The Beatles: Rock Band Review

Posted by Grey Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ever noticed the naming convention of the Guitar Hero Series besides the main releases, like Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero: Metalica? Then perhaps you are somewhat puzzled by how "The Beatles: Rock Band" is being named? In fact, you should not. It's the freaking Beatles, after all.



The Beatles: Rock Band
Developed by: Harmonix (PS3/Xbox 360)/ Pi Studios (Wii)
Published by: MTV Games
Distributed by: EA Distribution
Designed by: Chris Foster, Sylvain Dubrofsky, Casey Malone
Platforms available on: PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Released Date: September 9th, 2009
Genre: Rhythm game
Rating content: ESRB: T (Teen) / PEGI: 12 Mild Lyrics,Tobacco Reference




Developed by Harmonix Music Systems, published by MTV Games and distributed by Electronic Arts, all three of the usual suspects behind the acclaimed Rock Band series, The Beatles: Rock Band is the third major console release in the Rock Band rhythm video game series.

For the uninitiated, the Rock Band rhythm video game series simulate the rock band experience by allowing the players to play the songs by using the respective band instruments-shaped controllers. Featuring the visual depictions of the many differing eras of The Beatles' varied histories (from boyish music enthusiasts to bearded hippies) the game had the unenviable tasks of reliving 45 classic Beatles hits with additional songs and albums being made available for the game as downloadable content later on down the line.

Released globally on 9th September 2009 to coincide with the release of the new, remastered CD versions of The Beatles albums, the game will be featuring the actual sounds of the Fab Four, while retaining the basic gameplay features of the Rock Band series. This was made possible with the assistance and cooperation of Apple Corps (no relation to Bill Gates and his empire), a multi-armed multimedia corporation founded in January 1968 by British rock band The Beatles to replace their earlier company (Beatles Ltd.) and to form a conglomerate. Giles Martin, son of The Beatles' music producer George Martin (who incidentally produced almost all major album by The Beatles), stood in as the music producer for the game, while Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr presented the game personally at the Microsoft press conference at E3 2009. On the other hand, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, widows of the late John Lennon and George Harrison respectively, also made a brief appearance at the event.

As mentioned earlier, the game will be retaining the basic gameplay features of the Rock Band series, but with The Beatles, you bet that there must be some changes. While the addition of a three-part vocal harmony system is mainly an improvement of the technical aspects, some changes were made for the sheer reasons that they are The Beatles. Picture this: The Fab Four booed off the stage due to players playing badly. That, of course, wouldn't be happening. Which is why instead of the "booed off" scene we known and hated whenever we sucked at the game, we get a "Song Failed" menu. Likewise, while the crowd usually cheer maniacally whenever the band are performing well, the cheers will not be noticeable. Some special audio effects like the whammy bar on a sustained marked note for the lead guitarist will be removed while it still does collect more Beatlemania/Overdrive points.

As with all Rock Band installments, new instrument peripherals were released and with this one, the theme couldn't get more blatant. Four new instrument peripherals modeled after those used by The Beatles themselves were introduced upon the launch. These include a Rickenbacker 325 guitar, a Gretsch Duo Jet guitar, a Höfner bass and a Ludwig drum set. While these peripherals are brand new, the functions remains the same as per earlier releases such as the Stratocaster.


While earlier reports indicated McCartney's wish to have all four members to be in hyper-realistic detail, the final decision to have more stylized, somewhat cartoon-like designs turned out to be a right call. Additionally, the animation for all four respective Fab Four are aided by motion capture provided by Beatles tribute bands while the designers reportedly researched on fashions of the 1960s to appropriately apply them to the respective different crowds in the varied locations featured.

The choice for the performance videos depicted in the gameplay proves to be interestingly distinctly deviations from the usual concert or studio performance that we are used to. With Apple Corps providing rare materials such as the stock photos taken during the iconic Ed Sullivan Show's performance when The Beatles performed their first live broadcast in the United States, Harmonic designers meticulously recreated the many realistic and surreal scenes.
Talk about real and surreal, venues appeared through out the game are as varied from The Cavern Club, Shea Stadium, Budokan, Abbey Road Studios and the rooftop of the Apple Corps Headquarters to the psychedelic march in Magical Mystery Tour. Though you will hear complaints from the players for being not able to view the visuals as they are too engrossed with the gameplay.

Like the precedent Rock Bands, the opening cinema were produced by Pete Candeland of Passion Pictures, with help from animator Robert Valley and background visuals from Alberto Mielgo. But this one simply slays any potential comparisons with the previous opening movies. Clocked at two minutes forty seconds, the sequence, interspersed with obvious and the not-so-obvious puns and references to the music of The Beatles, provided a brief but nonetheless rich representation of the remarkable history of the Fab Four. Quite possibly, the best opening video for a video game thus far in 2009.



Till now, the sales have been encouraging, despite the enormous threat from another Rhythm Game giant, Guitar Hero's fifth major release. Comparison between both brands are inevitable and healthy though. While the game's relatively short lifespan are notably the complaints of most major game critics, the game had enjoyed mainly rave reviews since the release a week back.

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