Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
We Played On: Xbox One

Rock Band was the reigning king of party games for a good few years. But then the music game genre became overstuffed and interest waned in buying bundles of peripherals. Luckily, Harmonix’s series took a break away from the spotlight to recharge. Now it’s back in action on new platforms with an entry that looks and plays a lot like the older games. But if you have earlier instrument controllers or purchased add-on songs in the past, that’s very good news.

Rock Band 4

The game uses a microphone as well as plastic replicas of guitars and drums.

As with the first couple of games in the series, Rock Band 4 lets four players form a virtual music group. You can use variety of plastic instruments and a microphone to play to the tune of popular songs. Most of the gameplay involves attempting to accurately play the notes or beats that scroll down the screen. The guitars, drums and microphone are all used in Rock Band 4. However, if you’re looking for the keyboard from Rock Band 3, it’s been retired for this version of the game.

For the most part, Rock Band 4 doesn’t stray from the past gameplay design. However, this time around, the game includes new “freestyle” guitar solos that let you put a personal touch on songs.

While Rock Band 4 can be played individually or with just a couple of players, it’s at its best with the full four-piece group. With all eyes trained on the screen, the band can jam in unison as each member delivers impressive performances. Each player can choose a different difficulty level. In addition, there’s an optional “no fail” mode so nobody has to feel bad for being new or inexperienced.

If you played Rock Band on older systems and still have instrument controllers handy, you might save a lot of money and hassle by using them with the new game. Many PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 instrument controllers work directly with PlayStation 4, while some Xbox 360 wireless controllers work with Xbox One using a special adapter (which comes with the standalone Xbox One game). Otherwise, you can buy a band bundle that has a guitar, drums, and microphone alongside the game, or another bundle with the game and guitar together.

Rock Band 4

Just as in previous games, you attempt to accurately play notes as they scroll down the screen.

Rock Band 4 arrives with more than 60 new songs on the disc. The game includes a mix of contemporary and classic songs. At least 1,500 additional songs are available for purchase within the included music store. If you bought songs in past versions, many will transfer to the new systems (Xbox 360 to Xbox One, and PS3 to PS4). You’ll just need to download them all again individually from the Xbox One or PS4 store.

Rock Band 4 has a Teen rating from the ESRB for “Lyrics,” although the songs have been selectively edited. For example, “Uptown Funk” eliminates one expletive, but still includes “damn” and mentions “sexy” repeatedly. The vast library of extra songs surely includes more potentially objectionable terms, not to mention ample innuendo. While harder swear words are trimmed, these songs are still designed for teens and adults to play.

But if your kids are mature enough to handle the subject matter of certain songs, Rock Band 4 is an absolute blast to play with family and friends. The experience hasn’t changed significantly since previous games, so if your kids didn’t dig it before, Rock Band 4 may not change their minds. However, if you’re excited to get the old family band back together, the latest game still holds plenty of the old appeal.

This article was written by

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based freelance writer and editor, and his work has appeared in more than 50 publications around the world. He’s also a work-at-home dad to a wild toddler.