Few would argue that The Beatles are one of, if not the most influential and downright legendary bands of all time. Regardless of your particular taste in music, it’s a certainty that, in some manner, The Fab Four influenced your artist of choice. John, Paul, George and Ringo’s contribution to the world’s musical stage can still be felt in genres of all kinds, but, to this day, no one has quite managed to capture the sheer genius of The Lads From Liverpool.
So, when it was announced that Harmonix and EA had managed to pull off a deal to bring The Beatles to a new generation of music lovers, the news was met with immediate reverence. Gamers of all ages could now be The Beatles, and their timeless music would ring out of Xboxes and PlayStations around the world. However, capturing the essence of such a respected and loved group, not to mention the eccentricities and quirks, was always going to be a challenge for the developers, and now we can finally find out if they managed it.
The Beatles Rock Band features 45 of the group’s songs (full list below), with input from former Beatles members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as George Harrison’s son, Dhani. In true Rock Band form, game modes include quick play, multiplayer band modes and a story that takes players from The Beatles’ iconic performance at The Cavern, to their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in the US, and the Budokan performance. As The Beatles stopped touring in ’66, later tracks take place in the Abbey Road recording studio, with songs accompanied by some weird and wonderful dreamscapes. As ever, players have the chance to pick up the guitar, bass, drums or microphone, and there’s a whole host of unlockable content to be found.
It doesn’t take long after booting the game up for the immaculate and heart-felt presentation to hit you squarely in the face, and as soon as you watch the excellent intro video, you know that this is a fitting tribute to the band.
I should say that my particular musical tastes rest mainly with rock, metal and other heavy material, but never have I felt so many chills when playing a music game than I have with this. Despite my rather anarchistic tastes in music, The Beatles will always be a favourite, and few gaming moments are as thrilling as playing through Paperback Writer, I Am The Walrus and Helter Skelter. And, as we’ve come to expect from Harmonix, the charting of the songs is dead on the money, with each instrument feeling spot on.
Paul’s tracks are arguably the most challenging of the instruments to get to grips with, thanks to The Beatles heavy reliance on bass, but guitar tracks can also test your skills. And yes, while it seems the in thing to criticise Ringo’s drum playing skills (an opinion I’ve always disagreed with), some tracks will test would be drummers with punishing tempo changes and fast-paced fills.
Of course, while instrumental challenges are rife, it’s hitting the mic that may well push many players, and keeping up with Lennon’s vocals can certainly get those vocal chords going. This level of challenge is important to mention, as many seasoned Guitar Hero and Rock Band players have already written off The Beatles outing as an easy ride. Don’t’ be fooled, though. The Beatles might not shred, riff or thrash, but for technical skills and challenging arrangements, they’re up there with the best of them.
One of the most impressive aspects of the game lies with the visuals. We’re talking some seriously eye-watering stuff. While things start off fairly conservatively, with reconstructions of some of the band’s most memorable live performances, once you hit Abbey Road and get to the dreamscape tracks you’re in for a real treat.
The developers have clearly soaked up the world of The Beatles, and have concocted some stunning landscapes and trippy visuals, including an undersea voyage in the Yellow Submarine, a striking flight in Sgt Pepper’s bandstand and wacky costume shenanigans for I Am The Walrus. The mop topped band members all look like their real selves at different points in their lives, and the attention to detail in both animation and motion captured choreography is great.
All tracks in the game are master recordings and sound fantastic, and the selection of tracks on offer is superb. However, it’s here where I find what is the only real fault with the game – the lack of songs. 45 tracks of this calibre is, indeed, plenty, but The Beatles catalogue is so chock full of classics that I could have easily picked tons more I’d like to see – and hear. Eleanor Rigby, Nowhere Man, Northern Song, and my personal favourite, A Day In The Life are just a fraction of the additional titles I’d like to play, but sadly, are not here. The reason for this? Well, aside from development costs, Harmonix needed to save some material for DLC, and already it’s been announced that additional albums will be released, including the remaining tracks from Abbey Road, Sgt Pepper’s and Rubber Soul. All You Need Is Love will also be released, with proceeds from the download going to the charity Doctors Without Borders.
Some new additions have made it into the mix this time, and being a Beatles-themed title, one of the major updates lies with the vocals. The game has full support for up to three vocal tracks, with three part harmonies being possible. This, along with a full band, can make for some excellent multiplayer moments. It’s also possible to calibrate your instruments automatically, rather than manually hitting timed notes and visual cues.
Hardcore players may find some disappointing changes, however. Freestyle drum fills are no more, and the various manual audio effects are also gone. This was done to keep the music true to the original material, and isn’t really an issue. In truth, these are very minor niggles on an otherwise flawless outing.
As for unlockables, there are plenty to go for including a photo album full of snaps, complete with interesting facts and stories from the band’s history. There are also some great video clips as well as an entire recording of one of the band’s Christmas records, originally sent out to fan club members only.
The Beatles Rock Band, is a true benchmark game, make no mistake. No other themed music package has portrayed its subject so well and successfully conveyed the music as impeccably.
This is a game that’ll be as enjoyable to newcomers as it is to long time Beatles fans. In fact, it will surely create a whole new army of Beatle People, and that can only be a good thing. Yep, this is the new gold standard in the music game genre, and all others can be officially measured against The Beatles Rock Band from now on. In a word – gear!
A Hard Day’s Night And Your Bird Can Sing Back In The U.S.S.R. Birthday Boys Can’t Buy Me Love Come Together Day Tripper Dear Prudence Dig A Pony Do You Want to Know A Secret Don’t Let Me Down Drive My Car Eight Days A Week Get Back Getting Better Good Morning Good Morning Hello Goodbye Helter Skelter Here Comes the Sun Hey Bulldog I Am the Walrus I Feel Fine I Me Mine I Saw Her Standing There I Want to Hold Your Hand I Want You (She’s So Heavy) I Wanna Be Your Man If I Needed Someone I’m Looking Through You I’ve Got A Feeling Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds Octopus’s Garden Paperback Writer Revolution Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band With a Little Help from My Friends Something Taxman The End Ticket To Ride Twist And Shout While My Guitar Gently Weeps Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows Yellow Submarine
The Beatles Rock Band is out now.