The Beatles Rock Band Review: Four Lads From Liverpool Make A Game
Hope arose a few years ago when Paul McCartney was quoted as saying that he was open to including the music of one of the most important bands of all time in a video game. A few years later that comment has evolved into “The Beatles Rock Band,” a masterwork from Harmonix, the developers behind the original “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band,” that will catch the attention of gamers of all ages. Whether you know the difference between “Rock Band” and a real rock band, or can tell a Höfner from a Hasslehoff, and even if you’ve never picked up a video game controller, ever, you know who The Beatles are, and you know their songs, and that’s why this game works so well.
Sure, the core gameplay of the game is, for the most part, unchanged, making this just another “Rock Band” game. Yeah, that’s basically true, but this “Rock Band” stars The friggin’ BEATLES – the biggest band in the history of rock and roll music. These four guys from Liverpool single-handedly changed the face of music, and have influenced every facet of modern-day popular music, whether you know it or not. So, they aren’t just The Beatles, they are the most important band to ever pick up a guitar, bass, drums, and a three-part harmony.
Enough gushing about the fact that someone managed to get The Beatles into a video game, and onto the gameplay. If you’ve played “Rock Band” before you should have a good idea of what to expect, because it’s pretty much the same thing as the previous two releases. The biggest difference is the fact that with “The Beatles” as many as six people can play; three on instruments, and three on vocals – therein expanding the party by two people. The addition of two more people on vocals offers up a handful of new challenges, as long as you like to sing (usually finding someone to is a challenge in itself), hitting the harmonies can be a frustrating, yet very rewarding experience. It’s a new layer added on top of an already complete package, and hopefully something Harmonix will continue to carry over to future iterations of the franchise.
One of the other noticeable changes in the game is the graphics, since they all keep with an ongoing, band inspired theme. The menus, the game play screen, even the credits all have a decidedly Beatles feel to them that other games will just never be able to recreate. The Beatles always had such a unique style about them, and each of those looks are recreated in the game throughout the story mode, both in the chapter introductions, as well as the gameplay screens. They go so far as to recreate the pictures painted by the song lyrics visually for songs that were rarely performed lived, via Dreamscapes, loving homage to classic songs.
The team at Harmonix also knew they had a potential huge hit on their hands, and they went out of their way to make the game as accessible as possible, targeting as large of an audience as possible, without compromising the complexity of the game. There are multiple, separate training modes that will turn any gamer into the Fifth Beatle, whether they want to play guitar, drums, or sing, “The Beatles Rock Band” will walk you through from beginning to end. They also set the game’s easy mode to a default no fail so even grandma can play an not worry about ruining it for everyone else.
The most impressive aspect of the game is easily the amount of classic, rare, and never-before-seen content that was included as unlockables in the game that should draw some attention from any Beatles fan. There’s tons of photos and videos that even the die hard fans have never seen, and, with everything collected in one place, aside from the Anthology collection, this may be the best way to get acquainted with the entire breadth of The Beatles work.
As good as the game is, it’s not perfect. There are only 45 songs included on the disk, which means there are even less songs than the original “Guitar Hero” (47) – granted all these are master recordings of The Beatles, it’s still less. Also, it is just another “Rock Band” game, and it looks like the band rhythm game genre is about to hit the wall in terms of innovation, however, the three-part vocals do make up for that a little, offering at least something new.
The first time I saw it, I got chills, and now having played the final product I can truly understand why. The Beatles are such a beloved, and protected, piece of music history that I once thought that a game even featuring, much less based on, their music would never see the light of day. However, those concerns are now long gone, and Beatles fans of all ages can now experience their music in an entirely new way. That being said, much like the Aerosmith and Metallica versions of “Guitar Hero” “The Beatles: Rock Band” is very focused on one band (that band is The Beatles, but that means different things to different people), and unlike those games, this one doesn’t offer up any contributions from other artists, making this game even more targeted. However if you are a fan of the Fab Four, or even of just great music in general, you should make “The Beatles Rock Band” part of your collection; consider it Harmonix’s Revolver.
“The Beatles Rock Band” was developed by Harmonix Music Systems, and published by MTV Games on September 9, 2009 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii. This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.