Rock Band 4: The Best Party In A While

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

When Rock Band was ascendant, we used to have Rock Band parties every week. People would come to La Casa McJuddMetz from all over to play fake plastic instruments and sing at full volume.
But that dwindled as the game did, and then Rock Band died after the stupendous effort of Rock Band 3.
Yet when I discovered that Rock Band 4 was releasing on the same day that my book The Flux did, well… that was kismet.  Left to my own devices, I’d refresh Amazon sales ranks obsessively and check for new reviews.  Having friends over, drinking cider and fumbling at the drums was the best distraction I could hope for!
So how was it?
Preliminary feedback on Rock Band 4 is… not good.  We bought it for the XBox One, and none of our old plastic instruments worked – including, annoyingly, our Ion Drum kit, the badge of how truly obsessed we were at the height of it –  so we had to buy all new plastic instruments.  (And let’s be honest – Rock Band has the better gameplay, but their guitars have always been mushy and awful. I want to use my old Guitar Hero guitars.)  They said we could import all our old favorite songs purchased on the XBox 360 platform, but as of last night only about a third of the songs we’d bought were actually marked as “purchased.”
They’re working on all of that, but what a rough start.
The game itself is… weirdly mixed.  If you like Rock Band, well, it’s more Rock Band.  But it feels unpolished thus far.  Gini and I started, with the game not knowing us from Adam, and when we played our first song (B.o.B’s “Airplanes,” a very easy one), it said, “Hey do you want to do an encore?” and gave us a selection of four song types (“A song from the 2000s,” “A Devo song”) to vote for.
Pretty cool.  So we selected “An alternative song.”  And on our second song ever – again, not knowing our intrepid skill level – it chucked us straight into the five-star difficulty of Muse’s “Hysteria,” a song that no beginner would ever be able to complete.
So yeah. Not so great.
But the core of Rock Band is pretty untouchable, and pretty soon we were all arguing who got to be on drums and choosing songs and being baffled by the (still extremely large) selection we’d cultivated.  We sang at full volume regardless of talent, and bombed out a couple of times, and the people who weren’t playing were off by the snacks yakking it up, and we made new and awesome friends and saw people we hadn’t seen in months.
So that was good.
And that’s why Rock Band keeps chugging along; the central gameplay brings people together. You all work to surpass this song, and it brings people together.  They may have better things in store – they had “freestyle” guitar solos, where you weedle away needlessly and the program creates appropriately okay guitar solo guitar noises, but it was mostly confusing for people.
So is it a great game? I’ll let you know when I’ve put in some more hours.  But for now, it gave me a great party with some of my crushes and friends all coalescing, and that was what I needed.  So I’ll give it a shot.
(SIDE NOTE: Nathan asked me, “So are we ever going to find out what happened with your webcomic My Name Is Might Have Been?  And the answer is, I actually tried to find the old plot notes for that to sync with the Rock Band premiere, going into my basement and searching through my last three laptops to see if I could locate the overview Cat Valente and I wrote.  No dice on two laptops, and could not locate a charger for the the last and oldest laptop.  If it ain’t there, I may try to recreate it, but I’d rather have what Cat and I agreed to.  So some day.  Assuming I can find a charger for an ancient Toshiba.)

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