The Beatles: Rock Band

Anticipation is high, the wait has been long and it’s gotten to the point where to be cool you have to say you’re not interested…but everyone secretly is. There is finally a music game affiliated to The Beatles and it’s made by Harmonix. I’ll get this out the way now, I’m a huge Beatles fan. I was brought up with them, their music got me through my teenage years and as I take my tentative steps into alleged adulthood the music has moved from my Dad’s vinyl to my iPod and continues to accompany me through life. It’s the same I’m sure for a great many people and it’s for these people the game has been made. If you aren’t a fan this isn’t the game to convince you otherwise, it’s a love letter from Harmonix to their idols and only fans will relate to this adoration. The game doesn’t set out to convert though so it’s hard to hold that against it, instead I’ll look at how effective the game is at it’s fan service in terms of music choice, presentation and general quality of package.

The draw here isn’t gameplay though, the draw is presentation and the music itself. Harmonix could have released the albums as DLC and made a frightening amount of money, yet in getting the licence something special had to be made to appease the myriad of people who stood between them and getting to make a game with the fabled Beatles name on it. Half of the presentation comes from The Beatles themselves in the form of unlockable rare pictures, trivia and video giving a charming insight into the band. The other half comes from the presentation, which is undeniably Beatles, undeniably British and yet at the same time reeks of that Harmonix gloss we all adore. The band all look the part and the venues are all perfect, with the real star being the “dreamscapes” which gives you essentially a Harmonix acid trip to go along with the song. It’s crucial to note that you won’t be watching the original Yellow Submarine or anything resembling the animation used by the band, it’s all original work and looks absolutely staggering. Beyond that it’s the little touches that round off the package. If you are playing in Abbey Road the track starts with real audio of the band tuning up, ordering food, chatting about the previous track before starting and it along with the video unlockables helps humanise the icons. This attention to detail permeates the entire package with The Ed Sullivan Show set being slightly yellow, which is accurate as it allowed the stars to stand out in black and white, hell even the stadium shows are accompanied by screaming teenage girls. It’s an utterly delightful way of engrossing you in the unique Beatles style and can’t help to make you smile from ear to ear.

Gameplay wise the only addition is three person harmonising, something insanely tough to pull off unless you have a group who can all sing and who are all astoundingly patient. Beyond that gameplay is standard fare, hit the notes as they pass the bottom or sing and keep in tune and you’ll do well so the draw will have to come from the tracks themselves. When Activision released their efforts at a band centric music game the tracks were augmented by music which either inspired the band or was inspired by the band. The Beatles Rock Band goes the other route and has 45 tracks from The Beatles with three albums on the way as DLC. Fans of The Beatles won’t be disappointed as the selection gives a good account of the bands variety. There are notable tracks missing of course (Help! being the prime candidate) but the tracks chosen manage to fulfil all the conditions needed; they give a good account of what The Beatles produced, they are fun to play both by yourself and in a band and they offer tracks made to challenge each band member at varying points. The bass particularly benefits from the track choice with Paul McCartney giving the most challenging and entertaining bass tracks yet seen in a music game. It’s not a comprehensive overview of the music of The Beatles by any stretch of the imagination but the tracks do the job admirably. Fans will not only find the move from the likes of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “Helter Skelter” a thrilling reminder of how trailblazing The Beatles were at all points of their era but it also serves as an emotional moment in gaming, especially as the move from stadiums to Abbey Road occurs and through the music you get an idea of the problems affecting the band. It’s hard not to notice the lack of collaborations as the game begins to wind down, the definite split in style between the band members and that through this music you can chart the end of a glorious era. Simply speaking it’s hard not to feel distinct sadness as the game draws to a close in the same way you can’t listen to Abbey Road and Let it Be without getting a lump in your throat at points. The only negative that can be levied at the game comes through the music as the challenge of previous Rock Band games isn’t there and aside from a few blisteringly tough achievements you’ll find the game mastered and completely beaten in a few days. Replay value comes from the fun of songs, but it’s more of a play through experience instead of a game that will keep you coming back for more.

Reviewing music games now are really futile, it’s all about how much you love the music. The Beatles Rock Band had more to do that just give us the tracks needed, it had to do justice to the most influential four men in music and be as high quality as the music they are showcasing. Instead of simply doing them justice they have given the music a new platform to dazzle and through their presentation they have managed to bring the warmth, humour and genius of The Beatles to a generation who missed out on this aspect of the group. It’s dazzling, intelligent, moving, beautiful and fun. What more could we have asked for Harmonix.







2 responses to “The Beatles: Rock Band”

  1. Van-Fu avatar

    Good review. Even an anti-Beatles man like myself appreciates that this is an incredible package for fans of the band. Hopefully, this will get the sales it deserves. Which could pave the way for a Commodores Rock Band? Or Chaka Khan & Rufus Rock Band? I can only dream.

  2. Jamie Doughnut avatar
    Jamie Doughnut

    Are we expecting an Ocean Colour Scene version any time soon?

    I think the title is a contradiction in terms. Since when were the Beatles a “Rock” band?

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