Rock Band Rivals Preview

Battle of the Rock Bands.

In what has steadily become more of a standard practice for console titles, derived from the content schedules of MMORPGs, Rock Band Rivals is an expansion pack for Rock Band 4 and the first one of its kind for the Rock Band series. While Rock Band offshoots tend to be focused around a single band like Green Day or The Beatles, Rivals builds on top of the existing Rock Band 4 “platform,” which has been elevated since launch with multiple patches that have layered in practice mode and brutal mode. By that measure, Rivals will not only give Rock Band 4 a full update, but give fans (and reviewers) another look at the much fuller experience that the game has to offer a year after release.

Harmonix, at a recent private event held in San Francisco, showed of the two main pillars of Rock Band Rivals: the eponymous Rivals asynchronous multiplayer mode and a story-driven Rockudrama campaign that lampoons VH1's "Behind the Music" documentary series. Where Harmonix wasn't ready to reveal the full details of Rivals mode just yet, we had the chance to play the first segment of the Rockudrama, featuring a narrator who will remark on your band's performance and live-action cinematics of rock stars and musicians commentating on your band in between setlists.

Similar to the story campaigns in previous Rock Band games, your band will progress from one venue to the next, earning fame by collecting stars, which encourages y ou to pick the right difficulty at your skill level. The beginning venue we played at was a rinky-dink arcade in the middle of nowhere with an audience of just one weirdo. Hey, all legends have to start somewhere.

Before heading into your first gig, you'll be able to label your band as pop, rock, metal, and such, a choice that the cut-scenes and narrator will reflect. You'll be able to make several options like this throughout the campaign, and how well you perform at gigs will also determine the overall tone of the ending. But for the most part, Rockudrama will be mainly linear in fashion with a healthy dose of humor.

All of the experience earned in the Rockudrama campaign, as well as from anywhere else in Rock Band 4, will contribute toward the new Rivals mode. From how Harmonix described it, though, it sounds more of a faction feature than a particular mode. By forming a crew of up to ten players, you'll compete against other crews through leaderboards via asynchronous multiplayer. Veteran players who play on expert difficulty will contribute the most toward completing goals and earning experience, but even players on medium or high difficulty can contribute a lot to the crew if they play frequently.

Rock Band Rivals will release a variety of SKUs as usual but at a overall better value. The expansion itself will be priced at $29.99 while purchasing it bundled with Rock Band 4 will only cost a solid $59.99. Add a guitar and you can grab the bundle for $89.99, and if you want the full set with a drumkit and microphone, it will cost $199.99. Pre-ordering the game will net you an additional 10-song pack, doing so on Amazon will net you two songs (one from Maroon 5 and another from Matchbox Twenty), while doing so on GameStop will get you the sleeker Grey Jaguar PDP guitar. There are other bonus items here and there, but really, I think there's already too much info in this paragraph.

Rock Band Rivals arrives on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in October 2016.