A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Rock Band 4 is a music and rhythm game that lets players take on the roles of rock stars and pretend to play instruments, including a guitar, bass, and drums. Players can customize their character's gender, skin color, and style to have them better reflect their real-world selves. A rock-'n'-roll lifestyle is implied more than shown thanks to narrative text between tour stops that details the band's experience. Sexuality isn't visually depicted beyond some tight and skimpy outfits players can choose for their avatars, but the lyrics of some songs include reference to sexual acts such as masturbation as well as drugs. Keep in mind, too, that the cost of the game likely will grow well beyond the initial investment since players are encouraged to browse an online store and purchase more songs.
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What's it about?
ROCK BAND 4, the first new game in Harmonix's rock-'n'-roll simulation series in five years, follows in the footsteps of its predecessors by giving players a chance to play in a four-piece band composed of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. The plastic instruments (sold separately, unless you get the guitar or band-in-a-box bundle) are designed to replicate the experience of playing a real musical instrument. Guitar and bass players follow a set of scrolling on-screen cues telling them which fret buttons to press and when to strum; drummers follow similar cues indicating which drum pads to hit; and vocalists simply get to karaoke each song. A tour mode allows players to create avatars and head out on the road, playing sets in venues around the world to gain fans and earn more money with which to purchase cooler clothes and instruments. Outside of the tour mode, players can perform one-off shows picking songs as they go or experiment with guitar solos in a new solo mode.
Is it any good?
This sequel is both a slightly improved and a scaled-back version of the franchise's well-established formula. The previous games' splashy, movie-like cinematics are largely absent, but the venues are more detailed and have better lighting and smoke effects than past games. There's no longer any online multiplayer modes, but the core local multiplayer tour mode has been tweaked in meaningful ways, allowing band members to vote on set lists and make important decisions that will affect the band's evolution. There aren't any new instruments, and the keytar from Rock Band 3 is missing, but subtle enhancements to what remains are boons; they include an enhanced solo mode that empowers players to customize their solos with speedy licks and drawn-out notes.
It's also important to note that Rock Band 4 has been envisioned not only as a numbered sequel but also as a platform that will evolve over several years. That means players can expect additions to the core game, such as new modes, new music, and perhaps even support for new instrument hardware. And keep in mind that much of the music and instruments you may have purchased for previous installments will transfer to this edition, so long as you stick with the same platform family (if you played previous Rock Band games on Xbox, make sure you get the Xbox One edition of Rock Band 4; ditto for the PlayStation versions). The initial offering may be a little lean around the bones, but it lays a solid foundation for growth over time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Have you noticed changes in your kids' mood or behavior when they become obsessed with new games? What sort of physical activities do they enjoy that might be used to balance their time spent in front of screens?
Talk about music. Is there an unusual or quirky instrument you’d like to learn to play? How might it fit into a rock or pop band?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Subjects: Arts: music, rhythm, singing
- Skills: Creativity: making new creations
Communication: friendship building
Collaboration: cooperation, meeting challenges together, teamwork
- Price: $59.99-249.99
- Pricing structure: Paid (Cost depends on whether you purchase the game alone, with a guitar, or with a guitar and drums. Note that guitar and drum peripherals from previous Rock Band games within the same console family are compatible with Rock Band 4.)
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Harmonix
- Release date: October 6, 2015
- Genre: Music & Dance
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- ESRB rating: T for Lyrics
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.