I can imagine that everyone out there is a fan of The Beatles. I am unfortunately not one of those people that think they are the greatest band of all time. I know what you are thinking, why is this guy reviewing the game, but if you think about it, doesn’t that make for a more equitable review? This isn’t to say I don’t respect the band, in fact I think they moved the rock genre further than nearly any other band. This is partly why I am sure they tagged the folks at Harmonix to create the ultimate experience for the Fab Four. The Beatles Rock Band is the ultimate experience for fans of the music, but if you are not a fan then this game is certainly not for you.
From the minute you power up the game you realize that a certain level of care was taken to ensure this is the most complete single-band experience in a music game ever. From the eccentric intro to the cut scenes in between each venue that deliver colorful transitions between each set of songs. This is what separates this game from others in the genre. In addition you now collect photos instead of stars that give you a look at the band as well as little quotes and audio tracks that are sure to please the hardcore.
As far as the song list goes a lot of the favorites are here, but it is also worth noting that a lot of the more popular songs are omitted. This is largely due to the fact that Harmonix plans to release some DLC down in the road, more than likely in the form of full albums. This is fine, but the fact that you cannot import songs into your existing copy of Rock Band will be a deterrent for anyone not interested in playing solely as The Beatles. This is common for Guitar Hero fans, and has been the major criticism for those band-specific games. Of course the sheer amount of aesthetic pleasantries more than make up for it for fans of the music.
From the get go you have access to all 45 tracks for quickplay, but you can opt to play through the expertly crafted career mode that follows the career of the band including the Ed Sullivan Show and Shea Stadium. Each venue is crafted with such detail that even non-fans will be impressed with the attention to detail. To be honest I knew very little about the group before playing the game, and after going through all the motions I found out some interesting facts about the world’s most popular musicians. This game does a fantastic job of educating fans and gamers alike about why these four gentlemen from England are so popular the world around.
The traditional Rock Band formula remains intact. You can opt to play guitar, bass or drums and of course sing. The biggest change to the formula is the addition of three-part harmonies. You can choose to have three singers or go the pragmatic way and attempt to sing and play a plastic instrument at the same time. The note charts are certainly not the most complicated, and I was able to play on expert with little trouble on guitar. Harmonies on the mic are a bit more complicated, and imitating the perfect pitch of these gentlemen is certainly a challenge. Of course I am sure everyone you know knows at least one Beatles song, and that makes this game a favorite at parties, but after an hour or two non-fans are likely to lose interest due to a lack of diversity.
In my experience with the game I found myself and the people I was playing with enjoying it in varying degrees. My wife for example who loves The Beatles was enthralled at the experience. I found myself enjoying playing the tracks thanks to their catchy tunes and wonderful harmonies, while others who had no interest in the songs would grow fairly bored at times. This is going to be the deciding factor in whether or not you should drop the sixty bucks, let alone $250 for the special edition, which is certainly only for the hardcore as it contains replicas of Paul McCartney’s bass guitar and Ringo’s drums as well as a microphone stand.
On the visual front the game delivers the trippy-inspired visuals you would expect from a game about a band from that era. The venues are all themed after famous places the band has played including the rooftops of Apple Corps. These small touches lend a helping hand in solidifying the uniqueness of the title, and separating it from others in the genre. All four of the band members have been painstakingly rendered into the game with eerily likeness as have their signature instruments. The core note highway and other aesthetic details have been tailored after the familiar scenery and the presentation is downright phenomenal. Everything about the game screams quality.
Outside of jamming to the tunes and playing through story mode the usual features reside within. There is an online mode (of which we were not able to test during the review, but we assume the standard Rock Band modes and fluidity apply) and an advanced training mode that takes advantage of the source material. The new Beatles Beat mode allows you to whack away on the skins like the legendary Ringo Starr. You are required to play on drums, but the 80 beats will keep you practicing long into the hours of the morning. The ability to create your own band was axed for obvious reasons, but again if you are buying this not being a Beatles fan; you have missed the point entirely.
Beatles Rock Band is an interesting conundrum. For what it is it is flawless. The representation of the famous foursome is impeccable and dripping with fan service. The selection of songs is disappointing, but with future DLC you will likely be able to enjoy all of your favorite tunes for a price. Beatles fans need not even hesitate; just buy the game. Whether you are moderately interested or just a casual fan the price of admission is more than worth it. Rock Band fans looking for the next great thing will want to stick with the weekly DLC.