The love it makes is equal to the love it takes.
A creative writer at heart, I enjoy reading reviews where the writing style reflects the nature of their games at hand, putting their spirit on the page as if they were writing themselves. Following that concept, this review for The Beatles: Rock Band will be short, simple, and polished. (*pats self on back*)
[image1]The trouble with any criticism of The Beatles: Rock Band is that its audience is more or less clear-cut. If you are a fan of Rock Band and the Beatles, this is a no-brainer. If you are a fan of Rock Band but couldn't care less for the Beatles (they are the origin of over-hyped boy bands...) – or don’t care for either of them – then you should use the box as a coaster or, better, a bludgeoning tool against Jonas Brothers fangirls. But if you are a Beatles aficionado who has never played Rock Band before, then “Dear Prudence, won’t you come out to play”.
As its title suggests, The Beatles: Rock Band presents itself as a tribute to the Beatles first before its intention as a video game. The 45-song tracklist completely consists of master tracks of Beatles songs, as compared to band-centric Guitar Hero titles that include songs from that band and that band’s favorite songs from other groups. The story mode progresses chronologically through their career, so the difficulty curve doesn’t rise steadily from easy to hard, but wavers between the two as the songs dictate. Given that it’s supposed to catalog the biography of the Beatles, this is a bold and smart design choice.
Each venue wonderfully recreates famous concert locations and shows that the Beatles have appeared in, like Budokan and The Ed Sullivan Show, while most of their Abbey Road albums have been re-interpreted as
very high effervescent, eco-imagination Dreamscapes that coast into the background like “yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog’s eye”. This quirky, artsy creativity can also be seen in the cut-scenes, made by the same production company that makes those cool intros for the recent 007 films, that look like a fusion of music video collages and Katamari Damacy-esque English gardens (just check out the intro video).
[image2]Even better, as you complete songs with three- and five-star ratings and finish setlists for each venue, you will unlock special photographs, trivia, and other rewards - some of which have never been released to the public before. Of course, more Beatles songs would have been better unlockables, but these bits of memorabilia are not dreadful substitutes by any means.
In keeping with the homage, the solo vocal instrument has been expanded to mimic the complex harmonies of the Beatles’ compositions. Up to three people can sing the various lines, noted by alternate colors and lyrics as appropriate. Though the removal of the horizontal gauge makes it difficult to discern just how well you are hitting a particular phrase and the expert vocal difficulty requires almost unholy precision, only one person needs to complete a phrase to continue the multiplier streak. But if more than one person fills their gauge, they will earn more points with “Double Fab!” and “Triple Fab!” scores. More importantly, the harmonies add a depth to the vocal section that puts it on an equal basis with the guitar, bass, and drum instruments, effectively matching the unison bonus between those three instruments with a unison bonus of its own.
Other improvements to the Rock Band architecture have been made, including a Ringo-centric drum trainer, a harmonies practice mode, the absence of drum fills (which would have broken the flow of the Beatles’ songs), and various interface improvements. The instrument selection screen now shows the difficulty for each part and has an embedded no-fail option, and loading times have been significantly reduced.
[image3]Unfortunately, the happy-go-lucky 45-song tracklist is not only short on the replay value – lasting at most 10 hours on any difficulty through story mode and challenge mode – but also non-transferable and non-accessible to other versions of Rock Band. Though there will be DLC available in the music store, having the game be so static, not even allowing you to play the considerable and touted amount of other Rock Band DLC, is disheartening. The excuse that the game has incompatible architecture with the main series doesn’t hold much water - just put in some drum fills and fix the vocal track to the solo option, and voila!
“Fads don’t last, but it should be clear by now that the Beatles are no ordinary fad.” As an anthology of one of the most pivotal, if not the most pivotal, bands in international musical history, The Beatles: Rock Band does exactly what it’s supposed to: show respect. The gameplay and presentation are perfect and approachable for those who haven’t been introduced to music video games, especially families with wide generational gaps who have at least a remote interest in the Beatles. Though it is short and isolated from the other Rock Band titles, The Beatles: Rock Band is much better than your average day tripper.