Rock Band Rivals

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Rock Band Rivals Game Poster Image
Expansion adds friendly competition, but limited gameplay.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Encourages appreciation of pop music. Facilitates social play with up to four players in same room. Promotes friendly, healthy competition in new Rivals mode.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Game's customizable musicians are good, charismatic performers, but fans, followers in rockumentary part of game suggest they aren't very smart, strategic once they get off stage. They discuss bumbling mistakes, lack of direction, make it seem as though it was a fluke they ever found success.

Ease of Play

Customizable difficulty levels for individual players allow each member of band to make game as easy, hard as they like. New online competitive mode geared mostly for game's better players.

Violence
Sex

Male, female characters can be put in mildly sexy, revealing outfits, including low-cut tops, short skirts, clothes made of semi-transparent materials. Some song lyrics discuss sex acts, including masturbation.

Language
Consumerism

Players can purchase additional songs from popular musical artists through in-game store.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some song lyrics discuss drug use, include words "coke," "needles," "toke."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rock Band Rivals is a downloadable expansion to the music-simulation game Rock Band 4, which is required to play. Players create their own customizable rock star avatar, then use plastic instruments to play pop songs by artists including Sia, R.E.M., and Elvis Presley. They won't actually learn to play music, but the game could help develop kids' interest in rhythm and basic song structure. Be aware, though, that some of the pop songs featured in the game have iffy lyrics that reference sex and drugs. Plus, players are encouraged to spend real money on more songs through the game's online store.

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What's it about?

ROCK BAND RIVALS adds a fresh campaign and a new asynchronous competitive mode to Rock Band 4. The campaign takes the form of a live-action "rockumentary" that chronicles the origin and growth of you and your friends' band, from classmates in high school in the early 1990s all the way up to modern global superstars. You'll see their first ever gig (attended by only one person) and follow them through the highs and lows of a career that eventually leads to gigs at huge sold-out venues. The titular multiplayer mode, meanwhile, has players either create or join a 10-player crew and then start earning experience points while playing various modes and special songs. These points will be combined with those of the rest of the team and eventually will help the group climb online leaderboards. Do well, and your band will rise in tiers and earn special rewards in the form of clothing and gear. Regularly updated challenges are designed to keep crew members coming back to play week after week. Remember that the original Rock Band 4 is required to play this expansion. It can be purchased separately or as a bundle with the expansion.

Is it any good?

This music game brings a number of additional play elements to wannabe rock stars, but most players will tire of this quickly. Rock Band 4 was designed as a platform where developer Harmonix could add modes and features over the course of several years. Several free updates were made available over the game's first year (including Brutal Mode, which turns notes invisible just before they need to be played), but Rock Band Rivals is the game's first paid expansion. It has many of the things you'd expect of an expansion, including a new campaign (with a surprisingly good sense of humor sure to elicit at least a few laughs), a new multiplayer mode (with an experience system that provides long-term objectives), and new clothing and gear with which to outfit your musicians. It doesn't seem like too bad of a proposition.

That said, you may not be getting as much as you anticipated. Unless you preordered the game (and it's too late to do that now), you won't be getting any new songs with it. And the new rockumentary mode can be finished in a single night, which means most players and bands are likely to quickly end up going back to playing Rock Band 4 in pretty much the same way they have over the last year -- creating one-off set lists and replaying the campaign. It's still a lot of fun to just play music -- particularly if you have a few friends or family with whom you can form a band -- but Rivals doesn't add any essential extras beyond the base game's core modes and mechanics. Serious players may warm quickly to the new competitive mode, but the rest of us might be better off simply spending the money we would have spent on Rivals on new songs for our libraries.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Rock Band Rivals' campaign is broken into concerts that typically consist of three songs each, but how many concerts do you like to play in a single session?

  • Talk about social gaming. Rock Band Rivals is probably best enjoyed in groups of up to four people, but what other games are more fun when played with other people in the same room?

Game details

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For kids who love music

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