In Oct. 2008, Harmonix revealed a bomb-shell of an announcement. One of the most influential, and most sought after bands of all time was going to be in Rock Band. Not only will the music of The Beatles be made available to gamers around the world, but they were going to be the main focus of the game.
The Beatles: Rock Band is Harmonix’s first title dedicated to a single band. Find out if Beatlemania is alive and well in our review.
The Beatles: Rock Band plays very similar to previous Rock Band titles. You play one of four instruments: Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vocals. The guitar, bass, and drums have their own tracks towards the bottom of the screen. The guitar and bass require players to press the buttons on the guitar peripherals and strum in order to successfully play with the music track. Drums have a similar look, but all of the commands are put in by hitting the correct color on the drum peripheral. The vocals for The Beatles: Rock Band have received an update to allow for 3 part harmonies which scroll across the vocal track in their individual colors. If you perform one part of the harmony track properly, you’ll raise your vocal multiplier. The 3 part harmonies may be a challenge to most players who may not have an ear for music, but thankfully, The Beatles Rock Band comes with a vocal training mode which helps in pinpointing the harmonies accurately.
In previous Rock Band titles, you would play venue after venue to which you’d play a random selection of music with varying difficulties. The Beatles Rock Band has venues, but instead they are played in chronological order to when The Beatles performed there, which acts as a story mode. The selection of music is also spot on to what The Beatles performed at that venue or recorded around that time. Early venues where The Beatles performed are beautifully represented, while later stages where The Beatles spent their time in recording studios are presented in what the developers call “Dreamscapes”. The dreamscapes start off with The Beatles in the recording studio, but later turn into their own individual visual representation of the musical track. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band for instance has the Fab Four donning their colorful military outfits while performing for a crowd that has gathered. Then, the second part of the song (With a Little Help from My Friends) takes them into the sky via a hot air balloon to perform the song in a more relaxed atmosphere. One downside of the dreamscapes is they’re TOO good. There were times my eyes would stray from the track I was playing to watch the dreamscape. If the developers would have allowed the ability to watch the dreamscapes on their own without playing to the song, that would have been a great way for players to sit back and truly appreciate the work that was put into them.
The tracks chosen for The Beatles: Rock Band were hand picked from throughout the career of The Beatles, and I feel were all great choices. Many of The Beatles popular tracks are playable such as Twist and Shout, A Hard Day’s Night, and Yellow Submarine. While diehard Beatles fans will appreciate the addition of such well known tracks as Dear Prudence, Helter Skelter, and Revolution. I feel there definitely could have been more tracks added to the retail disc, but with DLC promised in the future, it seems Beatles fans won’t have to wait too long to play their favorite tracks. Some tracks will also include never before released audio before or after the track is performed. This adds another layer to the game as it brings the player into the performance a little more to hear the group talk to the audience or to hear Ed Sulivan yelling at his audience to calm down during The Beatles performance. The difficulty of the tracks vary depending on the difficulty you choose. I felt tracks from early in their career were actually more difficult than tracks towards the middle of their career where The Beatles recorded at Abbey Road. Bringing all of the sounds that were included in those tracks to the guitar, bass, and drums were probably challenging to the developers and it shows at times during those particular moments in the game. Thankfully, the later stages bring the difficulty back up to a level that is deserving of late stages in a video game.
Each member of The Beatles are very accurate to their look at the time of the venue as well as their mannerisms. John tends to stay stationary while performing, Paul bounces about, George keeps a smooth disposition, and Ringo accurately bobs around to the music while he’s playing his drums. Later on in their career, The Beatles will reflect their look at that time, such as John sporting his signature sunglasses and long hair. The artists did an outstanding job at accurately capturing little things such as these.
As players progress through the story mode, the stars they receive are used to unlock photos from The Beatles library that have never been seen, as well as an explanation of what The Beatles were doing at the time the photo was taken. As you unlock photos, you’ll also unlock never before seen footage of The Beatles. As fun as the game is, unlocking these photos and footage can be fun, especially to a Beatle fan such as myself. The game also includes cut scenes that move the game from venue to venue that has its own beautiful artwork, especially the opening and ending cinematics. It’s at this point that The Beatles: Rock Band moves past a simple video game and becomes both a video game and a documentary of sorts. Die hard Beatles fans will definitely be pleased with the unlockables that are featured in this title.
FINAL THOUGHT: The Beatles: Rock Band was absolutely a labor of love from the team at Harmonix. From the music selection, accuracy of venues as well as The Beatles throughout the years, and the amount of unlockable bonus material in The Beatles: Rock Band, this is a must play for any music fan, and a no-brainer for fans of The Beatles.