An innovative and intuitive new button layout and FMV framing may not sound like enough to make a huge difference to how strumming along on a plastic guitar feels but turns out to be just what the genre needed to refresh it.
Dave Moran said in his review:
Freestyle Games have gone for a brave change to a system we were all very used to, having played every day for a week I can honestly say I’ll struggle to go back now. It feels more natural, some of the button combinations certainly feel like you are playing a real guitar.
And with GHTV adding another neat mode of constantly changing tracks to play, this latest Guitar Hero offering thrashed the competition.
Who’s been having fun in the lounge with Rock Band 4 then? Have you been finding it just a smidge too easy? Harmonix have decided that it’s time to melt some faces.
In the December title update for the game comes an all-new game mode for those of us who are brave (or stupid) enough to play on Expert. Brutal Mode gets added in a new sub-option on it’s own from Expert and promises to make the game tough, or as we call it in my lounge, impossible.
Brutal Mode will modify the note track, responding to how well you play. The better you are, the harder it will get. Master this shredding skill and you’ll earn some crimson stars as your badge of honour as well as some seriously aching fingers.
Brutal Mode will be available for single and multi-player, just in case you’ve gathered a whole band full of sadists to try to conquer this insane section.
To take full advantage of this super-fast mode, three new intense metal tracks are to be added to the Rock Band Music Store, priced at £1.59 / $1.99 each.
Between the Buried and Me – “The Coma Machine”
Opeth – “Heir Apparent”
Symphony X – “Nevermore”
The free December update for Rock Band 4, including Brutal Mode, will start to roll out on the 8th of December and also features some other gameplay tweaks, like auto-kick mode for you drummers, variable breakneck speed and improved instrument calibration.
Full details on the update can be found on the Harmonix blog here.
Have a giggle at the attempts to conquer Brutal Mode, below. Are you metal enough to try it?
It has only been out for a matter of weeks but Harmonix have already lined up a title update for Rock Band 4. In truth they were always planning on regular game updates to tweak the gameplay, but it’s good that the first update is coming so soon after release. These will hopefully refine what is already a good game into something unmissable.
In a blog post on the Harmonix website, the developer has detailed the list of new features and fixes that will be implemented when it goes live on the 8th of December.
Score Challenge feature
In-game notifications of leaderboard events
Taunt system to use on your friends
Improved instrument calibration (you will be required to re-calibrate)
Variable Breakneck Speed
Full Combo recognition and indicator
More song result details including leaderboard info and gameplay stats
New Rock Shop items
Auto-kick mode for drummers
DLC song and album packs on the Xbox Store are back and contain the right content
Leaderboards no longer mix players score and percentages from different performances
Game no longer crashes when the vocalist joins a song that has no vocal parts
Band History stats to list the correct number of Rock Shop items
Improvements to microphone lag
Improvements to tambourine hit sensitivity
Adjustments to track transparency
A welcome addition will be the Auto-kick feature. This will allow drummers to ignore the foot-pedal and concentrate on the drum pads themselves. Microphone lag tweaks and a full DLC catalogue availability will also be very welcome adjustments to the game itself.
There’ll also be a surprise new gameplay mode that Harmonix are keeping under their hats until closer to the 8th of December.
Keep your eyes peeled for that as we’ll bring that to you, as soon as we know it.
When I was a bit younger, I had aspirations. There were times when I thought I could be the best rock singer in the land. Then reality hit and what is arguably the country’s greatest undiscovered vocal talent had to get a proper job. From my point of view the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises reignited that inner rock star. It gave me the opportunity to be the Trent Reznor I always wanted to be.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a new Rock Band release. Indeed we’re talking back in October 2010. Taken into context, the Xbox One is very nearly two years old at the time of writing this review. Despite the longevity and endurance of music the game was starting to feel tired. Imagine my surprise and delight then, when Harmonix revealed a whole new Rock Band experience for the current generation of consoles. What can we add to a game that despite its quirkyness and niggly little issues, I kept coming back to?
Despite reported stock shortages, I managed to get my hands on the base game with legacy adapter. With my wife and I still clinging desperately to our Xbox 360 instruments, it simply made more sense. We’ll more than likely invest in new instruments at a later date though. What struck me initially with the adapter was the size. It’s an odd size. Not as big as I was expecting, yet at the same time, bigger than it needs to be. It’s obvious that a little design effort has gone into it. It all feels like an afterthought though. It’s very light, almost cheap feeling, but it does the job of connecting up to four legacy controllers so I can’t grumble too much.
I have to admit to a certain amount of excitement on throwing the game disc into the console for the first time. Rock Band was really the only game I’d clung on to my 360 for. We’d drag it down from upstairs every now and again for a drunken weekend of living the life of Dave Grohl. The game installs in a remarkably short amount of time and its not long before you’re ready to rock out. It’s at this point that I’d recommend the calibration. It makes sense not to have note-lag during the game and its really quite quick & easy to set up even if it does seem like it makes little sense while you do it.
Once calibration is out of the way it’s time to start rocking out. There’s the life on the road as a rock star to be had in the campaign or you could do as I did and get back to grips with the game by launching into one of the game’s on disc catalogue. While the on disc playlist has an impressive 65 tracks, its the availability of the near 1500 strong downloadable tracks from all except the Beatles version that sets this apart. The only tracks you’ll notice are absent are the old Pro Mode tracks. Pro Mode is happily gone. I hated it in truth and did my best to ignore it in previous versions of the game. The other thing you’ll notice is that all of your previously purchased content is available for you in Rock Band 4. This is a great feature and allows you much greater scope in the campaign as well as free play.
The campaign has also had a few tweaks. Gone are the single options on your road to fame and fortune. There are choices to be made and those choices will determine your rewards on your path. Some choices will gain you more followers while others will line your band’s coffers with cold hard cash. The aim is the nail as many songs in the set as you can and to earn the stars to allow you to progress in your career. Will you burst onto the scene and fade away to soon, or can you sustain your momentum and become a legend?
The big question here then, is have the gameplay mechanics changed significantly from what was frankly a pretty winning formula? The answer is happily, no. No it hasn’t. The basic premise of the game is the same as the previous three titles. You use the controller to time a strum as you match the colours on the screen with the corresponding colour on the controller fretboard. Pretty simple, right?
Not as simple as you might think.
The colours fly at you with the same gusto as the previous titles and with there being five coloured buttons, it can get pretty hairy and I lose count of the amount of ‘good guess, little finger’ moments that the game produces. There are some changes to the game though. My guess is that this is to counter the removal of the Pro Mode options present in Rock Band 3.
There is a new freestyle solo feature for the guitar players. This doesn’t so much throw notes at you as it allows you to let your inner Clapton loose. The playing board becomes a single colour. The actual colour determines which end of the fretboard you should be aiming for and solid lines denote the speed of your frantic soloist action. There is a freestyle vocal option too. This allows you to harmonise a lot more than the previous games. Indeed, if you play the vocals on the harder difficulties you can even change pitch without the game punishing you as you go along.
There are a few nice incidental audio touches that I noticed, particularly when I played through a headset. When you nail a chorus and your playing stock is high, the audience sings along with you. This feature is a little lost in the background when playing on a normal TV though and I feel that more could have been made of it.
Visually, the game has had more of a facelift than your average 80s ageing rock star. The crowd are quite a bit more realistic than the previous titles but the band themselves still appear to be styled on something from a Gorillaz video. Again, this feels like more of a missed opportunity.
It’s the gameplay that should get you hooked though. Fans of the previous incarnations should be lapping this up, even if the only official way to get a proper mic is to shell out on the full band set up. This won’t appeal to many however as it’ll either be a solo play through the rags to riches campaign or a full on party experience with your friends and copious amounts of alcohol.
Let’s face it, the Rock Band title has oodles of playability. Even if you’ve got the rhythm of the average X-Factor contestant, you’ll find picking up a guitar and following the colours a pretty simple affair, especially with the initial difficulty levels beings so simple. The vocal pickup is more forgiving and the introduction of the freestyle modes adds that little bit of personalisation to your favourite songs. You could do worse than picking up Rock Band 4 and if its that comforting hug of familiarity you need from your music game, this will be the title for you.
We bought our own copy of the game to bring you this review.
Harmonix announced today that a selection of classic 80s tracks will be coming to the Rock Band™ 4 Music Store this Tuesday, including music from Depeche Mode, INXS, and Naked Eyes.
Rock Band 4 players can celebrate the 80s with these classic tracks, starting with Depeche Mode’s “People Are People,” the group’s first breakout single in the United States, released in 1984. INXS’s 1985 Billboard Hot 100 hit “What You Need” will also be added to the Rock Band Music Store. Finally, Naked Eyes’ popular 1980s take on the catchy “Always Something There To Remind Me” rounds out this week’s Music Store releases.
Each track can be purchased individually.
Mad Catz Interactive, Inc. also announced today the start of pre-orders for the all-new Rock Band 4USBMicrophone, expected to ship in time for Christmas 2015.
Designed to enhance the Rock Band 4 gameplay that enables up to three vocalists to harmonize in-game, with the stage-grade Rock Band 4USB Microphone players can jump into music and join the fun. Boasting a wide dynamic range and high Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR), the Rock Band 4USB Microphone provides a studio like experience for at-home singing sessions. Upgraded frequency response provides distortion-free vocals, ensuring that your voice is heard with utmost clarity, and the extended-length 15 foot USB cable provides plenty of room to rock around your living room!
If you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll not know that Rock Band 4 is out today. Harmonix and Mad Catz have been feverishly working behind the scenes to get the game ready for a 6th of October launch, and I for one was looking forward to picking it up and rocking out again without having to dig my 360 out to play the franchise once more.
It seems that I might have to wait a little longer to get my plectrum-holding hands on the game as it’s been reported by Eurogamer that some customers of Amazon, GAME, GameStop and ShopTo are having much difficulty purchasing the physical version of the game with the Legacy Game Controller Adapter, the smart bit of kit that allows your Xbox 360 instruments to be used on the Xbox One.
There doesn’t appear to be an issue grabbing the game digitally, although you will have to have either the adapter or the new Xbox One instruments in order to play the game.
Mad Catz Global PR exec, Alex Verrey told Eurogamer;
We’re thrilled at the reception both critically and commercially to Rock Band 4 and have been overwhelmed with demand since pre-orders opened. For months now we have been saying again and again how important it was to pre-order if you wanted to receive hardware on day one. We did warn that demand would be high!
To reassure fans, the standalone version of the game on Xbox One, which comes with the Legacy Game Controller Adapter included, has absolutely NOT been delayed in any way. As promised, it is shipping today and those who pre-ordered will start recieving it from today. Retail will also be stocking it from today, with the game on shelves nationwide, however, as stated earlier, demand is high. More stock will be arriving throughout October and I would like to stress that the quickest way to ensure delivery is to order now via retailers.
We’re deeply sorry if any fans are having difficulty purchasing today, we’re doing everything we can to make sure more stock arrives very shortly.
So, while I might be off to weep gently over my Xbox 360 Rickenbacker, I might be able to start jamming out to Rock Band 4 sooner rather than later.
It’s not even out yet and Harmonix have already announced a feature update for the much-anticipated Rock Band 4.
Coming to Xbox One in December, the update will be free to all players and will feature that the musically-inclined community have requested, “Variable Breakneck Speed”. This will allow players to control the note scrolling speeds for each track independently.
Steve Janiak, CEO of Harmonix;
With the core game already shipping to retailers for an October 6th launch, we’re excited to start looking at the future of Rock Band for our fans. We already have a team hard at work building new features for the platform, some based on player feedback, along with some surprises, including a new mode that changes gameplay in a really significant way that we think people are going to love.
Product Manager, Daniel Sussman adds;
We’ve said that we’re viewing Rock Band 4 as a platform that we will build on over time and this first feature update is just the beginning; we can’t wait to share more details after launch.
You can start melting faces with Rock Band 4 from the 6th of October.