Rock Band: The Beatles Review

By Mike on 8:00 pm

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Ladies and gentlemen... THE BEATLES!... Rock Band. Yes, after much anticipation, the Fab Four from Liverpool have finally made their video game debut. They are perhaps the greatest band in the history of the rock & roll genre. Stretching from humble beginnings at the Cavern Club; John, Paul, George, and Ringo cemented themselves into the pantheon of pop culture and became an icon of the 1960s. The band itself only recorded over an eight year period from 1962 to 1970 but they managed to turn out hit after hit; sparking Beatlemania in the United States. The band was dissolved in the early 70s, largely attributed to John Lennon's bizarre avant-guarde artist wife Yoko Ono. (She's fairly ugly for a Japanese woman and has nothing resembling a personality; what he saw in her is a mystery.) The Beatles and their managing studio Apple Corp. have been notoriously protective of the band's catalogue. Most notably, the songs are not even available on iTunes due to a naming dispute between Apple Corp. and Steve Jobs' Apple Inc. Therefore, getting the rights to 45 tracks for Rock Band is a major victory for EA, MTV Music, and Harmonix. Surviving Beatles Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono appeared at Microsoft's E3 2009 press conference to promote the game. (George Harrison died of cancer in 2001 and Lennon was fatally shot by an obsessed fan in 1980. Pete Best does not appear in the game as all tracks are post-1962.)

Rock Band: The Beatles is like any other Rock Band game. I had tried to resist the music game craze for as long as possible but this one was difficult to pass up. The game is sold in two configurations. The software only version retails for $60 while the "Limited Edition" kit sells for $250. The kit comes with a replica Rickenbacker 325 or Gretsch Duo-Jet guitar, "The Beatles" drum set, and microphone. Like all Rock Band games, you have a choice of what position you want to play in the band: bass, vocals, drums, or guitar. You do not need to own all the peripherals to play the game, but you do need at least one. Third party controllers or ones from previous Rock Band editions will work. I originally picked up a Guitar Hero 3 Les Paul controller used, but upon discovering it was broken, I picked up a Nyko Frontman instead. Just buying the guitar makes sense as it allows you to play at least two positions.

Rock Band is intended as a party game but can easily be played by yourself or with a friend. The goal of the game is to tap the right coloured "notes" as they scroll across the screen and "strum" when they reach a bar at the bottom. It's one of those games that's easy to learn but difficult to master. A tutorial section will give you a rundown on the basics as well as more complex techniques used on higher difficulty levels. There is a scoreless practise mode and a free play mode as well, which gives you access to most of the 45 tracks right from the beginning. In story mode, you follow the Beatles from their humble beginnings playing rock & roll at the cavern club to the psychedelic era of their latter days. The Beatles only performed live for a part of their career, mostly older tracks. These follow the classic live concert style of Rock Band. Studio albums feature beautifully rendered psychedelic dreamscapes. Overall, the game really shines graphically. Audio quality as you'd expect is also top notch. The overall goal of the game is to hit all the notes and achieve the highest score. Certain techniques will raise your score, such as use of the whammy bar on sustained notes, or tilting your guitar up in the air once you reach enough energy to trigger "Beatlemania", which drives the crowed and your score wild.

Despite all the effort that has gone into it, it's still the same old Rock Band and it doesn't bring anything new to the table. One problem with the game is that to my knowledge, it cannot be expanded. Additional track packs are planned to be released later this Fall but you have to buy Rock Band or Rock Band 2 to get the full experience. I really think this would have been better as an expansion pack instead of a stand-alone game. It is not cross-compatible with the main game. Most Beatles songs are fairly short, so 45 tracks isn't a lot even though it's still generous. A lot of more popular songs are missing such as Hey Jude, Help!, and Yesterday. The full Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's, and Rubber Soul albums will be released as DLC for a steep $17 in October, November, and December of 2009 respectively. The game is an overall solid title though and is definitely a must-have for any Beatles fan, even if they're not a gamer.

Score: 8.5 out of 10

What Works
-45 of the best Beatles songs
-Excellent, colourful dreamscape graphics
-Still uses the tried and true formula while staying true to the classic music.

What doesn't work
-Doesn't really bring anything new to the table
-Not cross-compatible with Rock Band 2
-"Limited Edition" peripheral kit is vary expensive
-Some of the band's top songs are missing from the track list and DLC

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