Harmonix’s return to the plastic instrument genre on new-gen consoles comes with some pretty nasty hiccups. Last Tuesday, Rock Band 4 “released” for Xbox One and Playstation 4. Now I say “released” in quotes because the release was plagued with shipping issues that made the game seem as if it didn’t quite release at all. Playstation 4 owners who want to play with legacy instruments (without the need of additional hardware) were fine, but Xbox One users who need the game’s legacy adapter in order to use legacy Xbox 360 instruments were hosed since retailers seemed to not even receive any copies of the game packaged with the adapter let alone standalone adapters as well. Instrument bundles were also scarce and hard to get a hold of.
I was able to receive my Xbox One game + legacy adapter bundle on Friday by having the game overnight shipped to me via Amazon, paying much more for the game than I anticipated. Regardless, I was excited to spend the weekend playing the game. I own many Xbox 360 legacy instruments and downloadable content from the previous Rock Band games, so naturally the legacy adapter and sticking to the Xbox One version was important to me. Since DLC sticks with the same family of consoles, the PS4 version was out of the question for me.
After spending (and live streaming) over 3 hours of gameplay Friday night, I am disappointed to say that the game has some pretty nasty issues. First off, the calibration settings are near impossible to get right. I played just about every plastic instrument rhythm game last generation (even Rock Revolution…) and never had calibration issues. I’m even using the same television as before! However, in Rock Band 4 I ran the in-game calibration tool maybe 10+ times and still have not gotten it to the point where the game can be played seriously. I’m an expert player and typically play on pro drums with the cymbal add-ons and playing on expert is near impossible. The drums are plagued with even more issues than the other instruments since bass drum kicks seem to drop randomly and the calibration feels worse on a drum kit.
Owners of the new instruments are lucky to receive firmware updates for their instruments by connecting their instruments to a PC. What about the folks with legacy adapters? Do we just have to deal with dropped notes and calibration issues since our instruments are not able to receive firmware updates? Reports of broken legacy adapters from Mad Catz have been rolling in too, which makes me concerned for my own adapter.
Importing your old DLC to the game isn’t fun. It’s a time consuming process and an exercise in patience. The best way to download your old songs is to scroll through the entire list of songs available in the Rock Band music store and find all of the ones marked “purchased” and download them one by one. Many songs that have been purchased have a price tag and will not allow me to download them for free. Exported tracks from previous Rock Band titles do not work either.
All of these issues make playing the game an exercise in frustration. Hopefully Harmonix will jump on correcting issues soon because I can’t take the game seriously in the state that it is in. The launch of this game has been a huge mess so far.
Below is the first hour of my time with Rock Band 4. You will see in the video how I’ve struggled with calibration and dropped notes. Look out for a new episode of The Gaming Outsider podcast shortly for more information on Rock Band 4 along with a written review soon.