Game review: Harmonix’s Rock Band mounts a raucous reunion tour

Unlike most reunion tours, Rock Band 4 arrives with all of its predecessors’ energy intact. It’s the best party game around, turning your living room into a raucous nightclub.

Jamming with Rock Band 4. Courtesy Harmonix Music Systems
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Rock Band

Harmonix Music Systems

PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Four stars

Rock is dead, they say. It has certainly felt that way to fans of Rock Band, the series that made jamming with fake instruments an essential part of video-game culture in the 2000s. Those plastic guitars have been gathering dust since Rock Band 3 came out five years ago.

Harmonix has decided it is time to get the old band back together. Unlike most reunion tours, Rock Band 4 arrives with all of its predecessors’ energy intact. It’s the best party game around, turning your living room into a raucous nightclub.

The basics remain the same. Coloured notes stream down the screen and you press matching buttons on the ­guitar-shaped controller. ­Likewise, drummers have coloured drum pads to strike, and singers need to sing in tune to the on-screen notes. This version’s major addition to the gameplay, freestyle solos, gives you the freedom to cut loose.

Newcomers will want to invest in the US$250 (Dh918) Band-in-a-Box bundle, which includes a guitar, drum kit and microphone. Solo acts can purchase the game and a guitar for $130. Veterans of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions can just buy the software, which costs $60 for the PS4 and $80 for Xbox One, and use the instruments you already have.

If you’re a Rock Band old-­timer, you’ve probably spent hundreds of dollars on downloadable songs for the previous versions of the game. The good news is that Harmonix has upgraded a huge chunk of its library – about 1,500 tunes, including classics from David Bowie, The Who and The Clash.

It’s fortunate that so many downloadable hits are available, because the 60-plus songs on the disc is a weak line-up – think Fall Out Boy, Imagine Dragons and Grouplove. However, there is room for Rock Band stalwarts such as Foo Fighters, Jack White and Queens of the Stone Age.

A few rock staples, including Rick Derringer’s Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo and Van Halen’s Panama, make their debuts. And you get a few invigorating blasts of weirdness from St Vincent and Lightning Bolt.

There’s even a nifty slice of power pop from The Warning, a trio of three Mexican sisters, none older than 17.

* Lou Kesten /