Review: I got blisters on me fingers!
The Beatles. I don't know if there is anything I can say to appropriately introduce this band. If you already know the band, hearing their name alone is enough to invoke your memories. If you are a younger chap and didn't grow up listening to this band with your parents, I don't think that I can do justice to their career and legacy with my words. Put simply, they changed music. Examined on a deeper level, you could argue that The Beatles changed modern culture. Regardless of how you look at it, The Beatles: Rock Band is a celebration of their career that examines both their music and the trip that they took from beginning to end.
If you've played any of the Rock Band or Guitar Hero games then the gameplay formula of The Beatles: Rock Band will be instantly familiar to you. There aren't any surprises with the Guitar, Bass, or Drums and the cascade of notes that each of the instruments implement. In fact the only real change to how the game is played comes in the addition of vocal harmonies. To recreate the two and three-part Beatle magic, Harmonix has tweaked this seemingly small item to large affect. While this was an essential adjustment for The Beatles, I am excited to see the doors that it opens up for future Rock Band titles.
The Beatles: Rock Band does depart from the now classic formula in one significant way. Gone is the rock band career, replaced instead with a story mode. The game's Creative Director, Josh Randall, recently discussed this shift with Game Informer magazine: "The whole band world tour concept from Rock Band didn't really make sense for these guys, and we wanted to give players a journey through the career of The Beatles. Story Mode allows you to do that. You play in chronological order, from their humble beginnings all the way to the rooftop concert."
While the gameplay itself doesn't reinvent the genre, this change in focus does create a new type of product. When combined with unlockable photographs and trivia bits, the shift to a story-based mode moves The Beatles: Rock Band into the realm of interactive documentary. It gives those of us that didn't live through the 1960s the opportunity to see Beatlemania develop and take over the world. A different light is shed upon the Beatles experience for those of us that grew up listening to their music with our parents. The great thing is that by doing this with a video game, versus a traditional documentary, a whole new generation of people with be introduced to this world-changing music.
It is also interesting to see how The Beatles: Rock Band is able to reach beyond typical game playing borders and bring different groups of people together. Take my mom for instance. She was impressed by the original Rock Band and how I used a "toy" guitar and drums to play along with the music. However, that was as far her interest went. While she recognized a couple of the songs, the music wasn't hers. That all changed with The Beatles. Knowing her love of the Fab Four, I invited her and my dad over to play and, an hour-and-a-half later, she was still squealing with delight, exclaiming, "I love this song."
Speaking of songs, The Beatles: Rock Band contains 45 songs that span the duration of their illustrious career. This number is a little bit light when compared to the 85 packed into the most recent Guitar Hero, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in consistency. If you're like me, you grew up on most of these songs and those songs that you don't know are a glimpse into a part of Beatles history. There are tons of top-ten singles packed into the game, probably more than in any other single music game released.
There are some notable omissions from The Beatles catalog, such as "Help" and "Eleanor Rigby", but there has to be a hook for buying into some of the downloadable content that is coming. Already released is "All You Need is Love", with proceeds going to charity, and the albums Abbey Road
, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
, and Rubber Soul
will all be released by the end of the year. My guess is that we'll have the complete catalog available for download by Christmas 2010.