Harmonix has been steadily releasing information about Rock Band 4, their upcoming revival of the beloved smash-hit music rhythm series, but have released little on what the gameplay itself will be like. They’ve shown that the music in the game will be backwards compatible and that the old instruments will be supported, but little has come to light on any gameplay changes – until today. Harmonix has revealed a first look at Rock Band 4 gameplay, and things are looking stellar as the series prepares for an October return.
Speaking to IGN, several Harmonix staffers offered a first glimpse of new gameplay details in regards to drummers, vocalists,and those interested in the touring campaign mode. The game is set to return to the original set of instruments (guitar, bass, drums and vocals), dropping the keyboard experience entirely. With this renewed focus on the original instruments, several changes will become immediately apparent as gamers fire up the game for the first time.
The simplest Rock Band 4 change revealed is that the drummer will now count-in the band before each set, tapping the green tom (or cymbal, depending on if players use the optional drum extension kit) a few times to count the band in. It’s a subtle detail, but in retrospect it makes plenty of sense, since drummers do this in real performances. Counting the band in adds a new element of interactivity to each set that makes the experience a little more real – perhaps not live-action performance real, but Rock Band’s signature cartoon-esque characters make it clear that’s not the direction they want to head.
Counting the band in isn’t the only change for avid drummers, though; the series revival will bring pre-set drum-fills to replace the blank overdrive spaces. Previously, drummers could bang out a few notes in set areas to activate overdrive, but the blank space sometimes left players banging out an awkward off-beat tune. To remedy this, Rock Band 4 will pick from a random pool of fills for the appropriate genre, and present one of them to the player. Though Harmonix hasn’t stated if a freestyle ability will still be optional, their product manager Daniel Sussman did confirm that the library of drum fills is backwards compatible – all existing Rock Band tracks will have an appropriate set of fills to pick from.
“Every fill that you play is completely in time and sounds great. They are all authored, but you have the real experience drummers have of having to be random every time through the song.”
The ever-popular ability to harmonize vocals, which was introduced with The Beatles: Rock Band, will also make a return to the Rock Band series. This feature will also be available for each and every existing song in the series library, all thanks to a dedicated group of fans who went through each track and authored the harmonies for Harmonix at no cost. This is a great addition for fans who like to sing with the band, and the dedication to go back through every song and do it – at no cost to gamers – is simply fantastic.
Freeform melodies will now be supported, which will give talented singers more freedom in how they approach songs. Previously, vocalists would earn the most points by hitting the exact pitch that was authored into songs, which tied them down in that they had to sing the song exactly as it was in the original recording. If they sang to their own pitch, even if in tune, the game would detract points despite the vocal performance being otherwise perfect – something Harmonix has now fixed. Players can now harmonize on the fly, and so long as their vocals are in tune, the game will award points for the added performance, giving vocalists some flexibility in how they approach songs.
Rock Band 4 designer Alli Thresher also revealed that the campaign mode will see some drastic changes, with the band’s adventure ultimately resembling an RPG format that accurately resembles plenty of the staff’s own experiences with touring.
“We’re just working really hard at making everything feel like you are living this story, feeling what it’s like to be a musician playing gigs [and] playing shows. We want you to step up to the mic and interact with them, tell jokes, have them respond to your jokes, you know? Everything’s about all the stuff that all of us might have experienced, and want to share it with the people playing the game.”
It’s great to see that Harmonix is working to add plenty of fresh gameplay elements, especially since the Rock Band series as a whole has expanded the entire music rhythm genre itself. Innovative changes are sure to draw in more fans, and the legacy support for old instruments and previous song purchases are sure to keep the veteran fans more than happy as well.
More details about Rock Band 4 are expected to drop this month, including more information on the campaign itself, and a sneak-peak some of the new songs coming to the game.
Rock Band 4 is expected to release October 2015 for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.