Tough to Beatles
The Beatles: Rock Band is a wonderful retrospective and homage to one of the greatest musical acts of all time. The development team at Harmonix, along with the guiding hand of Apple Corps, was able to create arguably the best band-specific music title ever.
First, the game features a visual presentation that is exceptionally rendered and utterly intriguing. Though I would have liked to have seen a lot more from their storied catalog, the music is an impressive, if not quite quintessential, collection of some of the greatest pop and alternative anthems ever created. While the this entry doesn’t try to innovate upon gameplay in most regards, the inclusion of three-part harmonies markedly advances vocals. Finally, though this is not a game to challenge the most technically savvy players, The Beatles: Rock Band plays nicely to its target demographic and is masterfully presented in order to bring the illustrious career of The Beatles to life.
Unlike other band-specific music titles, The Beatles: Rock Band doesn’t feature music from any other group. While this would have been deadly for other band games, The Beatles don’t really need any support. Following their career from its humble beginnings in Liverpool to world domination through pop music and then back to England for more introspective, innovative albums, players will have lots of great material to play through in ever-changing settings that succinctly encapsulate the aura surrounding the band. Moreover, The Beatles: Rock Band constantly rewards you by unlocking new venues, tunes, video clips, and never-before-seen photos. All of this adds up to a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate the impact The Fab Four has had on modern music.
One aspect of the game that jumps out immediately is how lush and beautiful the visual presentation is. The art direction is spot-on! Not only do John, Paul, George, and Ringo all look great, but their unique and varied styles are perfectly captured to mirror the changes they underwent throughout their career. Also, being able to play in iconic venues from The Ed Sullivan Theatre to Shea Stadium to the roof tops of London and their studio work at Abbey Road, every environment is well captured. The Abbey Road Studios venue, in particular, is where the game really shines. Abbey Road serves as a hub for the game to present song-specific “Dreamscapes” that are characteristically The Beatles. These background movies are flawlessly rendered to bring The Beatles to life! Further amplifying the experience in Story mode are the cutscene montages that help to transition players from one era to the next. The graphics were obviously painstakingly created – this is definitely the most graphically-impressive music game out there.
Of course, a music game also needs great sound in order to please. Thankfully, the fidelity is crystal clear. Adding to the aural quality, actual conversations between band members, Ed Sullivan’s introductions, and practice lead-ins before gigs really help to set the tone. Naturally, players also get to jam their way through a collection of 45 great songs that span the band’s entire career. Unfortunately, despite the sheer amount of genius that is found in this title, I found the track selection to actually be a bit on the weak side. I feel that too much attention was paid to the first half of the band’s career – giving the title a decidedly pop bent. I really would have liked to have seen more from the decidedly influential latter years and deeper cuts from the iconic albums that are represented. Alas, it appears money talks – too much was left on the DLC altar and the game’s play value suffers greatly for it. That being said, the music that is presented here will still send chills down your spine and is well worth the price of admission.
The main mode of play is the game’s career mode. As hinted at previously, the Story is a straight-line progression through the life and times of the band. Anyone who is a fan of The Beatles will absolutely love this guided tour, giving them an intimate look at this iconic group of artists. Story Mode doesn’t really mix the Rock Band formula up, but I did enjoy going right through The Beatles’ career without having to repeat tunes. Rather than collecting enough stars to advance, you’ll have to play through every song and collect stars only to unlock photos and clips of the band. After successfully completing each chapter, players open up the Chapter Challenges, which have you playing through all songs at that venue, competing locally and online for high scores and opening up even more goodies.
In addition to Story, players can also compete and cooperate in Quickplay. Quickplay allows you to play alone or with other band members through the entire set list and with Nerfing modifiers such as “No-Fail” and on any difficulty level. Additionally, players can compete with each other at home by selecting either the Tug of War (two-player versus mode where you trade off different sections of a specific song) or Score Duel (compete on the same instrument and with the same difficulty). There is also the ability to match up with others cooperatively via remote server support; however, there are no online competitive features in The Beatles: Rock Band other than that of leaderboards.
In terms of novelty, The Beatles: Rock Band does give players fresh guitar peripherals to pick up as well as a new way to sing. For starters, the wireless Gretsch Duo-Jet and Rickenbacker 325 controllers are great guitars – they should be at $99.99 each. The quality of construction and overall appearance are perfectly suited to the game and feel substantial in the hand. While we’re not sure whether the ability to play the game is improved by these new peripherals, they certainly look a lot cooler.
What does greatly affect gameplay is the inclusion of three-part harmonies – a vocal technique that is a signature of The Beatles. This allows up to six players total to join in the band. While singers can simply take on the main melody, two other chanteuses can take up a supporting role to create the three-part harmonies on specific sections of each song. While getting three different people to hit three different notes to create a harmony is often nearly impossible, doing so will rack up major points for your band and is quite satisfying to pull off. Three-part harmonies has really helped to give this game a unique feature.
As always, controls are tight and can be calibrated to function ideally with any television. As is the case with all Rock Band titles, the game is not nearly as technically demanding as the competitions’ offerings. This is even more evident in the case of The Beatles: Rock Band. While The Beatles are notorious for their excellent music, they were never known for being virtuosos – their brilliance was in their simplicity, adaptability, and innovation. Still, three-part harmonies are challenging enough, and it’s refreshing to just sit back and calmly jam to The Beatles.
The Beatles: Rock Band is an excellent game that any fan of The Beatles should consider buying. The stunning visual presentation, the well organized and thoughtfully guided tour of The Beatlles’ career, the great music, and all the extra content make this a nice choice for anyone even remotely interested. Disappointingly, perhaps a bit too much was left for future DLC, though; making the 45 song set list seem underwhelming despite its innate class.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
These are the best visuals to ever grace a music game. The venues, band members, montages, Dreamscapes, and video clips are all spectacular. 4.2 Control
They’re exactly what you’d expect from the Rock Band brand, made perhaps even a bit more approachable for less-skilled players by the nature of The Beatles’ musical stylings. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The fidelity is crystal clear, and there are a lot of great tunes to jam to. I especially liked the pre-song banter, introductions, and practice noodling that sets the mood. 3.5 Play Value
Despite the superior presentation and excellence of the subject matter, there aren’t a lot of game modes to play and the music selection leaves a lot to be desired. I wish DLC wasn’t such an important factor. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.