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The Beatles: Rock Band - short review

Earlier this year, Harmonix announced The Beatles: Rock Band. In short, it is a separate game in the Rock Band series, which lets you "play music" on plastic instruments and sing along in a microphone. I've posted on Rock Band before, here: Calcuttagutta's review of Rock Band. The game was released a few weeks ago; I got it on launch day and I really, really like it.

There are three awesome things about this Beatles game. First, it really is a Beatles game through and through - this isn't just Rock Band with a new logo and new songs. The intro is fabulous (or "fab", as this 60s-oriented game would've described it), reflecting the different phases the group went through and oozing personality. The visual style of the game is very appealing and undeniably characteristic of the 60s, the 70s and the Beatles (to my mind, at least). When loading up new songs, you'll hear real chatter from the studio (they had snippets of old recordings played out inside the Abbey Road studios and re-recorded to give the right sound (free login required)), and when completing songs, you are awarded with photos and videos of the Beatles on tour. As you perform, you read the familiar Rock Band note charts, but with either animated versions of the Beatles in studio or concert or psychedelic dreamscapes in the background - depdending on the song.

Second, the Beatles catalogue of songs is fantastic. There are 45 songs included on the disc; more will be released as paid downloadable content. (They are going to start off with "All you need is love" and donate the proceeds to Medecins Sans Frontieres - massive props.) There are many songs here I've had a relationship with for a long time ("Ticket to Ride"), some that I've really liked but not listened that much to ("Here Comes the Sun") and some that I've never heard ("I'm Looking Through You"). For anyone into pop/rock music, this is the equivalent of having your favourite dinner with a very good dessert you've never tried before. I'm loving it.

Third, you can now involve six people at once by throwing two more microphones into the mix, and the game supports harmonies in Beatles songs that feature them (most). The Singstar microphones you are bound to have lying around are supported and work great. This has always been a complaint of mine with "social games" - they don't fully utilize the available hardware; for instance Singstar only supports two microphones - why not four? Six? Eight? Now, if I have people visiting who are more into singing than playing plastic instruments, that's fine, and I don't have to take waiting time into account when inviting more than three people over for Rock Band. And, most importantly, trying to sing harmonies is great fun, and sounds cool when you pull it off. This is also something Singstar stinks at.

There's one downside to The Beatles: Rock Band I can think of - the songs in this game can't be mixed and matched with the ones in the ordinary Rock Band games - they are completely separate. I can sympathize with that though, because this does feel like a different game.

There are separate Beatles instrument packs, but you don't need them if you have a Rock Band set already. Bottom line, if you like the Beatles and own Rock Band already, you need this. If you don't own a Rock Band set, consider buying the Beatles bundle - this is good stuff.

Tracklist on Wikipedia
Wikipedia article on The Beatles: Rock Band
Fab New York Times article on the game (free login required, yuck)


Camilla,  20.09.09 17:06

While my immediate reaction is to shudder at the thought, I can see how it would be appealing if there were any appeal in the concept of Rock Band.

I wonder what the rest of The Beatles would have said about this. Paul McCartney being in favour somehow doesn't surprise me. He always struck me as the more commercially oriented of the four. I notice Ringo Starr appears rather more lukewarm.

Camilla,  20.09.09 17:44

Yoko Ono certainly likes it:
I think the Beatles Rock Band game is the second revolution. In the beginning they made a splash with their music; with the video game we're going to create a planet of music and art. Music and art are both very interesting healing vibrations, and with that vibration we can create the world we've always wanted, a world of peace.

Are,  20.09.09 22:28

I'm telling you, this game is the shit.

Kristian,  20.09.09 23:54

So... Beatles is the religion of the week?

Anders K.,  25.09.09 17:19

Concerning Beatles as a religion -- There is a Norwegian Beatles fan club that tours Britain in a car and breaks into any house a Beatles member lived in forty years ago, thinking it's their right as faithful disciples. How come us normal Beatles fans -- who also appreciate other music, and don't see John Lennon as God -- are always accused of being like that?

Kristian,  25.09.09 17:30

Is this a question (to me)?