Xbox ONE Reviews

Rock Band Rivals Review: Back In The Saddle

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The first expansion for Rock Band 4 has been unleashed on the world.

Entitled Rock Band Rivals, this expansion focuses on new modes and new ways to play the game as opposed to more songs to add to your library. Harmonix has done a good job of tweaking the overall experience of Rock Band 4 for the past year. It certainly isn’t the same game that was released around this time last fall. Rivals expands on that and cements Rock Band 4 as a platform. And while Rivals does feel like a significant upgrade to the game, it might make one question why this wasn’t the version of Rock Band 4 that we originally got.

Rivals caters most to the die-hard Rock Band community, which makes a lot of sense. Those who primarily chase high-scores or gold stars will get the most added value here. But Harmonix has done it in a way that filthy casuals like myself will enjoy and hopefully may even turn a few of those casuals into leaderboard chasers.

The first major addition in Rivals is the ability to join a crew. These 10-person crews will be at the heart of the Rock Band experience from now on. Your crew will compete against other crews on things like cumulative score, instrument-specific scoring, high score on rotating weekly Spotlight Songs and an experience-based level system. Its a great way to keep the hardcore coming back each week and is a harmless addition for casuals. Hardcore Rock Band community members have another way to show off their skills and for those like me, the ability to still hop in every few weeks and play a couple songs will still be there and won’t affect the overall experience of the game.

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The second major addition in Rivals is the new Rockudrama mode. Rockudrama sees your band as the focus of Beneath The Tuneage, a mockumentary version of VH1’s Behind The Music. It’s essentially a new Story Mode that details the rise and fall and triumphant return of your virtual band to glory. Your setlists are  intertwined with video interviews from people who were close to your band throughout your career. From those that knew you in high school to those who were around in your darkest days. The dialogue runs the gambit form utterly cheesy to genuinely funny. It’s a nice way to bookend your gigs and is honestly what I hoped Rock Band 4 would be from the get go. And even though it’s a bit short, it’s a great change of pace from the game’s normal Career Mode.

Rockudrama also contains little bits of Rivals mode as well. You can wager how many stars your band will get before most performances and sometimes you can activate additional modifiers like Brutal Mode to increase the amount of fame you receive for each show. Fame is used as the resource that will progress the story and affect the ending of your Rockudrama.

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Rock Band Rivals is a more focused and diverse version of Rock Band 4. Harmonix has done well in tweaking the original game for the past year and Rivals is a great extension of this. With new ways to play and new ways to keep people coming back, Rivals is in a lot of ways what Rock Band 4 should have been when it came out. If you still have the desire to bust out your old plastic drums but for some reason haven’t so far, Rivals is a great time to jump back in.

SCORE 8.0 OUT OF 10

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