Beaterator - first look

The minds behind GTA want to turn you into a composer

The first thing you should know about Beaterator is that it isn%26rsquo;t a game. It isn%26rsquo;t a %26ldquo;toy%26rdquo; like Wii Music, either, although it can be used like one. Instead, Beaterator is a serious tool for making music %26ndash; or at least as serious as a tool can get while still staying accessible and relatively easy to use. Easy or not, it promises to deliver a wealth of cool options when it%26rsquo;s released on Sept. 29, and after seeing it for the first time, we came away more than a little impressed.

Expanded from a Flash %26ldquo;game%26rdquo; that%26rsquo;s been on publisher Rockstar%26rsquo;s website since 2005, Beaterator revolves around laying down music loops to create songs, and its most obvious hook is that it was made with the participation of hip-hop producer Timbaland, who created 1,300 loops and sounds for the game. That%26rsquo;s not to say Beaterator is necessarily limited to hop-hop, though %26ndash; from what we%26rsquo;ve seen, there%26rsquo;ll be a lot of different musical styles and genres to choose from. And if the built-in loop libraries you%26rsquo;ll be able to create custom beats and loops with Beaterator%26rsquo;s built-in instruments, as well as record or import your own sounds and samples as WAV files.

The %26ldquo;game%26rdquo; consists of two modes: the game-like Live Play, which enables you to freely mix and play around with eight channels of sound, each of which can play one of four loops triggered by the PSP%26rsquo;s face buttons; and Studio, which is a lot more technical, but also gives you a lot more control over the music you create. Here, you can create new loops, record or import your own sounds and samples as WAV files, drop beats on an eight-channel timeline (which can be filled automatically with a dynamic interface similar to Live Play) and tweak recorded songs while they%26rsquo;re playing back. You can also adjust the tracks and loops individually, changing everything from beats per minute and speaker balance to the tones of synth notes. Yeah, there%26rsquo;s a lot to do here %26ndash; although if you%26rsquo;re more of a casual dabbler, it might be comforting to know that almost all of it is purely optional.


Above: We%26rsquo;re sure this will seem fun when you can actually hear what all those knobs do

Meanwhile, would-be virtuosos who want to dive in can edit existing beats and melodic loops or compose their own, something that appears to be as easy as just clicking a cursor around a short timeline. For beats, it%26rsquo;s a matter of picking out which drum sounds you want and setting them down as rhythmically as possible, while melodies involve playing notes on a full 88-key keyboard. There%26rsquo;s even a locking feature that can automatically prevent your compositions from going off-key.

Of course, none of this is worth a damn if you can%26rsquo;t save your work, and Beaterator looks poised to deliver there as well; once you%26rsquo;re satisfied with your work, you%26rsquo;ll be able to share it with the world by exporting it to a PC as a WAV file, or by uploading the song data to the Rockstar Social Club network. Sadly, any sounds you%26rsquo;ve recorded or imported can%26rsquo;t be sent to the Social Club, but you will be able to download and remix songs by other users; just don%26rsquo;t take it too personally if someone else tries to %26ldquo;improve%26rdquo; on one of yours.


Above: You%26rsquo;ll also be able to edit any sounds you record/import, which should be fun

Skeptical as we are of a serious music-creator%26rsquo;s chances for survival on the PSP, Beaterator seems well-equipped for the task. Even from our short look at the game, it already looks to be one of the deepest, most accessible music programs we%26rsquo;ve ever seen, portable or otherwise. Whether it%26rsquo;s actually as easy as it looks remains to be seen, but for now, we%26rsquo;ve got high hopes for this one.

Sep 3, 2009

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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