Things We Like
Across the Universe: The Beatles are undoubtedly one of the greatest bands of all time. If that statement doesn’t compute with you, then The Beatles: Rock Band probably isn’t in on your radar. For those of us with ears, though, this game, played to the tune of a never-ending torrent of appreciation for the little band from Liverpool, hits a sweet spot in our collective music conscience. While this game essentially runs the same engine as Rock band 2, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a 21st century technological tribute to The Beatles, and the majesty and timelessness of their art.
I Am The Walrus: Unlike past iterations of the Rock Band series, you won’t be creating bands comprised of customized characters decorated with ridiculous attire and axes. In this game you simply play as The Beatles. The Fab Four (Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison) are the characters, and the centerpiece of the game is a career mode which takes you through key moments in the Beatles’ careers. If you've played other rhythm games, you'll be familiar with the dynamic, as you’ll play set lists in venues as you attempt to match color-coded notes in time with the music. The venues range from an opening gambit at Cavern Club in Liverpool en route to the last stage, a rooftop concert at the Apple Corps building. Along the way you’ll play sets at iconic locations from Shea Stadium to the Budokan in Japan to the Abbey Road Studios. In all the game offers 45 playable songs.
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds: The game features stunning visuals that kick off when you fire up the game to an animated sequence that takes you through the world of The Beatles. The look in the game is reminiscent of the style of the 1968 animated classic, Yellow Submarine. The rest of the art work around menus and as transitions during the career mode is all very well done. And when you’re playing at specific venues you’ll surely appreciate the sights and sounds of swooning, screaming throngs of fans swaying to the music and the gyrations of the fellas on stage. Some of the songs even have custom dreamscapes. For example, during Octopus’ Garden you’re treated to the band playing underwater, and during I Am The Walrus they all don animal costumes. It’s a very cool addition, though the first few times you play a song with a dreamscape you’ll be distracted and miss notes.
And Your Bird Can Sing: In the past, Rock Band games have been limited to four people playing at once, with a person on lead guitar, bass, drums and vocals. The Beatles: Rock Band ups the ante by allowing three people to handle the vocals. It should be noted that you’ll need at least one wireless mic on the Xbox 360 for three singers, as wired mics each take a USB port. Some songs are designed for two vocals and others three, but in reality anyone with a mic can sing the lead vocals and multiple people can sing them together. At certain points within a song, mostly for choruses, the game judges your ability to synch with one another. At other times the vocal tracks will diverge with each person singing different lyrics.
Things We’d Change
Taxman: As noted above the game features 45 playable songs. Fans will quickly find some of their favorites missing from that list. I was particularly distressed as the game uses a cue from Strawberry Fields, but the song isn’t in the game. Not cool! When compared to other rhythm games that total clearly doesn't measure up. You can purchase songs and albums online, but it will cost you $2 per song, which adds up pretty fast. I get that this is a business and money is the endgame, but another 15 songs would’ve gone a long, long way.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps: In addition to the game being pretty short, for the most part it’s easier than other versions of Rock Band. That said you can play the game on any difficulty you want, from Easy (which includes the no fail mode for beginners and coordination-challenged folks) to Expert (for the hardcore).
Yesterday: As you progress through the game you unlock rare photos and clips of the Beatles. Items are unlocked based on how well you perform in the game. That content is all great, but I can’t help wanting more history of the band baked into the game. More info about the songs themselves and more of a true timeline of their careers would’ve added a lot.
This is the ultimate digital Beatles experience. The game has been timed to coincide with the release of the re-mastered Beatles catalog collection, so all in all it's a fantastic time for fans. Folks familiar with the Rock Band franchise should be aware that this game is completely self contained and doesn’t interact with the other games or any non-Beatles songs.
--Reviewed by Rory Moore