It’s funny, because now that I have finished The Beatles: Rock Band, I keep asking myself why I need to review it. I mean, just about everyone I know either wants to check it out or wants it so bad they have already placed their first born child on eBay. I have not seen a single person who has said “Nah, not for me”. That’s a testament not only to the quality of a Harmonix product, but to the timelessness of The Beatles back catalog. Many people I know were born long after The Beatles split up, yet they feel a connection to the music just as much as their parents & grandparents did.
It’s hard to say where this title places in the music game genre. On one hand, you can look at it as another Rock Band game with a different set list. But that wouldn’t be entirely accurate as the changes to the game mechanics (both subtle & obvious) combined with the feeling that envelops you when you play it (part from the music, part from the identity Harmonix has created with the set up & the visuals) makes it a completely independent title all on it’s own.
This is a Beatles game. No covers. No other artists. Just The Beatles. Harmonix has been adamant that in order to maintain the purity of the experience (and really, that’s what this is). So the set list covers a wide range of songs from their beginnings in England (Twist & Shout) to the tail end of their career as a group (Get Back). Some of their popular stuff, some of their less popular stuff, but all Beatles. In total, it ships with 45 songs. Some future downloadable content has already been announced with an Xbox 360-exclusive song (All You Need Is Love; the proceeds of which will be donated to Doctors Without Borders) already available & the remaining songs from Abby Road (Oct 20th), Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Nov 2009) & Rubber Soul (Dec 2009).
The amount of respect & care for The Beatles, both their music & the culture that surrounded their career is beyond measure here, as the visuals are tailored not only for the entire game, but for each time period as well. At the beginning of the story mode, the Fab Four are very young, playing a four song set in The Cavern in 1963. As the tale progresses, you’ll play in such venues as The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Budokan in 1966, & Abby Road from 1966-1969. In each time period, the group ages with the times, meaning they are accurately portrayed as they really looked when they played those venues. Not only that, but as they began to experiment with new sounds (among other things), the visuals (or “Dreamscapes”) become just as over-the-top as they were (you have to see I Am The Walrus & Octopus Garden). Even the cut scenes between each chapter is fantastic! Each scene chronicles not only the transition of their career, but their music & their style as well.
There’s lots of little touches too like in-studio chatter, unlockable photos, & chapter challenges. The in-studio chatter & photos can be interesting as it kinda give a bit of insight to the relationship they had. The chapter challenges are actually really cool as they not only provide you with an opportunity to master the songs in a given chapter (by having you play them with a certain set of rules), but it also has a running friend’s list leader board so you can compete with your buddies for the best score on a given song.
As I mentioned, the play mechanics have been tweaked since Rock Band 2. Now, choosing Easy difficulty is automatically set to No Fail, even though you do have the option to turn on ‘No Fail’ manually for the higher difficulties. This is BIG help for groups who have lesser experienced players (or in my case, young children) as now everyone can still enjoy the story/tour mode. Another big change is in the vocals. Previous iterations of the franchise limited groups to just one vocalist. Now, with the introduction of harmonies, up to three vocalists can perform at one time (hopefully in key,LOL!). You can max your band out with six people now instead of four (or you can have other band members play an instrument & sing at the same time; however you want to set it up). One new feature that seemed to make a huge impact is you can change the difficulty for each song. No more picking hard on a 4-song set & having to stick with it for all 4-songs. Also, there is a difficulty preview bar at the top when you make your choice. So you know how hard a certain song is on that instrument & can make your choice accordingly.
I can’t say this Apple is completely without worms though. I ran into some graphical stutters throughout the entire game (hopefully is was a local issue & not widespread). The animations were cool to check out & the Dreamscapes were very over the top. So much so that at times I found it distracting. All the colors are bright & vibrant, appropriate for the culture, but can make it hard to see what notes you’re using on the guitar. Lastly, this is The Beatles through & through. If you don’t care for their music or the style, then you will be disappointed as there is nothing else here but them (an obvious observation, but one I still need to point out).
Overall though, my complaints are negligible. Sure the stuttering was a pain sometimes, but I still enjoyed the game from beginning to end. There are a lot of songs that I bet many of you casual Beatles fans don’t realize they made. I heard “wow, I didn’t know that was a Beatles song” many times throughout our play sessions. The game truly is an experience that every fan should be apart of (especially if you have the $250 to pick up the special edition). Even though some of you will pass on it, the majority of you will love it. After a 5 hour tour mode, there are many chapter challenges (just under 70) plus the online multiplayer supports up to 5 people. Throw in the DLC that’s coming & The Beatles: Rock Band will make your parties a hit for a long time to come.
As an added bonus, I have 5 male & 5 female Xbox 360 Beatles Rock Band Avatar Shirt codes to hand out. Just leave me a comment with the gender you want & I’ll randomly choose 10 people to get the codes. Make sure your email address is correct so I can send you the code. Contest ends at 11:59PM PST on September 17th.