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The Beatles: Rock Band Review

The Beatles: Rock Band
Rhythm games have been getting some bad press lately. Everyone seems to want to creep out of the woodwork and have a pop.

If it's not the Rolling Stones criticising them for stopping kids from picking up real instruments, its Courtney Love, Dave Grohl and Jon Bon Jovi slamming Guitar Hero's use of Kurt Cobain's image.

How can Harmonix turn the tide and make everyone fall in love with them again? By securing the back catalogue of the world's biggest ever band and releasing a lovingly-crafted standalone title? Yup, that ought to do it.

Hold your horses though. Harmonix has a lot of making up to do when it comes to single-band music games.

My feelings towards them were greatly clouded by AC/DC Rock Band, which featured just 18 songs and didn't even bother to make the on-stage performers look anything like everyone's favourite craggy-faced, schoolboy-suited rockers. A massive missed opportunity, even if it does retail for around £20.

The Beatles Rock Band, however, goes the full nine yards.

That much is evident from the second the fantastic intro video kicks in and we see John, Paul, George and Ringo trotting through the streets to the sounds of some of their biggest hits. Sure, the fab four may look seven feet tall and as gangly as Peter Crouch, but it is nevertheless a superb start.

Story mode is where the heart of Beatles Rock Band lies. It sees gamers play through various parts of the band's career, belting out their back catalogue at several iconic venues: the Cavern Club; the set of the Ed Sullivan show; Abbey Road studios; and the roof of Apple Corps' London headquarters, to name but four.

Not only do gamers get to play a selection of fantastic hits at memorable venues, but they are given treats for doing so. Numerous trophies are dotted throughout career mode, with everything from pictures to extra songs on offer. I'm pleased to report that an unlockable Yoko character that comes along and ruins everything for everyone seems to have been thankfully omitted.

The very nature of story mode, which sees gamers play through tracks in chronological order, means that the difficulty level is up and down somewhat. This can be slightly bewildering at times. However, the difficulty never really reaches peaks seen in previous Rock Band and Guitar Hero games, so it isn't too much of an issue to have some of the trickier tracks dotted throughout the game.

Of course, for those frothing at the mouth to get their hands on Come Together as quickly as possible, there's Quickplay mode, which does exactly what it says on the tin. This can be played solo or as a band, with co-op and battle modes available.

There's also a training section that allows players to hone their skills before hitting the stage.

In terms of gameplay Beatles Rock Band pretty much treads the same path as those that have gone before it and brings very little to the party in terms of innovation.

However, the game doesn't need to offer innovation and features (these will hopefully come with Rock Band 3). The game is just what it needs to be; Rock Band for people who love the Beatles.

Though that's not to say there isn't anything new to the game. Those with plenty of friends, and even more money, can grab three mics and try out the vocal harmonising support, even if this does threaten to cause a peripheral overload in your living room.

Those keen to keep their house free of plastic instruments can just hop online instead and find three buddies to play along with, although nothing quite beats the fun of a room full of friends playing along to classic after classic.

After my hellish experience of AC/DC Rock Band, it is pleasing to see the effort that has been put into Beatles Rock Band. Harmonix could easily have knocked out a few dozen Beatles songs into the Rock Band formula and this would still have sold by the bucket-load. In fact, even a downloadable track pack would have had Beatles and Rock Band fanboys frothing at the mouth.

But, thankfully, they haven't gone down this road and they've treated the licence with the respect and reverence that it deserves.

So, we get charming cartoon likenesses of the band, lovingly-crafted and life-like venues, an array of trophies and prizes and pretty much all that you could want to make this an authentic Beatles experience rather than just Rock Band with the Beatles on the cover.

The efforts gone to are epitomised by the in-game backgrounds. These are superb and it's something of a shame that you won't get much of a chance to admire them, as this would leave you clanging and banging incoherently away at the drums like a confused baboon. Or like Ringo.

When you do manage to have a peek at the scenarios being played out you’ll see that they are a joy to behold, ranging from the twee Cavern Club shows to the on-screen acid trip that accompanies I Am The Walrus.

Obviously, fans of the Beatles will enjoy the game more than those less familiar with the fab four's output. But it has been presented in such a way that even non-converts will find plenty to like.

I mean, after all, who can attest to loving every single track they have a blast belting through on Guitar Hero with a few mates?

A path taken by other single-band rhythm games has been to incorporate tracks by bands that are related to the main artist. For example, Guitar Hero Metallica features songs by the likes of Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and Judas Priest, bands that are generally considered to have acted as inspiration for, or are friends of, Metallica.

However, Beatles Rock Band steers clear of this route, instead focusing solely on the output of the fab four.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it serves to make it a more focused experience as players will bash through song after song by the Beatles, rather than being sidetracked by tracks that they can't wait to skip through so they can get to Let It Be.

Ah, Let It Be, now there's the rub. Let It Be, along with several other well-known Beatles' tracks, is not included in the game. This results in a slightly disappointingly meagre total of 45 songs.

However, the reason why Harmonix has capped the songlist and left out several stone-cold classics has perhaps already become evident, as three full-length albums - Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rubber Soul - have since been released as downloadable content.

This is a slightly disheartening development, as completists will be shelling out a fair whack of cash on top of the disc price in order to fully enjoy the Beatles back catalogue Rock Band style.

Yet, despite this, it cannot be denied that The Beatles Rock Band is a lovingly put together package full of treats for those keen to have a quick play through of some of the world's biggest ever band's hits, and even more for those in it for the long haul.

So, is The Beatles Rock Band worth buying? I'd have to say yeah, yeah, yeah. (Sorry.)


Richard Chamberlain Last Updated: 10/21/09 12:51

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News Summary

How can Harmonix turn the tide and make everyone fall in love with them again? By securing the back catalogue of the world's biggest ever band and releasing a lovingly-crafted standalone title? Yup, that ought to do it.