Review: Rock Band Rivals (DLC)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Rock Band Rivals
Format: Blu-ray Disc Bundle / PSN (1.8 GB)
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Harmonix Music Systems
Developer: Harmonix Music Systems
Original MSRP:

  • $29.99 Digital download
  • $89.99 Wireless Fender Jaguar Bundle
  • $199.99 Band Kit

ESRB Rating: T
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Review of the Original Game:

Gameplay:
Rock Band Rivals is the first expansion to Rock Band 4 and it makes some smart changes to the platform, although parts of it are underwhelming. One of the first changes that caught my eye is the experience system.

As you play songs in your library you gain levels. While this really does not effect anything in the grand scheme of things, there is the bragging aspect of having a Level “X” Drummer in Rock Band.

Crews are introduced here which will allow you to join either a group of friends or random players. As a Crew you participate against other Crews that have formed and compete in the weekly challenge.

You cannot participate in the weekly challenges without joining a Crew, which is a disappointment if you want to fly solo. One of the most disappointing aspects of the system is that it’s limited to ten people total per Crew.

A new challenge is introduced weekly for Crews to battle it out for fame and recognition and so far it’s been a lot of fun. During the first week, all the songs had “Love” in the title and each week three songs will be showcased and will have the most XP behind them.

I found this to be a most welcome addition to the game and I plan on going back weekly and competing against other Crews. PS Nation even has its own crew called ‘The PSNationers’. I really think this mode will be the defining factor by which you judge the expansion.

… Rockudrama could have been something really special …
Along with the expansion, Harmonix released a Companion App to go along primarily with Rivals mode. With the app, you can check your Crew status, check the Crew XP, and even chat with other Crew members.

It’s a good way to check in with your progress though I wish there was a little more to do with the app, like checking your available songs and seeing what rival Crews you are competing against.

Rockudrama is the mode that has been seen the most and could have been considered a good reason to play the expansion in its own right as it had initially shown great promise. As a take on the legendary Behind the Music series, Rockudrama could have been something really special.

It starts off spectacularly strong and fulfills its promise of something great. You start off as a high school band looking to become famous super stars. It then takes your band through their historic rise and meteoric fall. Rockudrama uses live actors in a brilliant way to convey this, and rarely uses any in-game footage to its advantage.

… relies on silly and at one point childish humor …
The look and feel really takes you back to the days of shows like this and it’s brilliantly done. There four chapters with three sets of three songs each, with the last chapter being an exception.

It’s in Chapter Two that the luster started to wane and things took a turn for the worse. Instead of innovating and continuing to be something new, Rockudrama relies on silly and at one point childish humor to close things up.

Another disappointing thing is that it’s fairly short and ends abruptly. I didn’t expect this mode last twenty hours or something along those lines. But in reality, I expected more than playing thirty songs in this mode. I would like to see this mode extended by a having a full Chapter Four or having something like outtakes or more scenes you can unlock.

Rockudrama tries to extend the experience by adding modifiers if you achieve a certain amount of fame and stars. Along with this is a betting system which brought a certain amount of tension to gameplay which I found intriguing.

You bet on how many stars you will earn during a set for increased fame. Like I said before, this idea made me try to play better, which was kind of cool.

… a much needed improvement …
Other than these two modes there have not been a whole lot of major changes. Adding XP to all of the modes was a good idea, although it does not do much. It will give you bragging rites and maybe a reason to keep playing, but doesn’t do much else. I found it disappointing but understandable that there were no new songs without pre-ordering Rivals first.

Visuals:
The UI and overall look of the menus have been updated with this expansion. Things now look more slick and stylish in blues than they did with the yellow color scheme of before. This might seem small but I appreciated the new look and felt like this is a new coat of paint that the game needs to help it stay fresh.

While the graphics have not been touched up in this expansion it seems Harmonix has improved on the on-stage performance sync to the music. This helps with the overall polish of Rock Band 4 and it’s a much needed improvement in my book.

Audio:
Audio has always been one of the strongest parts of the series and it’s pretty much the same here. Not much has changed with the expansion but I’ve noticed more of a pronounced flare with the sound effects. Things like the pop of the pyrotechnics or the ding of a star are more pronounced and clear. This adds to the fun factor that Rock Band tries hard to maintain.

Online/Multiplayer:
There is no traditional multiplayer yet, but it’s coming soon. Either way, there is some connectivity happening in the Rivals expansion. First there are the Crews, which as noted before is how you participate in the weekly challenges.

To start this you’ll go through the list of Crews that have been created. There is no real way to research a Crew to make sure they are the right fit. When the game went live they were a rash of new Crews so it was new territory.

… very promising and could have been groundbreaking …
There’s a search function but that’s about it. And with a cap of ten players it will be hard to join one of the top tier crews due to them being full already.

There’s also the Weekly Challenge that shows where you and your Crew stand for that week. It updates automatically after each player plays their respective songs. There is no online communication through voice chat which is a bummer. The only way to actually communicate with your Crew is through the chat option on the Companion App.

Rivals does not have much of a option for online with the exception of passive connectivity. I was hoping the online multiplayer would be live so I could cover that portion of the game, but as of mid-December it’s still not available. It’s disappointing and I felt the online multiplayer should have been part of this expansion from the start.

Conclusion:
Rock Band Rivals looked very promising and could have been groundbreaking. It comes close but it falls flat in places. Rockudrama is somewhat of a disappointment to me, although the mode is innovative. I think that if it’s continued, future editions of the mode will be able to make it something special.

Adding experience points to the music you play along with the Weekly Challenges is a smart move and a good reason to get back into the game. I am finding it hard to be overly happy with the Rivals expansion, but at the same time there’s not a whole lot “wrong” with it other than the issues I have Rockudrama.

If you have Rock Band 4 already then I recommend this to you or your rocker friends. If you don’t have it and thought this expansion would be so cool that you jump into the series now, wait for a sale.

Score:

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Shawn Hiers

Shawn Hiers

Disabled gamer. Married Father of 3, and playing since the Atari days. I have a passion for all things Lego and an avid Toy Collector. I am also an huge Doctor Who Fan and can talk all things Who for hours 🙂

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