I was amazed when The Beatles: Rock Band was announced. Not because I doubted the concept’s ability, but because Apple Corp have been extremely cautious when it comes to The Beatles’ license. You’ll be hard pressed to download a (legal) track from arguably the greatest band of all time because they have never been released in digital formats. That’s why it is amazing that not only have 45 songs been licensed for a Rock Band game; there are plans to release every single album via DLC. While the game itself was inevitable, it was a massive risk for developer Harmonix. The good news does not only have they pulled it off, they’ve honoured the Fab Four 40 years on in style.
It goes without saying, but The Beatles: Rock Band is strictly designed for fans of The Beatles. With that in mind, it is more than your normal rhythm game. It’s not just for gamers because it is more than just a game; it is an experience, a chance for a new generation, and older ones, to experience The Beatles either for the first time or in a completely different way. In turn, it’s not a game for Rock Band, or Guitar Hero, fans; it’s for Beatlemaniacs. For instance, the expert difficulty is not expert as we know it. It’s much easier to pick up, which partly may be due to the nature of The Beatles’ song list, and can be enjoyed and mastered by irregular gamers on one of the lower difficulties. Don’t let that dishearten you though; it’s one of the best games in the genre.
If you’re dying to get into it you can jump right into quickplay and access 44 of the 45 songs from the get go. It’s the story mode, however, that you’ll want to visit once your initial Beatle cravings have been satisfied. This mode will take you through The Beatles’ short, but prolific, recording career. There are 9 chapters in total (The 09/09/09 release date was no coincidence The Beatles loved the number), each of which captures a different stage of The Beatles revolution.
Forty-five tracks is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s nothing to write home about either. You’ll be able to blast through the career mode within 3 hours and be left wanting more. The bigger talking point is the selection of tracks, which, at first glance, appear to be randomly selected from The Beatles’ albums. While some of the big names such as Help and Hey Jude have been left out, some of the smaller hits such as Boys and I am Walrus made the final cut. The Beatles themselves, or their family representative, were heavily involved in making decisions behind the scenes, so we’ve come to the conclusion that they decided on a balance between big name hits and lesser known gems. The Beatles have never sounded better, the master recorders sound great and only add yet another reason for why we want to see them remastered and released digitally.
The rest of The Beatles’ 200 track song list is headed to the game via downloadable content, but some fans are going to feel a little disappointed that they’ll have to pay extra for their favourite tracks. On one hand it’ll be a great collection when it’s done, but on the other, all of the DLC is going to add-up on top of what is already a very expensive game. Considering the target audience mightn’t have played a Rock Band game before they are going to have to fork out for 2 guitars, a drum set and 3 microphones for the complete experience. If there’s one major downfall, it’s that all of the instruments and the downloadable content are going to make the complete package unaffordable for the average player.
In terms of gameplay, you’ll feel at home if you’ve ever played a Rock Band game before. It’s essentially the same, as you have to hit the corresponding coloured note on your controller when it passes on the screen. New to The Beatles: Rock Band are the vocal harmonies. Up to 3 people can take to the mic at once (as long as you have 3 microphones) increasing the band size to 6. There’s no designated lead singer as such, anyone can sing what he or she likes, but there’s still lead, back-up #1 and #2 phrases to complete. Only one player has to successfully fill-up the vocal meter; however, if you have a barrage of talent in the room and ace all three parts you’ll earn double or triple Fab points.
Unlike similar games there’s no character customisation in The Beatles: Rock Band and it’s one of the best decisions that Harmonix made. The background visuals are the best I’ve seen in any rhythm game. They’re colourful & full of life, and depict the changing physical styles of The Beatles perfectly. When you hit the Abbey Road studios you’ll be treated to the surreal ‘dreamscape’ sequences that tie a vibrant fantasy world into the current song. The cinematics between each chapter, that sum up a period in The Beatles’ career, are just of good and present one of the rare times when you’ll be dying to watch them again.
Almost every song begins and finishes with a rare piece of audio taken from the studio, offering a great insight into the minds of the Fab Four at the time of recording. Even better are the photos and videos that can be unlocked by achieving performances. Each photo includes a little accurate information, verified by Sir Paul McCartney, and the rare behind the scenes-style videos – including an unseen Ed Sullivan TV rehearsal – are a treat for Beatles fans young and old. Online play is what we’ve come to expect from Rock Band titles, and will extend the replay value of the title if you don’t have time to get the band together in one place. The challenge mode will also keep you coming back. It requires you to complete, and earn 5 stars for, every song in each chapter.
One last thing to mention is that this is the first game to feature music from one band, and one band only. Similar titles have been based on a band, but also featured tracks from supporting acts. That’s not the case here; if you’re not a fan of The Beatles then this one isn’t for you. Also of note is the quality of the bass. Generally speaking guitar has also been the more enjoyable of the two in past games; however, I found myself spending more and more time with Paul’s bass as I progressed.
This is a great addition to the Rock Band series, and truly a must have for any Beatles fan. The Beatles: Rock Band is not just a game, it is an experience. 40 years on Harmonix have developed a fantastic tribute to the world’s greatest band. It celebrates their history and will take you on a mystical journey through the best, and some of the hidden gems, of their catalogue. The only downfall is that it’ll substantially hurt your bank account if you have to buy all the instruments and want the downloadable content. But it’s so special, we’re almost willing to overlook that.
Classic Rock Band gameplay with the addition of vocal harmonies. Seasoned players may find it a little too easy, but the beauty is any Beatles fan can pick it up and play, while Rock Band veterans will still get a kick out of it.
Stunning vibrant visuals represent The Beatles’ physical transition to perfection. The dreamscapes are nothing short of pure awesome.
A great balance of smash hits mixed in with hidden gems. The Beatles have never sounded so good, prompting more of an outcry for their digital release (from me at least).
This is hard to judge. 45 tracks will leave you wanting more, but the bonus photos and videos almost make up for that. Then there’s the number of times you’ll replay those tunes. Considering they’re still going strong 40 years on we’d suggest they will still be making the rounds by the time all of the DLC is rolled out.