Alrighty, letâs 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 â to many people â the greatest rock ân 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 âOMG BEATLESâ section. This is the first sequel to Rock Band that we have actually seen in New Zealand â for some completely stupid reason, Rock Band 2 is missing in action. So weâre getting upgraded drums and guitars for the first time. As youâd expect, theyâre better â 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 â if you have three mics, of course â meaning up to six people can take part at once. If youâve got that many friends wanting to take part, youâre going to have fun â singing backup is surprisingly engaging and challenging, and makes the somewhat lonely task of singing a bit more communal.
Without a doubt, itâs the biggest new feature, and itâs a good one. Hereâs 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 whoâs 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 youâre meant to be singing, the interface works well â I certainly canât 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 itâs 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. Itâs a bit of a shame, because pounding out a cool rhythm was fun, but I guess theyâre doing all they can to maintain The Beatlesâ 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. Itâs a big deal, this, arguably more so than any other band starring in a music game, ever. Donât like The Beatles yourself? Thatâs fine, but millions do â their music still sells by the bucketload. Thereâs 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 youâd expect. The song list is decent enough, although itâs lacking a number of big hits â but then, theyâll no doubt come along with the DLC announced for the game. Itâs 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 â mine is currently Twist and Shout, just for the wonderfully throat-destroying lead vocals.
If youâre a hardcore Rock Band/Guitar Hero fiend, however, you wonât 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 isnât 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, itâs 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 â but itâs 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, itâs pretty. It has to be the cleanest-looking music game thus far â 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, youâre not going to notice any of this if youâre busy concentrating on hitting all the notes, but itâs 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 youâre not into them at all, of course, stay well away â while the minor gameplay enhancements are well and good, itâs 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.