The folks who devoted an entire game to table tennis have pulled the rug out from under our feet once again. Rockstarâ€™s latest left-fielder, Beaterator, is a music-creation tool. Thereâ€™s no violence, no cussin,â€™ no sociological commentary. You just make music. Nuts, huh?
Beaterator, created for the PSP, PSN, and the iPhone, began its life as a simple music-creation application on the Rockstar website, where it proved so popular it sparked inspiration for a larger, denser tool. Developed by Rockstar Leeds, Beaterator gained a significant string to its bow when super producer Timbaland came on board in 2007, essentially donating his studio â€“ weâ€™re talking thousands of loops â€“ to the concept.
Indeed, Timbaland drives the tool, from the intro sequence (available to download online) through to an onscreen avatar who Djs your creations, through to his own hip-hop beats. This is not to say Beaterator is a â€˜hip-hop productâ€™ - there are a ton of genres you can mess around with â€“ but for anyone who is familiar with Timbaland, his flavour is distinctive.
Split into three parts - Live Play, Studio Sessions and Song Crafter - Beaterator is created to cater to both the casual and the wannabe DJs. Live Play works at the front end, allowing instant, accessible mix-ups driven by an onscreen Timbaland. The loops here are ready-made, and no matter how rhythmic you are the beats in Live Play will generally work together. As Timbaland says in the trailer, Live Play is â€˜kinda played by me, kinda played by you.â€™
Your input in Live Play comes via onscreen prompts that can be shuffled depending on which primary instrument you want to tinker with. Considering the breadth of genre here â€“ you can pull out loops from UK garage to pop -this part feels the most like a game in the traditional sense. For those who just want to mess around for a bit or watch Timbaland play some horrendous techno-punk mashup, this is where youâ€™ll spend most of your time.
Once youâ€™ve recorded something, Studio Sessions allows you to edit your work, adjusting loops on a more technical level. Essentially, each separate element in your song is broken down into bars of sound, which can then be moved or removed depending on your liking. There are basic effects dials here too, where you can adjust the speed of your track, swing, pan, or play with the master volume. You also have the option of adding your own sounds via the PSPâ€™s microphone â€“ providing itâ€™s a PSP 3000.
All this stuff looks remarkably accessible so far, aided by a help guide that looks thick as a dictionary. For those who want to truly challenge themselves however, the most technical stuff lies in Song Creator, where you can get down to the absolute nitty-gritty of your track, customizing every element of every loop as much as you want, or creating new loops from scratch. Each element to your track is uniquely customized too, with an onscreen keyboard used for anything melody based or a â€˜Drum Crafterâ€™ to break down every snare, hi-hat and cymbal. For those who have ever used proper song-editing software, Song Creator will come as familiar, and this is saying a lot considering Beateratorâ€™s cheap asking price.
Ultimately, this is why Beaterator looks so promising. It can either be a fun little distraction, or a music creation tool that at least looks (keep in mind my experience is limited in this field) like it could produce something of radio worth. Retailing at around $50 for the PSP, these beats sound like a bargain.
The Good: Fun toy or intensive music creation tool, you choose.
The Bad: Thinking youâ€™re the next Paul Van Dyk.
The Ugly: â€˜UK Garageâ€™. Shudder.