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rhythm games

Rock Band 3 photo
Rock Band 3

Here's how to bring Rock Band 3's tracks into 4


It's pretty easy
Dec 17
// Chris Carter
Harmonix has finally added in the ability to bring over every track from Rock Band 3 into the newest iteration. Yep, that's every track, and despite the import licensing issues in the past, all 83 songs are good to go. P...
PaRappa on PS4 photo
PaRappa on PS4

I'm glad I got PaRappa the Rapper 2 on PS4


What a delightful experience
Dec 16
// Jordan Devore
PaRappa the Rapper 2 holds up so well! As you might have seen, the PlayStation 2 rhythm game became available this week on PS4. It's a classic tale about a rapping dog with a lifetime supply of noodles who really just wants a...

Review: The Bit.Trip

Dec 15 // Ben Davis
The Bit.Trip (PS4 [reviewed], PS Vita, PS3)Developer: Choice ProvisionsPublisher: Choice ProvisionsMSRP: $9.99 (Cross-Buy)Released: December 5, 2015 (PS4, PS Vita), TBA (PS3) The Bit.Trip is a collection of all six games in the Bit.Trip series which were originally released on WiiWare, similar to Bit.Trip Complete for Wii and Bit.Trip Saga for 3DS from a few years ago. It may have a different name than the other compilations, but it's largely the same aside from the controls, menus, and a few extras. The Bit.Trip differs in that it offers Trophies and leaderboards, which already existed for the PC versions of the games, but not for the Wii and 3DS versions. However, it's lacking all of the bonus content and extra challenge levels introduced in Bit.Trip Complete. Those extras would have been a nice addition here as a way to entice people who have already played some of the games before, but as it stands, it's basically just a straightforward compilation. [embed]326911:61531:0[/embed] Even so, the Bit.Trip games still hold up incredibly well, and the price is perfect for anyone looking to experience them again (or for the first time). All six games can be accessed from the slick main menu, featuring some neat concept art whenever a title is selected. Each game also allows the player to choose between Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty settings, which is nice because the Bit.Trip games can be quite difficult, even on Easy! For those who haven't played Bit.Trip before, the series spans several different genres with an emphasis on rhythm-based gameplay, all held together with similar themes to tell the story of the life and death of Commander Video. Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Flux are very Pong-like in nature, requiring the player to move a paddle up and down to bounce incoming beats back to the rhythm. Bit.Trip Runner switches things up as a rhythmic auto-running platformer, while Bit.Trip Fate takes the series in another drastically different direction as a musical on-rails shooter. Bit.Trip Core and Bit.Trip Void are a bit harder to describe, but they both offer gameplay that is completely unique to the series. Core gives players control of an X and Y axis which can zap any beats that pass over them, while Void has players controlling an ever-expanding black hole which must consume other black shapes while avoiding white ones. Void is actually my personal favorite of the series, simply because I've never played anything else quite like it. The biggest difference for the PlayStation versions of these games is of course going to be the controls. I found playing with the Dualshock 4 to be quite comfortable and intuitive, easily on par with the Wii controls. Both Core and Void let the player choose between the left analog stick or the d-pad for movement. I found the analog stick to be preferable in most situations, although the d-pad was useful for a certain boss in Void which requires precision movements, and some players will probably prefer to use the d-pad to play Core (I found it to be a little uncomfortable after a while). Fate uses both analog sticks -- one for movement and one for aiming and shooting -- and it felt perfect. The controls for Runner are about what you'd expect, since it only requires simple button inputs. It would be kind of hard to mess those up. As for Beat and Flux, the controls work similarly to the Wii Remote in that you simply have to tilt the Dualshock 4 forward and back to move the paddle. It seemed to really pick up on my hands shaking though, which caused the paddle to sort of vibrate slightly up and down all the time. This made it feel as though I didn't have as much control over the paddle as I would have like, but it wasn't too much of a deal-breaker for me since I wasn't going for high scores or anything. However, it did make the final boss of Beat especially difficult since it's easier to win by hitting the beats back with the very tip of the paddle. I kept missing even the slow-moving beats by the slightest degree, most likely because of the vibrations. Finally, for players interested in leaderboards, they'll be happy to know that each game has separate leaderboards for every individual level, divided between the three difficulty settings. These can be accessed directly from the main menu or individually from the menus of the specific games. While The Bit.Trip could have been made marginally better with the addition of any kind of bonus content (such as the extra challenges found in Bit.Trip Complete), it's still a solid compilation of an excellent series of games. Thankfully, they hold up just as well on PlayStation consoles as they did on the Wii. If you still haven't taken the dive into the rhythmic, arcade-y goodness of Bit.Trip, or if you've been looking for a reason to play through it all again, now would be the perfect time to do so. [This review is based on a retail build of the game purchased by the reviewer.]
The Bit.Trip review photo
SERIES.COMPLETE
The Bit.Trip series holds a special place in my heart. With a wonderful blend of rhythm-based mechanics and arcade-style gameplay spanning various genres, the games are easy to pick up, quick to fall in love with, and yet inc...

Brutal Mode is the best thing to happen to Rock Band in years

Dec 11 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]325866:61490:0[/embed] Take a look at this video of me playing. It'll give you a greater sense of what actually makes this difficult. Sometimes I play well, other times I play poorly. At no times, however, am I playing comfortably. For those who have spent countless hours honing their Rock Band proficiency, this is the perfect addition to the game. It forces the hardcore community to play differently than they've played before, but while still using the same skills. This is built for the people who chase full combos and won't accept anything less. It taps into their meticulous drive to play well, and beautifully flips it on its head. Brutal Mode is maddening and it's not because of the vanishing notes. It's because of the psychological mind games the mode plays. Any well-versed player will tell you that they don't watch the notes reach the bottom of the track. Instead, they reach a sort of inner-harmony where they immediately internalize the note and play it in time while doing the same for every other note that flows downward. It's not a sensation that can be easily explained to anyone who hasn't felt it. This mode's brilliance lies within the fact that it changes the Rock Band experience from a visual one to an audial one. Sure, there's a preview of the upcoming notes, but it's on you to know the correct time to play them. Feeling the music is necessary; disconnecting from the music and trying to brute force the notes on what seems to be the right beat will just result in awkward plunks and wails. Overthinking it is a formula for failure. Ironically, when you're failing is when Brutal Mode is maybe at its toughest. It'd seem natural that the inverse is true; the worse you're doing, the longer you can see the notes. That should be easiest. It's not, though. Not even close. Any fluctuation in the process can temporarily damn you. Seeing those notes and thinking about them switches your mindset back from audial to visual. As it turns out, your brain can adjust to sticking to one of those; flip-flopping is where you get confused and freeze up. The invention of Brutal Mode is a staunch informer that being able to see the notes is a huge crutch, even if it doesn't seem that way.  In 2010, Harmonix tried to advance the Rock Band experience by introducing Pro Mode -- a way for players to actually learn the instruments they were simulating. It didn't fare all that well. The barrier to entry was high and the learning curve was steep. As it turns out, a lot of people who spent a bunch of time mastering Rock Band and Guitar Hero didn't want to start from scratch on a new skill; they wanted to build on the ones they already have. Brutal Mode feels as if it were built for that audience. It's an extension of the toughest Rock Band has to offer while managing to change the way the game is approached. Anyone who's good enough at Rock Band to take a serious try at Brutal Mode has long ago lost the magic that comes with improving at the genre. This helps recapture some of that. That's a win by any measure, brutal as it may be.
Rock Band 4 photo
And the toughest
Harmonix rolled out an update for Rock Band 4 earlier this week that included a whole bunch of unexpected additions. It's impressive in its scope. A lot of the changes were meant to make Rock Band 4 feel more like a...

PS2 games on PS4 photo
PS2 games on PS4

PaRappa the Rapper 2 hits PS4 next week


Burgers all day every day
Dec 10
// Jordan Devore
Sony has begun selling PlayStation 2 games on PlayStation 4 with Trophies and 1080p support. After that initial batch of titles, PaRappa the Rapper 2 is up next. It'll be available on Tuesday. It's unknown exactly how much th...
Rez Infinite photo
Rez Infinite

Rez Infinite coming to PlayStation VR


Daft Punk light show from Mizuguchi
Dec 05
// Steven Hansen
See that nuts, Daft Punk style light up suit in the grainy stream footage screenshots? That's Rez's Tetsuya Mizuguchi playing Rez Infinite, which just announced for PS4 and PlayStation VR. I will be sick everywhere and it will be great. (I've only gotten nauseous once in VR, but I can't remember trying anything as fast and trippy as Rez.)
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4's newest mode gets harder as you get better


Become a brutal legend
Dec 04
// Brett Makedonski
As a part of the December 8 update to Rock Band 4, the game's most adept and hardcore players will get a new challenge that requires their finely honed skill set. Harmonix is introducing Brutal Mode to the game, a variation ...
Rock Band VR photo
Rock Band VR

Harmonix is doing Rock Band VR for Oculus Rift


Huh, okay
Dec 03
// Jordan Devore
As announced this evening during Geoff Keighley's The Game Awards, Harmonix and Oculus are partnering for Rock Band VR. A rough clip with first-person footage of a player holding a guitar was shown, as well as a bit between Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and the band DragonForce. He wore flag pants, you guys. The Oculus Rift launches in Q1 2016, and Rock Band VR will be out sometime next year.
Amplitude photo
Amplitude

Amplitude set to release on January 5 for PS4


Ring in the new year
Dec 02
// Darren Nakamura
It has been a bit of a wait for Amplitude, Harmonix's 2014 Kickstarter success. It was originally slated for release in March of 2015, but was pushed back a few times to January of 2016. Still, a year is nothing if you consid...
Activision photo
Activision

Activision reveals crowd-sourced music video results for Guitar Hero Live


100,000 videos generated
Dec 01
// Chris Carter
I'm generally not a fan of lip-sync videos, but it looks like Activision managed to round up quite a few people into their newest scheme for Guitar Hero Live. The gist is that people are tasked with creating a video for Ed Sh...

Review: Superbeat: Xonic

Nov 30 // Jed Whitaker
Superbeat: Xonic (PS Vita [reviewed], PS TV)Developer: NurijoyPublisher: PM Studios, Atlus & ActtilMSRP: $39.99Released: November 10, 2015 This spiritual successor to the DJMax series has you tapping on the edges of the screen as visualized music from various genres fly at you, or optionally using the D-pad and buttons if that is you'd prefer. Personally I found that Superbeat was far more suited to touchscreen gameplay than traditional controls. By using touch you never have to think about what buttons to press, instead just matching the notes as they connect with the screen, which in turn makes things a tiny bit easier. The only downside to touch is getting used to the scratch notes, which are yellow notes that require tapping then quickly swiping either up or down based on the arrow inside of them. Scratch notes really gave me trouble till I'd spent days with the game and finally found the perfect technique to trigger them. Aside from that, the gameplay is spot on. Hitting notes just feel great on the smooth OLED of my launch edition Vita, even if I didn't recognize any of the music upon first playing it. By the time I was finished with the game I found myself humming along to songs and going back to play my favorites to level up.  [embed]323291:61307:0[/embed] Superbeat has an XP leveling system that is used to unlock songs and World Tour stages. XP is gained by completing songs, and bonus XP are awarded for difficulty and perks related to unlockable DJ Icons. DJ Icons can grant perks or protections such as double health, more recovery, more XP and even break shields. Shields are used to prevent damage being taken and combos being broken and are necessary for many of the World Tour stages unless you're a natural born finger dancer.  World Tour is really where you'll spend most of your time with the game, completing various challenges that require various goals such as massive combos that last across songs, perfectly played songs, and achieving high scores. My biggest gripe with the game is that the difficulty of World Tour stages doesn't really match up with their listed difficulty; I often found myself failing the easy stages while breezing through medium and hard difficulties.  The Tour stages that are brutally difficult require you to get 90%+ JUD, with JUD being related to score. While DJ Icons can help you pass many stages, they do little to help pass JUD stages, as the shields only grant you "good" rated presses instead of "superbeats" that give you a higher score. Some of the challenges are so hard that I found it damned near impossible to complete them in my time with the game, meaning I missed out on one last set of challenges and another "fart" sound effect that can be used in place of the default rimshot sound effect played when hitting notes.  After close to 40 hours with the game, I'm nowhere near acquiring all the unlockables, though I've managed to unlock every track -- all of which I really enjoy aside from one metal song that gives Crazytown's "Butterfly" a run for its title of 'shittiest song ever.' I rarely play my Vita, but now I'm going to have to pack it and Xonic along with me for any flights as my new go to "don't panic because you could die at any moment" game.  Superbeat: Xonic is an original enough take on the rhythm genre to make it feel fresh again and is easily the best touch screen based music game I've played with Cytus coming a close second. Filled to the brim with catchy tunes, I'll be revisiting Superbeat in the coming months anytime I travel. Apart from some brutally difficult challenges, the only other thing holding me back from giving this game a perfect score is that it is on the Vita, a system that I'd still regret buying even if this was the second best rhythm game I've ever played -- long live the king, PaRappa the Rapper. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.] Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon (3DS)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NintendoMSRP: $39.99Released: November 20, 2015 [embed]323291:61307:0[/embed]
Superbeat review photo
Fingering has never been so fun
I've been playing rhythm games since they exploded onto the scene with PaRappa the Rapper in 1997, and having nearly played at least one title of every rhythm game series released I can easily say Superbeat: Xonic is top tier. But be forewarned, this is the Dark Souls...nay...the 127 Hours of music games, only you get to keep your arms attached. SUPERBEAT: XONiC

Hatsune Miku photo
Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X will arrive in March in Japan


On Vita
Nov 30
// Chris Carter
The Hatsune Miku machine isn't stopping anytime soon. Sega has just announced that Hatsune Miku: Project Diva X will arrive on March 24, 2016 in Japan, exclusively for the Vita. An Aime card (arcade transfer accesso...
Fallout Band 4 photo
Fallout Band 4

Look like a wasteland warrior when Fallout 4 invades Rock Band 4


A duet of cuatros
Nov 24
// Brett Makedonski
If you fancy yourself a living room faux-musician, this is probably the closest you'll ever get to looking like a Fall Out Boy. Harmonix has collaborated with Bethesda to add free Fallout 4 Vault-111 jumpsuits to the Ro...
Guitar Hero TV photo
Guitar Hero TV

Guitar Hero TV is getting 34 new songs this week


Including 'Jerry Was a Race Car Driver'
Nov 24
// Chris Carter
At this point, Guitar Hero Live's GHTV function will have 300 songs to choose from this weekend, with 34 new tracks dropping tomorrow. The full list is below, but the obvious highlights include Judas Priest, Tenacious D, Huey...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

There's a ton of stuff coming to Rock Band 4 in December, including Rock Band 3


Good stuff for the hardcore community
Nov 19
// Brett Makedonski
Rock Band 4 launched in a state that felt kind of bare bones. Several features were cut from past games in favor of just getting you to simulate playing music in your living room again. A lot of that's getting added afte...
Guitar Hero photo
Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero Live adds another live rock concert this week


On GHTV
Nov 18
// Chris Carter
One of the coolest things about Guitar Hero Live's GHTV element is that Activision, in the near future at least, is keen on supporting it with constant new content. That includes 70 new songs by the end of the year, and updat...
GHTV photo
GHTV

Guitar Hero TV adds Iggy Pop and White Stripes this week


And not much else
Nov 11
// Chris Carter
I'm surprised at how much I'm still playing Guitar Hero Live. It's really easy for me to boot up the TV function and just play random songs, which cycle in new tracks on a constant basis. I have over a hundred "free plays" an...
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live is adding 70 new songs to GHTV by the end of the year


Every song is free to play this weekend
Nov 04
// Chris Carter
Guitar Hero Live was a pleasant surprise. After Activision milked that cow for so long, I didn't think it could introduce one of the freshest rhythm games in years, but it did. But this is just the start for Guitar Hero ...
PlayStation 4 exclusive photo
PlayStation 4 exclusive

PlayStation 4 enabling DJs with Avicii music rhythm game Vector


This is the world we live in now
Oct 27
// Steven Hansen
In 2015, 1 out of 3 humans are DJs. This has led to global gridlock as necessary goods and services plummet under insistence that, "you should come see my set." The population rate is in decline, too, as more men become DJs;...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 3 tracks should be playable in Rock Band 4 by end of year


The export fee is $15
Oct 21
// Brett Makedonski
People who played Rock Band 3 can expect their Rock Band 4 library to grow significantly in the coming months. Since Rock Band 4's October 6 launch, Harmonix has been at work trying to bring old content onto the new...

Review: Guitar Hero Live

Oct 20 // Chris Carter
Guitar Hero Live (PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: FreeStyleGamesPublisher: ActivisionMSRP: $99.99 (Game + guitar), $149.99 (Game + two guitars)Released: October 23, 2015 The first thing you'll notice about Guitar Hero Live is that the controller itself has been reworked. Now, instead of the typical color-coded five button setup, you'll find two rows of three buttons -- one row is white, and the other, black. I didn't realize this until later on, but it's actually easier for newcomers to pick up since you don't have to use your pinky finger at all, but tougher for veterans who are used to a 10-year institution of the same old setup. Honestly, I loved having to relearn everything I knew. While I was rocking it out to expert-level songs in Rock Band 4 immediately after years of retirement, it took me multiple days to get a basic grasp on Guitar Hero Live. It recreated that unique feeling of picking up a plastic guitar for the first time. It also helps that Live has five difficulty levels (basic, casual, regular, advanced, and expert), that all ramp up perfectly depending on your skillset. It's especially important to note that the former settings only require you to use one row of buttons, which will help you slowly acclimate to the new setup. As time went on and I started jacking up the difficulty, the game gets crazy tough. There's a major focus on one-finger vertical cords, as well as split cords with multiple combinations, and open strumming cues with no buttons. It's far from a realistic guitar simulator, but I really dug the increased emphasis on chords and fancy finger-work. It may feel like a step down at first glance, but there's a lot of depth found in these six buttons. The chief reason why FreeStyleGames was able to seemingly perfect this aspect of the game is because Live is guitar-centric again. Yep, there's no drums, no keyboard, no "bass" ensemble -- both players play lead guitar. There is the option to hook up a USB microphone to sing vocals, but they are absolutely ancillary to the experience, and I wouldn't recommend picking up the game for singing in the slightest. Technically, vocals add in support for the third player, but Live is definitely focused on the same one or two-person jam session that the original brought to the table in 2005. Again, I'm totally okay with this, as the series started to get stale when it tried to be too much like Rock Band. [embed]315533:60780:0[/embed] There's also a fundamental shift with the story mode, which no longer displays lifeless uncanny valley avatars strumming along to the song. Instead, the developers have recorded live footage with real bands playing each song with a live crowd, and strapped a camera to the lead guitarist to simulate a first-person view. Yes, it's FMV, but the end result is done so well that it blows past the Mad Dog McCrees of old. For each set (three songs), your character will start backstage. Here you'll get a bit of setup, perhaps some light drama, a quick chat with a stagehand, and on occasion, a visit from a makeup artist. It helps set the scene and gives you the basic gist of what it feels like to walk out onto a stage in front of thousands of people. As the song progresses, the camera will dip and dive across the stage with your character. Now here's the neat part -- depending on how well you play, the FMV will shift in a surrealist fashion to suit the situation. For instance, playing well will net you a cheering crowd and lots of smiles from your fellow bandmates. Playing poorly will shift the FMV into a negative state, with shaking heads and plenty of boos from the audience. It's such a little thing, but the band itself will start giving you a hard time vocally as well, which is jarring and motivating at the same time. I'm not going to act like this system elicits any kind of actual emotional response, but it's very cool to watch and it's seamlessly done. I'm genuinely surprised they went through the effort of essentially recording two entire concerts for each set of songs. The included setlist itself is rather diverse, consisting of classic rock songs from Queen, The Who, and The Rolling Stones, alongside of more modern groups like Green Day and Fall Out Boy, all the way up to Skrillex ("Bangarang" works better than you'd think) and a recent Eminem song ("Berzerk"). It has something for everyone, with a good spread of indie hits, folk music, and top 100 joints. While the actual story mode is only playable solo, there is a freeplay mode with all 42 on-disc tracks that you can enjoy with a partner, which also features the FMV setup. So that's the first half of Guitar Hero. Next up is the other half: Guitar Hero TV (GHTV). As you may have heard, this concept is going to be rather controversial in nature, as it features microtransactions, and a "stream-centric" DLC model where you can't actually buy songs, but play them on-demand. I fully expected to hate it based on concept alone, but to my surprise, it's probably one of my favorite modes in any rhythm game to date. Let me explain a bit -- GHTV is a multi-faceted affair. At its core is the "channel" system, which currently hosts two playlists. These shift every half hour with new tracks and genres, and quite literally follow the traditional television model, where everyone is playing the exact same thing at the same time, complete with leaderboards. In other words, if you boot it up, you may be jumping in mid-song into a competition. This aspect of Live is devoid of microtransactions. You can play both channels for free without paying Tokens (more on that later) as long as you want. And that's just what I did for days on end. During one of my testing sessions, I played the channel system for three hours straight, earning Tokens for on-demand plays along the way. Since this system is curated, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and discovered new bands, or played songs that I wouldn't normally play from bands I already knew about. It broke the typical rhythm rut where I'd only play my favorite tracks, and it's a really cool feeling. GHTV also has the added benefit of hosting music videos for every single available song. As someone who grew up with MTV, it was a joy to watch them all over again, especially classics like Tenacious D's "Tribute." It's also a lot more fun to watch music videos as a spectator compared to the aforementioned uncanny avatars. Since the channels are going to be constantly updated over time, I'm excited to see what the future holds.  The other side of GHTV is on-demand and features microtransactions. Here's how it works: for each track played, you'll earn Tokens. If you do poorly, you'll earn roughly 100-130 Tokens on average. If you do well, you'll net close to 200. You can also earn daily rewards for logging into the game and bonuses for ranking up. One on-demand play is about 600 Tokens, and there's also the option to buy cosmetic bits like new note highways and player cards. Finally, there's a "Party Pass" for $5.99 that grants you access to the entire TV catalog (hundreds of songs) for 24 hours. Here's the good news -- you can basically ignore all of this nonsense if you play the channels. Personally, I put in over 20 hours into GHTV and haven't felt compelled to spend a cent, with 70 spare freeplay sessions banked. You might not feel the same if you hate the principle of not owning content, but as a regular subscriber to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, it's not a difficult concept to grasp. While GHTV has the potential to turn a lot of people off, I would be satisfied just playing channels for the immediate future. Both the channels and on-demand support two players. Guitar Hero Live completely took me be surprise. I love the new controller design, the FMV portions work far better than they should, and Guitar Hero TV hooked me with its channel concept. Going forward, I'm hoping that the model further reinvents itself by introducing the world to new music. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher, specifically, the dual guitar package.]
Guitar Hero Live photo
An axe to grind
As I've said many times in the past, I was a Guitar Hero man all the way up until I first laid eyes on that beautiful keyboard for Rock Band 3. The Hero series was stale, iterating annually (sometimes multiple times...

Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

You will know (and love) most of Guitar Hero Live's newest songs


Good god! That's CM Punk's music!
Oct 09
// Brett Makedonski
You know what they say about saving the best for last. Well, I guess they just say to do it. It's a good idea. Then everyone's like "Wow, we doubted you, but some real nice stuff happened at the end." That's Guitar Hero Live'...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Here's how to turn off Rock Band 4's Freestyle guitar solos


Viva la scripted solos!
Oct 08
// Brett Makedonski
Rock Band 4, largely the Rock Band that you already know and maybe love, has one big change from previous games. That is the Freestyle guitar solo. Its intent is to break away from the traditional and sometimes very toug...
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live developers muse on the toughest songs in the game


Hangar 18 is on there
Oct 08
// Chris Carter
With Guitar Hero Live only a few weeks away, developer Freestyle Games is sharing its opinions on the most difficult songs in the game, to give players a heads-up of sorts. Said list includes "Hangar 18" (Megadeth), "Cry...
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

James Franco and Lenny Kravitz touch butts in Guitar Hero Live trailer


The game launches October 20
Oct 06
// Chris Carter
Activision is pretty good at getting celebrities to do comical commercials, and their latest bit involves James Franco and Lenny Kravitz promoting Guitar Hero Live. It showcases the live crowd aspect, which can boo you if you're doing terrible. Apparently it's terrifying. I had a chance to see Lenny Kravitz live recently, and he's still got it. Also, I got to high-five him, so he's totally cool.
Guitar Hero Live photo
Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live is approaching DLC in a fairly controversial way


Streaming instead of ownership
Oct 05
// Chris Carter
FreeStyleGames, the developer of Guitar Hero Live, has posted its plans for the Guitar Hero TV (GHTV) portion of the game, and it's intriguing to say the least. Basically, instead of buying songs piecemeal for $2 or so, you'r...

Review: Rock Band 4

Oct 05 // Chris Carter
Rock Band 4 (PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: Harmonix (with distribution by Mad Catz)Released: October 6, 2015MSRP: $59.99 (game), $129.99 (guitar bundle), $249.99 (Band-in-a-Box) So let's get right into it. The setlist (seen here) is going to be a point of contention for many. Point blank, I'm not really a fan of most of it, for multiple reasons. Firstly, U2 (the Guy Fieri of music) was added last-minute, and features not one but two songs featured in career mode. This completely obliterated the "random" feature for one of the groups I played with, as they hilariously refused to play U2 on the principle that they "might" come up. Then you have the issue of era disparity due to a disjointed design. Often times you'll find similar types of music grouped together, but generally speaking, Rock Band 4 is all over the place. For instance, there's one Elvis song ("Suspicious Minds," which I really dig), but then, there's nothing else even close to that age or style of music. You also have the issue of showcasing a heavy helping of B-hits from major artists, like "Kick it Out" from Heart or "Prayer" from Disturbed. Of course, music is subjective, but my major issue is the lack of any real epic rock tracks (and I don't mean "epic" in the bad meme sense) on offer here, which every rhythm game tends to provide. I mean, "That Smell" from Lynyrd Skynyrd? You can't help but feel like the rights to a lot of big-ticket songs weren't on the table, some of which instead went to Activision's Guitar Hero Live. But I think this weaker setlist is kind of what Harmonix is going for. They're banking on the fact that you already own a ton of DLC, or are willing to shell out for it. That's going to be a point of contention for many people, who may have started out in the Rock Band ecosystem on Xbox, but like most of this generation, have since switched to PS4 exclusively. I'm kind of torn on where I stand personally, because while I do see Rock Band as a "platform," I wish the included setlist were as strong as it has been in the past. Just to clarify with Harmonix as of this week, I double-checked on the DLC roadmap beyond the singles in the store now (of which there are hundreds of piecemeal tracks). Track packs (read: those discs of songs you bought) are being worked on currently, and aren't up for launch. Additionally, title exports (Rock Band 1 and 2 songs mostly) are not available yet, and have no time frame at the moment. Finally, Harmonix is "looking into" exporting Rock Band 3 but nothing is finalized. None of this affects this review as it's all theoretical, but it's good to know. As disappointed as I am with the base setlist, the game, as always, is sound. The common theme here with Rock Band 4 is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," which is great for those of you who just want a current-gen Rock Band, and bad if you wanted something revolutionary. While the voting system (which allows players to select tracks, or vague categories such as eras and genres in a democratic fashion) is very cool, the career mode, despite promises of a major shakeup with the choice system, is largely the same. [embed]312826:60607:0[/embed] While there are choices such as picking between selling out and making more money in the short term or going on the road and garnering more long-term fans, they all feel very gamey in the end ("do you want fans or money?"). I really like the little story blurbs that pop up along the way that provide updates for the narrative such as "your van that you bought for next to nothing lost a door," but they really are more fluff than substance. Plus, the concept of playing tons of gigs with set songs (and some open-ended lists) for cash to buy new accessories never appealed to me -- when combined with the so-so story and the fact that every song is unlocked from the get-go, it doesn't feel like a gametype worth the effort. As a result, most of my time was spent with the quick tour and freeplay modes, which are still a lot of fun with a group. It's as simple as syncing the instruments (which is incredibly easy to do now) and pressing start, then you're ready to rock. The aforementioned voting system is a ton of fun, as it accepts every band member's choices, then triggers a slot machine-like animation that randomly picks one. It's fair, and it's a nice break from manually choosing songs. In terms of the adjustments to the instruments themselves, I also have mixed feelings. Everything has been marginally upgraded (both physically and in-game), but I'm still reeling from the complete lack of keyboard and Pro Guitar support. Harmonix certainly has a strong argument in that most players simply did not use these features last time around, but I can't help but feel like Rock Band 4 has been downgraded as a result. While I never really preferred the Rock Band style guitars (X-plorer for life), the build is noticeably more sturdy, which also applies for the new drum kit and microphone. The new gameplay feature with the guitar is the addition of freestyle sections, which no longer bound players to the rigors of tough solo portions. For casual players, this change is pretty great, and allows anyone to rock out in a fashion that more accurately portrays the spirit of the franchise. In essence, during your solo spots, you'll see new markers for blue and orange freestyle notations in the track. You'll simply strum to the beat, with the blue portion notating the top frets and the orange noting the bottom, and that's basically it. Sometimes you'll have to strum once and hold, for others, you'll have to shift rapidly to different frets. You won't lose any momentum here if you screw up, and every fret will cue a different sound, so you can come up with your own concoctions. The best part is this is wholly optional, so if you want to shred "Through the Fire and Flames" on expert, you can. Also, every song supports a full-time freestyle solo through a separate menu option. The drums have remained mostly the same, outside of Dynamic Drum Fills, and, as an exception to the lack of Pro instruments, Pro Drums (if you buy the Mad Catz Rock Band 4 Cymbal Expansion Kit of course). The former feature allows you to deploy Overdrive (Star Power) during pre-determined sections -- it's a minor change, and fortunately, like most of the new stuff, you can also turn this off. If you rock the mic, you'll have a few other marginal improvements as well. Now there's Freestyle Vocals, which allows people to improvise a bit. As long as you still sing on key, you'll be able to score points. It makes things a little more fun for singers as they don't have to follow as rigid of a pattern. Again, every instrument has been improved on paper, but not in a way that completely eclipses a lot of the advancements made with the last iteration. The physical element of bringing over instruments is also a bit strained, partially outside of Harmonix's purview. Firstly, you'll have to follow their compatibility chart here to see if your device will even work with the new game. Additionally, due to the shift in technology from the 360 to the Xbox One, you'll need a $20 adapter to even use your old instruments that do work. When you add in that nothing works cross-console family, things get even more tricky, as it'll cost you $250 to grab a new guitar, drum kit, and a mic -- and if you want to get a second guitar, it gets even pricier.  Rock Band 4 is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, it's not only a hassle to switch generations due to the fact that so many elements don't work with the new one, but additionally -- Rock Band 3 is still a thing, supports all of your DLC, and has more features. On the other, there's nothing inherently wrong with this iteration, and for those of you who missed out in the past or have broken 360s or PS3s, you'll still be able to rock out into the night with friends and have a whole lot of fun. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. The Band-in-a-Box bundle with a guitar, drum kit, and mic was assessed for this review. DLC or pre-order content of any kind was not provided, and was purchased by the reviewer.]
Rock Band 4 photo
Back in plastic
[Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the preview. I personally didn't work with Chester ...

Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Re-downloading your Rock Band DLC is a giant pain in the ass on Xbox One


Hope you like spreadsheets
Oct 02
// Brett Makedonski
In preparation for Rock Band 4's release next week, I figured it's about time to start downloading the songs I bought on Xbox 360 for use on my Xbox One. There's no doubt in my mind that if I have friends over to play and all...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4 releases next week, last chance to stock up on cheap DLC


It doubles in price on October 6
Oct 02
// Brett Makedonski
It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is a rare example of a time when you might want to purchase downloadable content before a game comes out. I know, I know -- we usually rally against that hard, but bear with us just thi...

Guitar Hero Live left me afraid to ever try playing live music

Oct 02 // Laura Kate Dale
On a gameplay level, Guitar Hero Live feels pretty new. Gone is the old five-button single row layout, replaced with two rows of three buttons placed next to each other. On screen you've got three note tracks scrolling, which will either show a white pick pointing down or a black pick pointing up to denote if you should play that note on the top or bottom row. It's a switch up that slightly more closely resembles guitar fingerings, and it feels like a new, manageable challenge to learn. However, what had a far bigger impact on my experience with GH Live at EGX was the impressive integration of full motion video, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to living out your teenage rock god fantasies. Firstly, my fears about modern implementations of full motion video were instantly allayed when actually playing the game. I can logically tell which camera pans are likely being used to mask transitions between videos as your performance rises and falls, but try as I might I could not actually see the seams. We seem to have reached a point where smooth transitions in full motion video gameplay are totally possible, and that's really reassuring to see. When I was doing well at Guitar Hero Live, I felt like a guitar shredding legend. The crowd went wild, the pit jumped, the crowd fought to lock eyes with me and everything felt amazing. It's amazing how much difference the switch from computer animated crowds to real human faces can make, but seeing actual people respond well to your performance felt awesome. We have not crossed the uncanny valley, and real human faces in video games have a special power to elicit an emotion. The scary thing about GH Live? It can invoke powerful negative emotions too. Toward the end of my time with the demo, I decided to see how far I could push the limits of the game. I slowly performed worse and worse as the song went on, and my god it got uncomfortable. First the audience began to look mildly confused. Then, they looked upset, personally let down by me. I glance at the bassist and he's trying to ask what's going wrong. I do worse. The audience grows upset, confused and angry. I glance at the drummer and she's freaking out. Mascara is running down her face as she mouths obscenities at me. The singer motions to have the stage hands pull me off stage. At this point, I quit the track I was playing. I felt terrible. My failure felt real. The anxiety related to letting down fans, the disappointment and the anger resting on my shoulders. I felt it all. My time playing Guitar Hero Live at EGX convinced me primarily of two things. If you're doing well, this game is going to be awesome. If you screw up, you are going to be made to suffer for your sins on the guitar. I think that's pretty damn exciting.
Guitar Hero Live photo
I felt like a badass for about 5 seconds
Back in my mid-teens I played drums in a hastily thrown together rock band. We mainly played pretty bad covers of other people's songs, occasionally writing our own tracks that went on far too long and were excessively simpli...


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