Up to this point, Rock Band 4 has looked simply like a refinement of everything that already made Rock Band great, with very little in the way of substantial changes.
But as more information starts to trickle out from Harmonix, we're starting to see more and more how they aim to set Rock Band 4 apart from the competition. One of these ways is by changing the way players can approach guitar solos.
In Rock Band 4, players have the option of turning on freestyle guitar solos, which will replace the usual downpour of notes on the highway with a sequence of cues and prompts that will guide you into crafting your own personal solo. Note that if you want, you can simply ignore the prompts and just hold down random buttons and strum, just like you would in a big rock ending, although it won't sound very pleasant. If you truly want your solos to sound good, it's important to understand the prompts and what they're trying to tell you to do.
For example, if you see a bunch of orange horizontal lines coming down the highway, the game is recommending that you hold the buttons higher up on the fretboard -- the yellow, blue, and orange buttons -- and strum along with the rhythm. Again, you can hold down any buttons you want and make your own unique sound without consequence. The prompts are simply suggestions of what would sound appropriate in the solo.
Other prompts include one that encourages you to hold down all five buttons and strum to make noise, one that only requires you to strum once and then use hammer-ons and pull offs, another that calls for you to hold a note down and then move the neck of the guitar up and down, and one that simply tells you to just go wild and do whatever you want.
While you can't fail these freestyle guitar solo sections, you are still graded on your performance and given points based upon how well you follow the prompts.
I got a chance to mess with the freestyle guitar solos during my hands-on time with the game, and ultimately walked away a little bit conflicted. On the one hand, I like the option of being able to turn it on for a song with a particularly challenging solo that I'd likely butcher while trying to play through it on expert, like for example, Battery by Metallica. It allows me to play through the song without worrying about failing, and even if No Fail Mode is on, it would allow me to play through and not have to deal with the grating noises of missing streams of notes.
On the other hand, to the uninitiated, understanding what the prompts are actually trying to tell you can be like trying to read a foreign language. Even with a diagram that showed all of the prompts and cues, in addition to someone walking me through it, it still took several songs before I felt like I had a handle on freestyle solos.
The problem is, Rock Band is a game that thrives in a party environment, where players can just pick up their favorite instrument and play along. To have to give someone who hasn't seen freestyle guitar solos a full briefing on what all of these different prompts and cues mean before a song starts kind of goes against what Rock Band should be all about.
Fortunately, it's completely optional, so purists who prefer to play the original solos and try and hit every note can still have it their way.
Aspiring rock gods will have their chance to shred their own guitar solos when Rock Band 4 releases on October 6 for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Listed below are the 11 currently announced songs that will arrive on the RB4 disc and join the library of thousands of songs that are available as DLC.
Benjamin Booker - "Violent Shiver"
Elvis Presley - "Suspicious Minds"
Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"
Queens of the Stone Age - "My God Is The Sun"
Scandal - "The Warrior"
Avenged Sevenfold - "Hail to the King"
Fleetwood Mac - "You Make Loving Fun"
Jack White - "Lazaretto"
Spin Doctors - "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong"
The Killers - "Somebody Told Me"
The Who - "The Seeker"