The Beatles are a band that will forever be remembered as an iconic and legendary group of the 60s and 70s. Harmonix has created a Rock Band package that showcases, respects and most importantly spiritually reflects what it was like to be caught up in Beatlemania.
Players will fall into one of three camps. If you grew up with The Beatles and loved their music, you need to have this game in your collection. If you’ve never listened to The Beatles and want to know what all the fuss was about, you equally need this game on your shelf. If you know that John Lennon and the gang are your musical equivalent of living hell, you can pass this one up. It’s that simple.
Once gamers have loaded up the disc and decided who’ll be playing each instrument, a gorgeous piece of opening animation will greet your eyes. Artistic and edgy visuals will quickly whisk you through many of the title’s key venues, giving you a taster of what’s to come. A few of the group’s most memorable tracks weave into one another, building with intensity as the group finish sitting on top of a giant walking elephant.
If you’ve played a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game before, you’ll feel right at home with the core gameplay mechanics. Hold down the coloured fret on your plastic guitar and strum when the note passes the bottom of the screen. Alternatively, you can wail horrifically into a microphone or smash some drum pads like a madman if that’s your preference. The more notes you hit, the better your percentage accuracy and score multiplier.
There are a few notable additions, such as the renaming of star power as ‘Beatlemania’ and the use of three part vocal harmonies. This means you can technically have up to six people performing in your living room, a useful improvement if you’ve got a full party itching to play. Structurally, the game plays it safe by using an identical system to its predecessors; pass every song in the current venue and you’ll open up the next stack of songs. At it’s underlying core, The Beatles: Rock Band doesn’t feel like a vast improvement over its predecessors.
Instead, it truly excels as a piece of musical documentary. Each iconic venue represents a period in The Beatles’ career, passing through their musical journey chronologically. The level of detail is astounding and the authentic caricatures of each member ages appropriately with every venue. Play the game alongside a video recording of each performance and you’ll be hard pushed to find any differences. Screaming fan girls and even the exact model of their instruments are present and correct.
The overall set list feels too short, but it’s important to try and understand the work that went into producing every track on the disc. Unlike most contemporary releases that are used on rhythm games, most of The Beatles earlier back catalogue doesn’t use multi-track. This means spending thousands of pounds and endless hours taking them apart in Abbey Road Studios and tinkering with them so that they’re compatible for a video game. As a result, you won’t find many places where The Beatles sound as fab as this.
Unlike the Guitar Hero franchise, you can’t play any song at any venue. This might sound like a step backwards, but it’s because every track has its own, unique video sequence. Rather than watching a boring cover band play to the same mindless crowd, you’ll be whisked onto the Yellow Submarine, a field filled with sunflowers for ‘Here Comes The Sun’ or inside the famous Abbey Road Studios.
To add to the sense of musical tribute, players unlock a photograph of the band after every three and five star rating. These are all captioned and unlock further videos when you’ve collected enough of them. Christmas records that used to go out to their fan club and rare footage of them preparing for their performance at the Shea Stadium make this feel like the perfect collector’s package. If you’re too young to have experienced The Beatles, you’ll quickly realise and appreciate why they were a global phenomenon.
The ending cinematic is another pleasure for the eyes, but highlights the game’s short lifespan. Luckily Harmonix has already released the missing tracks from the Abbey Road, Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band albums as DLC. These add a further 29 songs to the 45 featured on the disc – but like all music games, you’ll have to fork out some cash to play them.
For casual gamers, this is a must have addition for party gaming. The difficulty level isn’t particularly hard, meaning that almost anyone can pick up and play. The Beatles: Rock Band might be a little on the short side, but everything it offers has been fine tuned to perfection. If every artist received this treatment on the next Rock Band title, it would place music distribution and video games in a whole new avenue.