Also available on: PS3, Wii
Genre: Rhythm action
Developer: Harmonix/Pi Studios
Publisher: MTV Games
Release date: September 9, 2009
The Beatles are without doubt the most famous band of all time, and what better way to celebrate such iconic success than with your own rhythm action game? Activision pulled off a massive coup by signing Metallica to such a title, which was released earlier on this year, but for Harmonix to attract the interest of The Beatles is beyond compare.
Rock Band's last attempt at a singular band title was the disappointing AC/DC edition, which was simply a live show, with no frills or extras. However, the build up to this release has seen Harmonix talk up the authenticity of the experience, with the surviving members of The Beatles utilised to make the title as true to the legend of the 'Fab Four' as possible. And it's not just the surviving members that have been bought in to beef up the fab-factor, the help has extended to family members such as Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon. But a long list of creative contributors doesn't necessarily make a good game, which raises the question, is the latest Rock Band title case of 'Hello Goodbye' or is it truly a 'Ticket To Ride'?
From the moment you switch on the game, you'll be greeted by a colourfully animated tour-de-force of the Beatles' musical career, with a beautiful video that sees the band sneaking out of the back of Liverpool's Cavern Club, to a number of dreamy and heavenly images associated with albums such as Sgt. Pepper; it's at this instant that you'll be drawn into the world of The Beatles, as well as being charmed and amazed by the things you see and the effort that has gone into the game. In fact, the presentation, which includes numerous videos, live footage and recordings, as well as photos sandwiched in between the gameplay sections, is so top notch that you really feel you're peering into an interactive musical history book.
However, the actual gameplay and modes of play bring you back down to earth slightly, because The Beatles: Rock Band doesn't deviate much from the traditional formula. The main mode of play is the Story mode, which, as you might expect, tells the chronological story of The Beatles' career. The story mode plays like any other rhythm action career mode, with new chapters and venues unlocked after every four to five song set is completed. It all starts in The Cavern Club in Liverpool, with four guys in suits playing some catchy rock and roll tunes much to the delight of the crowd. A few songs later and you get to see Beatlemania take hold of the world with historic gigs on US TV, as well as New York's Shea Stadium and Tokyo's Budokan arena. Of course, it's not just the big stadiums that are represented in the game; the Abbey Road studio years also accounted for, including that famous rooftop gig. The story mode is as interesting as it is fun to play, and it's great to witness the evolution of the band both visually and musically.
The gameplay consists of the now-standard formula of singing, playing guitar or drumming to the songs on offer. The actual gaming screens are very sleek, even though at times you'll be watching the band as opposed to the notes. The band play is also present, and getting enough people together is the ultimate escapist fantasy. One of the new features of the game comes in the form of the vocal harmony sections, which allows for up to three singers to harmonize with each other in the songs. The main singer controls the action, with the other two having to match the singer's tone in order to score the points; of course, this leads to some true butchering of The Beatles' songs, but additional points are satisfyingly scored if the harmonies are actually harmonic. There are a few other minor touches that make the game too, with the whammy bar not having anything but a points effect, and no negative crowd reaction to poor performances; but who would want to boo The Beatles anyway?
The soundtrack to the game consists of 45 songs from the early days to the end, with most of the recognisable classics all present and accounted for. Unlike other standalone rhythm action titles, The Beatles: Rock Band doesn't feature additional artists in a support band capacity, which will ultimately put some people off who feel like they are being short changed slightly, especially when other games in the genre contain 80+ songs, yet still cost the same amount. This really is one for enthusiasts, and it's a shame that some would ignore the title because, as rigid as it is in terms of input, The Beatles were a very diverse band, and this is evident as you play through the story. The game will also be typically well supported by DLC, with a number of full albums planned for release as downloads. For any collectors out there, be prepared for another way to purchase and listen to the work of The Beatles. However, with downloads to come, and some authentic replica instruments available to purchase, the game’s main problem will be its price, but it can be played with regular Rock Band and Guitar Hero instruments, which does offset some of that cost.
Perhaps for the first time, a rhythm action title has transcended the world of the video game and become a truly interactive experience. The Beatles: Rock Band is like a greatest hits album, documentary and museum tour combined, plus there's the additional bonus of actually being able to sing, drum or strum along to a whole host of classic songs. The Fab Four's first foray into the video game world is a true five-star experience, which genuinely wouldn't have been as good with additional songs by fellow artists, despite that ultimately being one of the main reasons why it won't necessarily appeal to everyone. For Beatles fans, music historians and those with an open mind, The Beatles: Rock Band is an essential title, but for those who are looking for more variety and a bit more of challenge, then Guitar Hero 5 is just as good, but you don't know what you're missing.
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