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Sep 28, 2009

Review: Beatles Rock Band

Beatles Rock Band
EA, Harmonix
Available for Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360

The last couple of weeks have been like a dream for this game reviewer as I’ve been able to review childhood memory inducing games like Batman Arkham Asylum and Tales of Monkey Island. Best of all, they didn’t suck which is a huge bonus when you are dealing with subjects so near and dear to your heart. Unfortunately, this week’s review didn’t escape my red pen of doom despite my love for the subject matter.

Beatles Rock Band hit stores on the historical date of 09/09/09 and being the fan that I am, I scooped up a copy in order to rock out to hits like Hey Bulldog, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band and more. The game centers solely around the Beatles and their musical career, so don’t expect to find any other band’s music here like in Guitar Hero Aerosmith or Metallica.

Story mode takes you on a journey through the band’s entire career from their humble beginnings playing the Carven Club to their performance atop the Apple building. Rather than playing venues, story mode has you playing moments or albums (chapters) in the Beatles’ career and the songs that were out for them at that time. While this is great for a huge Beatles’ fan to follow all these amazing moments, the difficulties of the songs were all over the place which made story mode the worst place for a new player to start off. Luckily there is a training mode for newbies to learn how to play each instrument which can ease you into the game.

On the other hand, seasoned players will find the difficulty of the songs rather low and can probably finish the story mode in a day if they want to. Actually there’s even an achievement for it, so if you are a seasoned Rock Band or Guitar Hero player I say go for it.

As you progress though story mode, you can unlock photos and secret videos from the Beatles collection with 3 & 5 star performances. Once you clear a chapter, you also unlock a challenge mode that allows you to play through that entire chapter’s song list non-stop and compare scores with your online friends. Other modes include the co-op online story mode and quickplay mode, or the competitive tug of war and score duels modes. There is also a “no-fail” mode which can be turned on for new players, so they can always finish a song no matter how badly they play it.

A new feature exclusive to the game is the 3 person melodies option which allow up to 3 people to sing during a song but there are also some missing features like the freestyle drumming, customizable band members or the whammy bar affect. Apparently, a lot of features were removed to preserve the music and the memory of the artists which in the long run is really okay by me. Besides do we really need another rapping Kurt Cobain? (Note: I don’t listen to Nirvana and even I thought that was wrong, Guitar Hero 5)

Now, I only grabbed the game disc as I have enough band peripherals to start 3 fake bands but for first time buyers, you can pick up two different kits: the Special Edition Beatles Rock Band kit which includes one basic guitar controller, basic drum kit, microphone and Beatles Rock Band game ($159.99CAN for PS3 or Xbox360) or you can pick up the Beatles Rock Band Premium Bundle which includes one Höfner bass controller, Ludwig-branded drum kit, microphone, mic stand, Beatles Rock Band game and additional special content ($249.99CAN for PS3 or Xbox 360).

Unfortunately this does not cover everything you need to fully play the game as a complete band as you still need two more microphones and probably two mic stands, and another guitar. You can pick up a Rickenbacker 325 guitar controller or a Gretsch Duo-Jet guitar controller for $99 each, microphones will run you about $50 each and mic stands probably about $20 each, so by the time you are done you are looking at spending about $500 on all the equipment if you want all the premium quality equipment.

And we haven’t even purchased any downloadable content yet. Yep, after spending all that money on the game and all the peripherals, you still have more money you can dump into this game via the online Beatles music store which at the moment has only one song, All You Need is Love (Proceeds go to charity) but there will be a whole bunch soon as Harmonix plans to release whole albums. And don’t say you won’t buy them either, you devoted fans as the game is missing great songs like Penny Lane, Eleanor Rigby and my favourite, Yesterday, so you won’t be able to stop yourselves from buying more music as they purposely kept back the some of the good stuff.

Visually, this game blows all other Rock Band incarnations away and makes you almost want to hand the controller over to someone else so you can focus all attention on the background animations. Like the Yellow Submarine come to life, Beatles Rock Band is a rainbow of colour and music splashed upon the screen in some of the best digital cinematics I have ever seen. Songs like Octopus’ Garden and The End bring the beauty of the music to life on screen with elephants, flowers and fishes.

When reviewing a music game obviously audio is a key component and there was nothing wrong with the sound here. Some songs were rearranged beautifully for the game and everything is a master track – no covers here. Extra features in the game included audio files from the Beatles private collection which still sound pretty darn good for their age. Overall, the music sounded fantastic and they still had this Beatles’ fan singing along with or without a microphone.

Games like these are really hard to review because as a fan you want to scream, “GOD, YES! BUY THIS! 10/10” but as a gamer you see the flaws and can’t in good conscience give a perfect review. I don’t expect uber-fans to listen to my review because if you are a fan, you probably already bought this game and are writing a letter to the editor trying to get me fired for what I’m about to say, so Beatles fans ignore me. Music game fans, listen up though as this is not a good investment unless you like the Beatles. Stick to the main Rock Band games because the store downloads will never be compatible with other Rock Band games and the difficulty of the songs in Beatles Rock Band will have expert players bored to tears.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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