June 4, 2009 – More than fifty years after the band’s formation, it can hardly be denied that The Beatles are still the quintessential rock band. So naturally, when the first two complete Rock Band games shipped without any tracks by the original rock band, the omission didn’t go without notice.
However, now fans can rejoice, as The Beatles: Rock Band is coming soon to store shelves. We recently got some hands-on time with the game at this year’s E3 and did some rocking out mop-top style. The game is very similar to other Rock Band titles in function and format
The tried and true Rock Band arrangement is here, with the game divided into two main modes: Story and Quick Play. Story mode takes you through the highlights of The Beatle’s career, and it lets you play historic venues in their career such as the Cavern Club and The Ed Sullivan Show set. As you play through their career you will be able to dive deeply into the Beatles history, and the game will provide a lot of historical context for the Beatles’ greatest hits.
However, one big difference between The Beatles: Rock Band and earlier iterations of the franchise is that you do not have to go through the story mode to unlock all 45 of the tracks included with the game at launch. You can jump right in to Quick Play with your friends, which is definitely good for more casual players who don’t want to tackle the several hours-long story mode.
However, the biggest new gameplay feature for The Beatles: Rock Band is the inclusion of three-part harmonies. Much of the Beatles’ sound was created by their unique vocal stylings, and now you and two other friends can sing the different parts. The game never penalizes you for sticking to the melody, but if you do choose to sing the harmony at some point (it is always optional) you will receive a “Fab” bonus. The jump-in aspect of the vocals is a really great asset to the gameplay, and the ability to play with three vocalists at a time is certainly a welcome feature, especially when you have large groups, as it is now possible to play in a band with six people (instead of 4.)
We tried our hand at the three-part harmonies during a quick-play session of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” one of the most well-recognized Beatles songs in history. The vocal bar is still at the top of the screen, but instead of just having one line to follow, you’ll see three. The game never forces you to follow just one line (I jumped between harmonies frequently), but once the game is finished, you will be able to see a breakdown of the percentages of harmonies and melodies that you sang.
One big thing that was much improved in The Beatles: Rock Band over other iterations were the background visuals. Although they have been a little bit boring in the past, the lead-ins as well as the background animations are very nice. The Beatles themselves are always featured in the background, and look the way they did when the selected song was popular.
However, although venue-style animations are prevalent for the songs recorded during the beginning of The Beatles’ career, their later experimental material didn’t really fit into a specific venue, which is why the Rock Band team developed what they refer to as “Dreamscape” animations. These dreamscapes basically start with the band playing a song and launch into a trippy sort of mini-movie full of psychedelic themes. We were able to snag a glance at two songs featuring Dreamscape animations, “I am the Walrus” and “Here Comes the Sun.”
The “I am the Walrus” animation was probably the most off the wall, as it featured The Beatles dancing around in Walrus costumes with plenty of mirror and flicker effects working to up the atmospheric vibe. The second one, “Here Comes the Sun” was a little bit less trippy, and it simply featured the Beatles running through green hilltops and sunny fields.
In addition to the 45 songs shipping with the game, there will also be downloadable albums available for download after the game’s release, starting with Abbey Road. Rock Band: The Beatles looks like a must-have for any Beatles fan, and even though creation modes and venue selection will not be a part of this title, this will also be a must have for Rock Band aficionados as well when it releases on 9/09/09, in celebration of the White Album’s memorable “number 9” track.