I wouldn’t call myself a massive Beatles fan. I have a couple of the albums and am familiar with most of their catalogue, but that’s about the extent of it. I won’t be buying any of the new remastered CDs that were released or anything like that. That being said, some may argue that I am not the best choice to be reviewing The Beatles Rock Band. On the other hand, some may argue that those people should shut the hell up. No matter your view, I am reviewing so click ahead and revel in every last word of it.
I’m currently fighting every urge in my body to riddle this review with references to Beatles song titles so join me in hoping that I can suppress those urges.
The Beatles Rock Band has been a highly anticipated title, even with the surge of rhythm game backlash that has come in recent months. Even those who have grown tired of them tend to say “Well I’ll get Beatles Rock Band and then I’m officially finished with music games.” So what is it about this one that makes it such a special exception? Well let’s talk about that now shall we?
There are a number of reasons why this game works but I feel the most important is that it so easily could have been nothing more than “Rock Band with some Beatles songs in it”. However Harmonix really went the extra mile and made it so much more than that. It really does put the Guitar Hero band-themed games to shame. I thought they did a good job with the Metallica one but compared to this, wow. I almost pity GH: Van Halen for having to follow this one. At least Activision seems to know that game’s place as they are currently offering it for free to anyone who buys, rents, or even thinks about Guitar Hero 5. This game on the other hand was clearly made with a lot of love for the band and the final product reflects that.
Let me just say up front, if you are even a moderate fan of the Beatles, you will love this game. If you are a huge Beatles fan, this game may almost be too much for you. I would be concerned that you physically couldn’t handle the experience. Even if you have no idea who The Beatles are (in which case welcome to our planet strange space person!) I think you would definitely get a lot of enjoyment out of this experience.
We’ll begin with the track list. Now I don’t want to alarm you or anything but I feel that you should know…it’s all Beatles stuff. There’s no “here are some other songs by bands that were influenced by The Beatles” or “songs that contain words Beatles songs also contain” or anything of the sort. What you get is 45 Beatles songs, and why would you want it any other way?
Of the 45 songs that are included, there really isn’t a weak link in the bunch. I mean sure there are definitely some songs I greatly prefer to others but none I flat out disliked. I will say that “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” goes on for a wee bit too long. Despite the fear of enraging fans of that song, I would say that’s the closest I came to dismissing a song, not because the song itself is bad but because by the end I simply wasn’t having fun playing it anymore. Thankfully that was the only stand out incident of this happening and the rest of the time I had a blast.
I’m sure it won’t be that shocking when I say that the majority of these songs are pretty easy. There are definitely some challenging ones in there, but I count myself as a pretty casual rhythm game player and I managed to stick to Expert for the majority of Story Mode, even when playing on the drums. So if you’re looking for a new challenge this is not the game to look at.
Now that I’ve mentioned the story mode, let’s expand on that a little further. I’ll say right out of the gate that they did an excellent job with it. You of course follow the Beatles through the course of their career, from the Ed Sullivan Show to Shea Stadium to tripping balls in a recording studio. Each era is faithfully represented and presented in a unique way.
My personal favourites are by far the songs that take place in the studio, which are known as the “dreamscape” levels. You start out the song with the four Beatles sitting and playing in the recording studio, before the background starts to change and eventually you are staring at all sorts of insane, colour imagery. Some of them are connected directly to the song, with Yellow Submarine being an obvious example. It almost makes you mad that you can’t pay more attention to the backgrounds since you’re so busy trying to actually play the song.
The visuals in the other venues are great as well, featuring all sorts of small extra pieces of animation such as guys in the audience covering their ears because of all the screaming girls or girls jumping the barricade and being chased by a security guard. There’s always something to look at which makes watching the game as fun as playing it. Well ¼ as fun at least.
The graphics are top-notch and the in-game representations of the Beatles thankfully don’t look at all terrifying unlike those in Guitar Hero Aerosmith. I still have nightmares of the in-game Stephen Tyler opening that gaping jaw of his and swallowing me whole. Here all four band members look great and have a perfect mix between realistic and just a little bit cartoony. Their appearances also change throughout the game to match the musical era that we are currently in. As I said, lots of love for The Beatles here.
The one knock I have against the game (and I’m even stretching a bit here with this one) is the length. You get 45 songs, all of which are pretty short. They are usually around the 3-minute mark and sometimes even less. You can probably burn through the entire story mode, unlocking all of the bonus content in about 3-4 hours. There is incentive to go through again and do the bonus challenges to get the remaining photos (there are 108 photos of the band you can unlock throughout the game), but after that you’re basically done. Thankfully the songs are fun enough to replay and it’s of course a great party game, especially with the introduction of three part harmonizing with the singing. You throw in the upcoming DLC and I think this one will be frequently taken out for months to come.
So no surprise, I really liked this game. It keeps with the familiar Rock Band formula but really goes all out in creating something completely unique for the Beatles experience. This is hands-down the best band themed music game yet and will be the standard for which all other ones will be measured. Guitar Hero is really going to have to take it up a notch or twelve with their band games if they hope to compete with this.