Review: The Beatles: Rock Band

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Review copy provided by the publisher

By Al Zamora

September 8, 2009

The Beatles: Rock Band marks the first time that Apple Corps, along with EMI Music, Harrisongs Ltd, and Sony/ATV Music Publishing, has sat down and agreed to present The Beatles classic music in an interactive video game. That being said many have been crazy about this game ever since it was announced back at E3. The Beatles name carries a certain level of fanboyism that is well deserved after decades of number one hits and millions of fans, but do the millions of fans give this title enough to stand out in a crowded music simulation world?

The visuals alone of the The Beatles: Rock Band take you down a trip through the 1960’s that uses the Beatles albums as a soundtrack and backdrop that really puts you into the lives and era of The Beatles. The game does not deviate from the formula of the traditional Rock band titles: it still has Star Power (Beatlemania), notes still scroll down a highway of frets, you still can use a drum, mic and guitar, but has changed? Of greatest note is the fact that now you can harmonize on vocals with up to three vocalists, the whammy bar no longer warbles notes and of course that you are The Beatles. It may sound stupid that you are The Beatles, but it works very well, instead of creating rockers you are John, Paul, Ringo and George. You start performing as the four charismatic British lads back at a tiny venue called The Cavern and then move to a much grander stage like Shea Stadium and the famed Ed Sullivan Show.

During the story mode you will play 45 of the bands most famous tracks that culminate with the band playing on the rooftop of Apple Corps in 1969 with an encore of The End as your final track. While you are in story mode you will earn stars for playing the songs well and with each star you will unlock different things like new venues, photos of the band and even movies of The Beatles. There is no cash to be earned to trick out your rocker in this game but instead the game focuses on you performing as The Beatles and giving you a look at their lives via behind the scenes pictures and candid videos. The photos can be viewed in the photo album and you get two photos for every song with a brief “history” of what the photo means. Videos can be viewed in the theater and there are a total of six of them for you to enjoy like The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit, Outtake and The Ed Sullivan Show Rehearsal where they practice singing I want to Hold Your Hand.

There is a high level of polish to this game and although it does not focus on customization of instruments or band members a lot of things went into the game to make it unique from other Rock Band experiences. The costumes and scenes of the songs reflect the time period of the song and will really pull you into the music, such as the psychedelic vibe in Yellow Submarine or Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. During the performance of I am a Walrus the band puts on some of the craziest outfits I have ever seen, but it fits right in with the theme. Details like clips of Ringo, Paul, George and John chattering before and after your performances really makes you feel like you are there. Even the sounds of screaming girls trying to rush the stage while being held back by cops and their boyfriends covering their ears just helps convey the utter chaos that was a Beatles concert.

The game is a social game where players get a chance to relive a different age of music and it is nice since you know that all the songs are Beatles related you won’t really have many tracks that you will not like if you are a fan, unlike some other titles that jam 80 plus songs in that cover such a broad spectrum that half of them you may not even like. The addition of harmonies really give it a greater feel of being a social game as well since now three people can sing, one person can play drums and you have two people on either base or guitar, bringing the total of players to six at one time. Harmonies play a nice roll as well to help bring everyone together since the songs for the most part are well known and most players will be singing along anyway.

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The game still sports a Quickplay option for both solo and band formats, this is the pick up and play portion of the game where tracks are already unlocked for your enjoyment. You can also battle it out in familiar classics like Tug of war and score duel. The game really shines in Story mode which can be played online and offline. There are some interesting training modes in the game that allow you to train both vocally to get harmonies down and give you a chance to practice the drums with Ringo. There is already a music store built in which will get fired up quickly as there are already planned DLC for this title the day it releases. Of course there are also Extras, leaderboards, trophies, credits and a spot for you to view your current invites.

For some this is a must have title, those people would be the very hardcore fans of anything Beatles related, for others this may be something to pass over all together as the catalogue of music may not appeal, but to everyone this is at least a rental/pick up for you to experience the Beatles music and see just how much it will appeal to you, you will be surprised just how many tracks you will recognize even if you are not a fan. Even if you are not a fan of the Beatles you cannot deny that without a doubt this game did a great job of embodying the Beatles look, music, feel and life. What this game does well is that it does not fool you at all, this title does exactly what it was set out to do, chronicle the lives of The Beatles and provide you their ground breaking tracks, that is more than enough for most to purchase.

The Beatles: Rock Band does not throw you curveballs, it is a fastball with The Beatles logo emblazoned on it, and it is your choice to hit it out of the park. This game will bridge the gap of different generations of rockers and have gamers of all ages enjoying Rock Band together.

The game even sports some collectable instruments for those real buffs and fans of The Beatles that want the full experience:

Höfner Violin Bass – This large-scale replica is modeled after the bass made famous by Sir Paul McCartney.
Rickenbacker 325 Guitar – This guitar controller replica is hailed as one of the signature guitars famously used by John Lennon.
Gretsch Duo Jet Guitar – This guitar controller replica is modeled after one of the most beloved guitars played by George Harrison during his career.
Ludwig Pearl Finish Rock Band Drum Set – The Ringo Starr inspired and Ludwig-branded Rock Band 2 drums, with a classic pearl finish and vintage replica Beatles kick drum head.

Game: The Beatles: Rock Band
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: MTV Games
Standalone software MSRP: $59.99
Limited Edition Premium Bundle MSRP: $249.99
Release Date: 9/9/2009

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Al Zamora

Al has been gaming as long as he can remember and will continue to game until his fingers break off or video games cease to exist. A New York native born and raised he crashed into the gaming journalism scene in 2006. Since then he has become the on air personality for DSTV and loves every second of cursing while interviewing developers about serious topics. Aside from being a gamer he also has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering that does not help in the gaming world but does provide for fun stories when people say "what?".Favorite games: Contra (NES), Mega Man II (NES) and Final Fantasy III (SNES)

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