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My Dad was never really into music, but one story he told me from his youth was that he happened to be on the second story of a double decker bus, when he noticed a group of four men with mop tops step out of a side door of a club into an alley, slyly bypassing a frightful mob of fans. He later found out that it was The Beatles. This brief anecdote of disinterest hopefully explains how I was almost oblivious to one of the most important musical acts of the last century. I do love Rock Band though, so if reviewing a band themed game is an excuse to strum away on a paddle, hit plastic toms, or annoy my neighbours with my cruel mockery of singing, then I’m down!

Cavern_bmp_jpgcopy The Guitar Hero folks have done band themed games since Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, but I’ve always felt that the were half-assing it a little. It could have been the fact that they didn’t let me play Amazing, but half the songs were from other bands under the guise that they’re the opening band (just like seeing a band in real life, I’m paying money to hear something I don’t want to before the main act.) The other possibility is that maybe I was feeling the money-hungry grab-assity of a title cashing in on two existing fanbases, like the advertising for Lynx (sorry, Axe) in Guitar Hero 3 wasn’t enough. In this situation, this game is all Beatles, no filler. Well, arguably some filler, but it’s Beatles filler.

And Your Bird Can Sing! With three microphones!
A lot of what makes up The Beatles Rock Band is familiar, inherited from the “Rock Band” part of the title. Four instruments, two guitars (bass and lead,) drums, and vocals play simultaneously according to the notes that appear on the screen. There are a number of distinct differences in The Beatles; the project has obviously treated the source material as sacrosanct, by the way that the whammy bar does nothing in the way of note-bending, the effects switcher is built into the hardware, but only for the sake of Rock Band functionality as it too has no effect on the sound when the overdrive analogue “Beatlemania” is engaged. Drum fills, too, are absent, forcing you to adhere strictly to Ringos style, with the optional crash note to activate Beatlemania appearing in the mix. Character creation is also entirely gone, as you might expect at this point, it’s The Beatles, so on screen, The Beatles play, not some ugly fat dude you made to look funny while he sings Yellow Submarine. Everything that was rippied out however, has been replaced with more Beatles, packed to the point of brimming.

Sergeant Pepper and Billy Shears would be proud, lads. Of course, song lists are all important with music rhythm games, and while you know the band, their wide library means there’s plenty to pick from when choosing the 45 songs:

A Hard Day’s Night
And Your Bird Can Sing
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Birthday
Boys
Can’t Buy Me Love
Come Together
Day Tripper
Dear Prudence
Dig a Pony
Do You Want to Know a Secret
Don’t Let Me Down
Drive My Car
Eight Days a Week
Get Back
Getting Better
Good Morning Good Morning
Hello, Goodbye
Helter Skelter
Here Comes the Sun
Hey Bulldog
I Am the Walrus
I Feel Fine
I Me Mine
I Saw Her Standing There
I Wanna Be Your Man
I Want to Hold Your Hand
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
If I Needed Someone
I’m Looking Through You
I’ve Got a Feeling
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Octopus’s Garden
Paperback Writer
Revolution
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / With a Little Help from My Friends
Something
Taxman
The End
Ticket to Ride
Twist and Shout
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows
Yellow Submarine

Ed Sullivan would have loved this game, too. The story mode takes the lads through four years of touring, represented by four iconic venues, The Cavern, The Ed Sullivan Show, Shea Stadium, and Budokan. Then there are several recording sessions in the Abbey Road studios, then finally the, again, iconic, rooftop performance, capped with an encore of The End. The recording sessions at Abbey Road are where the Dreamscapes take place; understandably, looking at four guys laying down a track lacks the visual pizazz of a live performance, so to compensate, a lot of visual work has gone into making some interesting action going on behind the note highways, to appropriately reflect the music. In most cases it’s really well done, in particular, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends and Octopuses Garden were beautiful, but some are a little bit less so, like Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds which is a plain overdose on psychedelic colours, which, while appropriate, I found abrasive and annoying.

It's no secret that this game is rad. Arguably the most significant difference from the Rock Band affair is the ability to plug three microphones, and harmonise. Depending on how many parts are in the vocals, up to three different coloured lines will appear on the vocal playfield, sometimes with different words. It doesn’t lock any one person to a particular colour, but for the best results scorewise, all colours should be covered, resulting in double and triple “Fabs.” This makes it a six player game, or a three player game with the embarrassment of singing being an evenly shared burden. It doesn’t drastically change the game, but the added versatility of the package is certainly nothing to sneer at. Of course, since you’re probably a New Zealander, you may not have had the Rock Band 2 experience yet (unless you imported it,) so there’s other things to take into account, like the drum trainer. Ringos beats can be rocked out to, in either the “Beatles Beats” or Drum Lessons, the latter being some basic beats practicable at a range of BPM, and the former being some more complicated scenarios which can be practised between full and half speed. Also, the hardware is fantastic. A lot of issues with the RB1 hardware have been addressed, including durability and sensitivity. The kick pedal comes metal reinforced, and the guitar buttons are far less clicky, while the strum bar has no sideways movement. Also built into the guitar are both a light and sound detector, to allow Rock Band to calibrate for lag automatically, which is a brilliant addition.

Closing Comments:

It took Rock Band to get me to appreciate The Beatles, but it took The Beatles to make me see how a band theme music rhythm game could be well done.

4 thoughts on “The Beatles Rock Band Review (Xbox 360)

  1. There’s some pretty epic songs in that list. I haven’t picked this up yet. But it’s just a matter of time.

  2. There’s some pretty epic songs in that list. I haven’t picked this up yet. But it’s just a matter of time.

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