Rock Band Rivals Review
Rock Band 4 released last year to mixed reviews. While many including myself were happy to see the series return after a long hiatus, it lacked a lot of the basic features from previous game’s including online play, setlists and practice mode. Most of these modes and features have been patched in over the past year of updates. Rock Band Rivals (Rivals) represents Rock Band 4’s first major paid update with a slew of new and returning features.
Rivals features two new modes: Rockudrama and Rivals Mode. Rockudrama is a new career mode whose story is told through live action cut scenes resembling VH1’s Behind The Music. Rockudrama charts your bands rise to fame by interviewing your old teachers, roadies and fellow musicians. There’s a lot of cheesy and over the top moments in the career mode and I personally loved it. There are also some references to past Rock Band games as well.
“There’s a lot of cheesy and over the top moments in the career mode and I personally loved it. There are also some references to past Rock Band games as well.”
This mode clocks in around 3.5 hours or so and while the gameplay itself hasn’t received any updates, it’s the window dressing that makes this mode standout. This mode features four chapters, with most of them being split up into three parts that feature multiple song setlists. You advance in the game’s story by earning fame. Certain chapters require a minimum amount of fame to unlock, but seasoned players won’t feel restricted by this. As you progress through the game’s story the narrator comments on your performances between sets and you’ll sometimes hear the same recycled line over and over again.
The songs you play are mostly done through voting (similar to the Shows mode) or making custom setlists. One of the new features is the wager system that lets you bet on how well you will perform during a gig. In addition to the wager system, the game will throw challenges at you to play certain songs or gigs using brutal mode (a mode which hides the notes on the track as you play better) or to gold star certain songs. It’s decisions like these that make the Rockudrama mode nail biting and worth checking out.
Rivals Mode is where the real meat of the expansion lies. Rivals Mode is a competitive multiplayer mode that lets you form a crew of up to ten players and compete against other crews. In order to be successful in the Rivals mode you need to have a good assortment of players to cover all four instruments. Each week there is a themed challenge. This week’s challenge involves playing songs with the word “Love” in the title. As you play the themed songs you’ll earn XP and contribute to your team’s score. Playing on higher difficulties and scoring well will mean more XP for you and your team. The Rivals Mode is built in such a way that even lower skilled players can make a meaningful contribution as well.
Also released alongside the Rivals mode is a new IOS/Android App which lets you see the week’s challenge, track your team’s progress and chat with your crewmates. The app is free and works surprisingly well. In addition to the crew XP, you’ll earn individual XP which lets your character rank up. Regardless of what song or modes you play in Rock Band 4, you’re always levelling up.
I found Rivals Mode to be incredibly addictive. During the first week Rivals was out, I was always eager to get home and contribute to my team. I’ve always been the type of Rock Band player to chase gold stars and full combos, so having a new twist on this competitiveness gave me extra incentive to go back and play some of my older songs. There’s also a great sense of community with the Rivals mode. Chatting with your crew mates and exchanging the best strategy for the week is critical to topping to leaderboards.
While Rivals is a much needed shot in the arm for Rock Band 4, there are a few gripes I have with the new expansion. One of the biggest issues is that there are some scoring bugs that need to be addressed in Rivals Mode. Whenever you finish a song that is part of the weekly challenge, you’re usually shown how much XP you’ve earned along with how much you contributed to your team. I found about 10% of the time my stats wouldn’t even be recorded since the end of song screen wouldn’t display my XP earned. This forced me to play the song multiple times until the proper stats screen showed up. It’s little bugs like this that need to be addressed in the next update. Another issue I have with the expansion is that there are no new songs included. Harmonix was offering up ten to twelve free DLC songs if you pre-ordered the game, but if you buy the expansion after launch don’t expect any new songs.
Rock Band 4 has also received some updates to its user interface and music library options. Live action backgrounds from Rock Band 3 make a much needed return and the new user interface looks much cleaner. The new music library enhancements are a welcome change as navigating my DLC library of 1400+ songs took a ridiculous amount of time previously. Those who purchase this expansion will also get online play when it launches in December and the next several months of updates for free.
Rivals is easily the most fun I have had playing Rock Band 4 in the past year. It’s breathed new life into a game that frankly had a rough first year. Whether you should buy Rivals is largely dependent on the type of Rock Band player you are. If you love to chase high scores and full combos, then this purchase is a no brainer. If you just like to play casually every now and scores aren’t important to you, then Rivals maybe a tough sell. However, the promise of online play and upcoming monthly updates maybe enough to twist your arm.
**Sidd was provided a PS4 code by the publisher**
- Rockudrama is definitely worth your time
- Rivals mode is incredibly addictive
- Companion App works great
- Online Play coming in a few months
- Music library enhancements
- Scoring bugs
- No new songs included
- Narrator repetitive