The Rock Band 4 announcement was a dream come true. The actual game, however, feels instead like a sleepless night.
None of this feels like Harmonix’s fault, however. A game like Rock Band isn’t in the hands of just the wishes of the publisher and developer, but instead a bunch of fine print and legal mumbo-jumbo. As a musical game, the content is completely driven by the songs included. The issue is that each song is subject to licensing issues. It wasn’t a coincidence that Aerosmith and Metallica stopped appearing in the Rock Band titles when they became important in the Guitar Hero franchise.
So what does any of this have to do with Rock Band 4? Consider this: Rock Band 3 released back in 2010. The franchise’s final DLC entry (at the time, anyway), was in 2013. That’s five and two years ago respectively. If you’re not actively working on a game for that period of time, then why bother paying fees for music?
Now that the franchise has returned, players want to do one thing and one thing only: play the songs they used to play. Are there some good selections within Rock Band 4? Sure, but the entire game has a different philosophy. It prefers a casual party atmosphere when compared to past entries in the franchise. Again, there’s nothing wrong with this, but personally, and my friends all agreed the other night, I long for the days of singing Ratt, Metallica, Coheed and Cambria, and other “harder” songs.
For the record, by harder I don’t mean more difficult. Singing “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes is no joke.
You might be asking why we aren’t playing these long-lost Rock Band songs. Simply put: we can’t. Exporting tracks from past on-disc libraries is still an incomplete process. You’re unable to export Beatles Rock Band (makes sense, that licensing is probably super expensive) or most from Rock Band 3 (this breaks my heart). Players can re-download DLC they own, but you have to remember everything you bought. There is no “buy everything I own” buttons. Instead, players are required to “re-purchase” titles in the store. The process is tedious to say the least. If a song isn’t listed anymore you might be out of luck. I’m still researching that myself as I want to sing my lungs out to Alien Ant Farm’s “Smooth Criminal.”
Getting to play Rock Band 4 felt great, but I couldn’t help but feel like I’m missing the complete package. Maybe when all of the older songs become available my opinion will favor. As for now, though, I’d much rather play Rock Band 3.
It sure was nice getting the band back together, though.