The Beatles: Rock Band


By: Tristan Clark    On: PlayStation 3
Published: Monday 7 Sep 2009 9:59 AM
 
 
 
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Alrighty, let’s consider how to tackle this one. On the one hand, this is another single band-themed music game, along the lines of the Aerosmith and Metallica Guitar Hero outings. But on the other hand, The Beatles are – to many people – the greatest rock ‘n roll band on the planet. The sheer weight of their history, their music, and their influence reaching across the decades cannot be put aside for a review like this.

However, indulge me for a moment as I do just that, before we move on to the “OMG BEATLES” section. This is the first sequel to Rock Band that we have actually seen in New Zealand – for some completely stupid reason, Rock Band 2 is missing in action. So we’re getting upgraded drums and guitars for the first time. As you’d expect, they’re better – particularly the drums, which I wish could replace my old, semi-broken kit at home. The game itself features 45 songs, and is nearly identical to the gameplay found in RB2.

However, there are some additions. The biggest, in my mind, is vocal harmonies. Now three singers can take part – if you have three mics, of course – meaning up to six people can take part at once. If you’ve got that many friends wanting to take part, you’re going to have fun – singing backup is surprisingly engaging and challenging, and makes the somewhat lonely task of singing a bit more communal.

Without a doubt, it’s the biggest new feature, and it’s a good one. Here’s how it works: the vocals are still all placed along one bar at the top of the screen. However, now each microphone has a unique arrow associated with it, so you can tell who’s singing at what pitch. The lead vocal line is in blue, while the backing parts are orange and brown. Backing lyrics run up the top of the screen, while lead lyrics run slightly below. Once you figure out your arrow icon and when you’re meant to be singing, the interface works well – I certainly can’t think of a cleaner way to represent multiple singers.

Beyond that, minor tweaks continue to make life easier for those about to rock. Like the latest Guitar Hero games, you can now turn Lefty Mode on and off when you select your difficulty, rather than having to pause the song once it’s started. Sure, as a left-handed person I may be biased, but this little tweak is great. In-game, not much is different from the instrument sections, except for the removal of freestyle drum sections that preceded star power activation. It’s a bit of a shame, because pounding out a cool rhythm was fun, but I guess they’re doing all they can to maintain The Beatles’ sound.

Speaking of The Beatles, did you hear that they got their own Rock Band game? Pretty crazy, when you remember that up until now, their music has never (legally) been made available in a digital format. It’s a big deal, this, arguably more so than any other band starring in a music game, ever. Don’t like The Beatles yourself? That’s fine, but millions do – their music still sells by the bucketload. There’s a very, very large built-in audience for this game.

So as a collection of playable Beatles songs, how does it do? Pretty well, as you’d expect. The song list is decent enough, although it’s lacking a number of big hits – but then, they’ll no doubt come along with the DLC announced for the game. It’s good to see some lesser-known tracks sneak in there, regardless. The majority of the songs are fun to play, and your own favourites will vary – mine is currently Twist and Shout, just for the wonderfully throat-destroying lead vocals.

If you’re a hardcore Rock Band/Guitar Hero fiend, however, you won’t find too much to challenge you here. A few of the songs have relatively hard instrument tracks, but nothing compared to the harder songs in the normal games. But then again, this game isn’t aimed at the hardcore crowd so much as the Beatles fan who might want to dip their toes in the sea of music games. For them, it’s a great introduction, especially with the No Fail mode so easily accessible and all the songs unlocked in Quickplay from the start.

Surrounding the songs themselves are various pieces of trivia, photos, and archival footage of the Fab Four. These could so easily have been useless throwaway material – but it’s not. Even if you only have a vague interest in The Beatles, unlocking this content in the Story mode is an intriguing exercise. It certainly looks like the developers have gone out of their way to include material that both fans and non-fans can appreciate.

This extends to the overall presentation of the game. To put it simply, it’s pretty. It has to be the cleanest-looking music game thus far – which might seem like an odd compliment, but it really helps that the aesthetic running through Beatles: Rock Band is so cohesive and minimalistic. Beyond the interface, the in-game animations are spot-on as well. For songs that were performed live, appropriate sets have been built, such as Shea Stadium. The majority of the songs, however, feature imaginative dreamscapes that can get pretty damn trippy. Of course, you’re not going to notice any of this if you’re busy concentrating on hitting all the notes, but it’s a good montage of shots for non-participants to enjoy.

Beatles: Rock Band is so very obviously a labour of love, above and beyond being simply a money spinner. If you like The Beatles, and want to play their music, this is the game for you. If you’re not into them at all, of course, stay well away – while the minor gameplay enhancements are well and good, it’s not enough to keep non-Beatles fans captivated. The key test for single-band music games, I believe, is whether they can offer enough value to those in the middle. This is where Beatles: Rock Band arguably succeeds: its attention to detail, treasure trove of unlockable material, and sheer classiness combines with some highly fun songs to offer something even very casual fans should look into.


The Score

The Beatles: Rock Band
"Brimming with value - for Beatles fans, of course."
8.9
Great
Rating: PG   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 15 Min

 

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Comments (19)

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Oliver
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 11:55 AM Posted by Oliver
Looks cool I might get it.

No but seriously this sounds awesome. The fact it doesn't get as difficult as other music games is a bit disappointing, but I bet it's still huge fun. I want to try it but unfortunately all the people I know who I would normally play GH with aren't keen simply because its the Beatles. c*cks.
 
 
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Oliver
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 1:06 PM Posted by Oliver
Sweet review by the way.
 
 
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Kate
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 2:58 PM Posted by Kate
Gosh, fantastic review Tristan.
I want to play.
 
 
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Soyerz
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 3:58 PM Posted by Soyerz
Cant wait to get it:)

Thanks for the review with a great score.
 
 
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Syn-Ryn NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 6:58 PM Posted by Syn-Ryn
Can I do the whole song import thing like you can with Rockband 2?
 
 
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DeathbatDrummer
On Monday 7 Sep 2009 8:00 PM Posted by DeathbatDrummer
7 September 2009, 06:58 PM Reply to Syn-Ryn
Can I do the whole song import thing like you can with Rockband 2?
Nope
 
 
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SpawnSeekSlay NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Tuesday 8 Sep 2009 7:34 PM Posted by SpawnSeekSlay
Nice detailed review :)
Not a beatles fan so to say, to softcore for me but would certainly be an option with the number of people that know and love there classics. Could be a good party piece :)
 
 
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jbl316 NZGamer.com VIP VIP
On Wednesday 9 Sep 2009 11:25 AM Posted by jbl316
My brother is a little gutted he spent his money on Guitar Hero world tour for ps2 so he cannot play this unless he buys a ps3 or 360 bundle which is an extra $400 or so.
 
 
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Donutta
On Wednesday 9 Sep 2009 11:54 AM Posted by Donutta
Oh, how I would enjoy this game is if it wasn't for The Beatles. The remaining two can go die in a fire. They can take Yoko with them.

Oh well, something like 14 Queen songs are being released as DLC for Rock Band, so I can content myself with that.
 
 
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Inglemoose
On Thursday 10 Sep 2009 2:05 PM Posted by Inglemoose
I'll stick with the multi-band games.
 
 
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egginator
On Thursday 10 Sep 2009 4:28 PM Posted by egginator
OMG I want It!!!
 
 
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Soyerz
On Thursday 10 Sep 2009 5:33 PM Posted by Soyerz
9 September 2009, 11:54 AM Reply to Donutta
Oh, how I would enjoy this game is if it wasn't for The Beatles. The remaining two can go die in a fire. They can take Yoko with them.

Oh well, something like 14 Queen songs are being released as DLC for Rock Band, so I can content myself with that.
Jeez, a bit harsh much? What did they every do so wrong?

As for Yoko, +1.
 
 
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The Host of Chaos NZGamer.com VIP VIP Gold
On Thursday 10 Sep 2009 9:04 PM Posted by The Host of Chaos
I wouldn't mind playing this and seeing if it improves on the original Rock Band (which I wasn't very fond of.)
 
 
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thejuror84
On Thursday 10 Sep 2009 9:21 PM Posted by thejuror84
10 September 2009, 09:04 PM Reply to The Host of Chaos
I wouldn't mind playing this and seeing if it improves on the original Rock Band (which I wasn't very fond of.)
The gameplay differences from RB2(which if you don't like, then clearly music games are not for you) are only vocal harmonies and the ommision of fills. This is for people that like the Beatles and Rock Band
 
 
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Barnicals
On Friday 11 Sep 2009 4:01 PM Posted by Barnicals
Good stuff.
 
 
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Nefarious
On Monday 14 Sep 2009 2:34 PM Posted by Nefarious
loving the look of this game, don't think i'm prepared to fork out a great deal of $$$ for it though, great review too
 
 
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Rapidity NZGamer.com VIP VIP Bronze
On Wednesday 16 Sep 2009 7:21 PM Posted by Rapidity
Can't stand The Beatles

*shudders*
 
 
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harksgal
On Friday 25 Sep 2009 7:45 PM Posted by harksgal
Crack up, this would be heaps of fun :)
 
 
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Soyerz
On Saturday 6 Mar 2010 6:13 PM Posted by Soyerz
16 September 2009, 07:21 PM Reply to Rapidity
Can't stand The Beatles

*shudders*
Well you might as well give up on listening to music all together...
 
 
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