The Beatles are the biggest band of all time and it seems long overdue that either a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game was made comprising all of their greatest songs. As we discussed in a prior preview on Gamingheaven, Harmonix has created not only a great game but perhaps one of the greatest tributes ever to the fab four.
So much love and attention has been channeled into this title that it is impossible to not get the feeling that this game was created not only by competent coders but by actual fans of the band.
There are 45 songs in total on the disc and all of them are hand chosen from the prolific but rather short career of The Beatles. This game is a standalone title and won’t interact in any way with other Rock Band games and all the future downloadable Beatles content can only be used with this title. This is really the way it should be even though some people might find the exclusivity of the title a little uncompromising.
An option which will appeal to a huge audience however is the fact that the QuickPlay mode has full access to the track list … well apart from one song. This works for both offline and online styles of play. Unlike other games in the franchise there are no characters to create and you can’t unlock people either as you progress. This is more aimed at the hardcore Beatles fan, and is a somewhat charming aspect of the game which appeals to the purist in me. I personally don’t want to see some long haired Motley Crue reject singing to a Beatles classic pop song. Another fascinating aspect of the game is the fact that you see the bands evolution throughout history as you progress throughout the tracks.
The Story Mode is obviously the primary focus of the developers and it is in this mode that we are presented with the greatest amount of content from the bands early days at the Cavern Club in Liverpool to the final dramatic performance on the roof of Apple Corps. Additionally you only need to play each song once rather than a plethora of times which is the usual Rock Band style.
After we play through the early days and the 60’s version of a ‘boyband’ scenario, things get more interesting as the band moves to the Ed Sullivan Show when Beatlemania really takes a hold of the public – this is clearly represented with the stunning Budokan environment. All of the environments are faithfully represented and the attention to detail is the highest we have yet seen in this franchise. I did notice European and American people in the crowd in the Budokan stadium but I think we can overlook this minor detail!
This time around the game has a ‘realistic’ mode available in the menu which enhanced the crowd’s interaction with the band and this is meant to give a more realistic atmosphere. Interestingly the band stopped touring in the middle of the their career to focus on creating albums and this reaped dividends as they became more prolific during these years. In the Abbey Road Studios the band created history and with the creative implementation of fantasy style dreams for the visuals Harmonix have effectively “spiced up” the dull environment of a recording studio. Instead of just slapping together a few funky style backgrounds however, the developers have created little visual masterpieces for each track which reflect not only the time zone in the bands career, but the visual representation of the era. “Yellow Submarine” for instance has one of the most surreal landscapes I can remember in a computer game, so the crew behind the creation really deserve special credit for their work. “I Am The Walrus” is a bizarre representation of the Magical Mystery animal form era and it works surprisingly well, especially considering the majority of the audience today won’t be high on LSD (no, not ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, I mean the mind bending drug!).
Once again when it comes to the songs, every track is represented from the master tracks with even multiple versions of specific songs available to the end user when played more than once.
The amount of extras available in Story mode is mind blowing as you can unlock photographs detailing the history of the band with input during development from Paul McCartney himself. There are videos to unlock and all of the tracks of the Christmas Album which was originally sent to members of the Beatles Fan Club.
Once you beat story mode there is replay to be taken from the individual Chapter Challenges which is a simple matter of completing all of the songs in that specific chapter in a single playthrough and scoring 5 stars in all songs. This is independent of the difficulty level however you aren’t allowed to change between difficulty once you have started. Thankfully there are no Dragonforce style finger mashing tracks, so it is possible to complete on expert, even if you can’t borrow Steve Vai or Joe Satriani for the weekend. This relatively low difficulty level may put off the thrill seekers trying to get 100% on expert while videoing themselves in their boxer shorts for youtube. Harmonix haven’t added extra notes just to make it more challenging … everything remains true to the songs.
This leads me nicely into a little discussion about this particular genre. I have been honest in previous reviews of Rock Band and Guitar Hero games that I am getting a little weary of the same old game with new tracks and paying $50 for the privilege. The difference with this Beatles game is that there is so much to unlock, absorb and enjoy that you feel as if you are magically transported to another era – when music was great and people had huge sideburns. It is not often a game manages to contain a little bit of magic which is representative of the love and passion from the development team.
In regards to playing mechanics, The Beatles Rockband is almost identical to Rock Band 2 – the big change is that you can now create vocal harmonies from three microphones. Freedom is given to each singer, so microphone 2 isn’t forced to sing in harmony to the lead vocal – the game code is able to work out who is singing what. Yes, the developers put you and your friends in a prime spot to butcher Beatles classic songs which will appeal to a massive audience who aren’t just into mashing guitar buttons or working out a tight double bass drum sequence. Once you master the three part vocal harmonies a great deal of satisfaction will envelope you – trust me!
The Beatles: Rock Band is for hardcore fans of the band, which comprises a much larger audience than any other band on the planet. If you don’t like the group then I would guess you wouldn’t be at this point in the review anyway, so I suggest you close this page, get online and order from your local store… it really is that good. It isn’t for a guitar virtuoso, but for someone who loves fine pop music and wants to experience how great a game can be if a developer puts their heart and soul into it, then this just hits the spot.
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