MWN Reviews – The Beatles: Rock Band

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If you’d told someone 40 years ago that one day there would be machines where you could play along to virtual versions of The Beatles with plastic instruments, they probably would have asked you what you were smoking and if they could have some of it.  Hell, if you’d said a year ago that there would be a Rock Band version of The Beatles, people would have laughed at you.  I mean, The Beatles’ catalogue isn’t even available via digital distribution yet (and still isn’t), never mind in a Rock Band game.  But yet here I am, holding my disc for The Beatles: Rock Band.  The 9th of September has come and gone and I’ve now had a few weeks to do all of what I could do in the game.  (I don’t own drums) Now I feel fine and I’m ready to write my thoughts on it so let’s go on a Magical Mystery Tour.  (I’ll kill myself for these jokes later)

(Reviewed on Xbox 360)

I feel that the most important thing to talk about first is the soundtrack of The Beatles: Rock Band.  After all with the game being based on music, it’s worth knowing whether the soundtrack is up to scratch or not.  Fortunately, I can say for the most part, it is. The Beatles: Rock Band does a great job of showing off the various kinds of music the Fab Four produced, from the catchy beats of the early 60s to the psychedelic tracks of the mid 60s to the maturing rock of the late 60s.  A lot of the tracks that most people will have heard of are there and maybe a few that newcomers or those who haven’t dug deeper may not have heard.  Let’s just say that if you enjoy The Beatles’ music then you should be just fine.

However, while the soundtrack has a great selection of Beatles tracks, it’s certainly omitting some classics, such as Strawberry Fields Forever, Penny Lane and Help! for example.  It’s also lacking in comparison to more recent music games with only 44 songs.  (43 if you count Sgt.Pepper/With A Little Help as one song in the game) This also means that the game is pretty short, with story mode taking about 2-3 hours.  Of course, this is to make way for DLC in the future (Abbey Road starting things off proper in October) but just be wary about how many songs you’re getting on disc when deciding whether to buy or rent the game.  On the other hand, most of the songs are so damn good that you’ll be playing through them multiple times.

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However, while the game may be lacking in a number of songs, it is made up by the amount of love and commitment put into the game.  After all, this was never going to be a throwaway game like Guitar Hero: Aerosmith for example.  This is a game about The Beatles after all.  Even then, with the “shareholders” being involved,  this had to be something good.  (Luckily, Yoko Ono does not appear in the game) Now you’ll already know about the locations of the game.  Just to recap, the first half of the game takes you through the most famous venues that The Beatles played at, with the game taking you from the beginning in The Cavern to The Ed Sullivan Show and onto Shea Stadium and the Budokan.  Then the second half game takes place in the Abbey Road studios.  To prevent the second half from looking a bit dull, Harmonix included what they call “dreamscapes”, which are basically like music videos for each song.  Then the game ends with the famous Apple Rooftop concert.

Initially, it was easy to be skeptical and write the dreamscapes off as gimmicky but once you’ve played through each one, you’ll love them.  Each song tends to reflect the mood and ideas of each song.  For example, Lucy In The Sky is presented like what I imagine an acid trip might look like.  Here Comes The Sun on the other hand takes place in a green meadow withthe sun shining down on The Beatles.  Then Yellow Submarine takes place below the sea with, you guessed it, a yellow submarine.  Those are just three examples.  While a few of the dreamscapes are average , most of them are filled with imagination and do a fantastic job of fixing the solution of just watching a band play in a studio.  It’s just a shame that there isn’t just a video mode for watching each song, although I suppose you could emulate something like it with performance mode and no-fail on.

However, it’s not just the dreamscapes as there are also the photos and videos.  The idea is that for each song you 3 star, you get one photo. However, if you get 5 stars on a song, you’ll get another photo.  You’ll also get a photo for completing each chapter and completing each chapter challenge with 5 stars. (chapter challenges are just the chapters but with the songs played as one setlist) There are 104 photos  in the game, detailing The Beatles’ history, with a paragraph explaining what each photo is about.  As well as being nice to see, they are also interesting to read about and are good at teaching newcomers about The Beatles.  You also unlock videos after getting certain amounts of stars.  I thought the videos were hit and miss though.  The earlier ones are pretty good but the later ones are a bit lacklustre with the exception of the last video.  Beatles fans will enjoy the virtual memorabilia and newcomers will enjoy learning about The Beatles.

Poor Ringo, being tactically positioned out of view

Now, finally we have the gameplay.  It’s exactly what you’d expect.  If you’ve never enjoyed these types of games before now then The Beatles: Rock Band won’t change your mind.  Supposedly HO/PO (Holding On/Pulling Off) has been improved but I didn’t notice any considerable difference from Rock Band 2.  The game’s only new feature instrument wise is the countdown that was introduced in Guitar Hero: World Tour, which is handy.  So if you find yourself needing to pause the game mid song, you can go back and the game will give you some time to get ready for the incoming notes.

The game’s major addition to gameplay is found within vocals.  The Beatles had harmonies in nearly all of their songs and so the game follows suit my introducing harmonies.  However, it’s a lot harder that it sounds.  The vocal track is the same as always, but with the harmony tracks, you have to sing at the perfect pitch or otherwise you will never get double fab or triple fab phrases, which are needed for higher scores.  It can be challenging and possibly frustrating, but on the flip side, failing harmonies won’t bring down the vocals level down to dangerous, song ending levels.  So singers can still do harmonies without any problems but if you’re looking for higher scores then be aware of the challenge.

The Beatles: Rock Band also has it’s own drum training mode in the form of Beatles Beats.  However, since I don’t have drums, our good friend Bunnyrabbit2 is here to talk about this form of Rock Band 2’s drum training mode.

The Beatles Beats section is great for learning how to drum in the odd style Ringo has. (He is a left handed drummer on a right handed kit and as such a lot of his rolls are confusing to say the least) The whole drum trainer section is improved over Rock Band 2 because it offers tips on how to complete each beat under the name.  It is also very helpful for practicing some of the more tricky beats in other songs because it is easier to hear the drums without the other instruments in the mix.

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In conclusion, whether you’ll enjoy this game depends on two things, whether you like The Beatles and whether you like this type of rhythm game.  Without both, you’ll find nothing to enjoy here and you probably just wasted your time reading this review. However, if you do like both then you should definitely enjoy this game.  Whether you agree on the game being made or not, Harmonix have done a commendable job of catching the good times of The Beatles’ career without dwelling on the bad times as well as providing a lot of content for fans of the band.  Being a Beatles fan myself, I certainly haven’t regretted buying the game.  And in the end, that’s the main thing for me.

P.S You’ve done a great job with The Beatles models guys but Ringo was never that good looking.

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