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The Beatles: Rock Band review

Is it the greatest music game ever made? Well… that depends on who you ask

The Rock Band Guru


Who you are: The Overdrive champion. The one with Serious Skills. The Band Savior. Not only are you the one who carries every song when you and your friends get together to play, you’re most likely the one who owns all the peripherals. We’ll assume for the sake of this review that you’re merely indifferent toward the Beatles, not actively hateful towards them, unlike these guys:


Above: Seriously, Dean Martin, Allan Sherman and Vic Damone? SERIOUSLY?

What you should know about The Beatles: Rock Band: As a Rock Band game, TB:RB is unfortunately a bit of a step back from Rock Band 2. Why? What the Rock Band series has always set out to do (and arguably does better than Guitar Hero) is make you feel like part of a rockin’ band – that sense of immersion has always been key. You should know off the bat that there are no customizable avatars, no clothes to buy, no fans to acquire and no cash to spend in The Beatles: Rock Band – you’re unlikely to feel like a rock god at any point in your journey through the (completely linear) story mode. TB:RB holds you at arm’s length; rarely do you feel like a member of the Fab Four.

Part of this is due to the fact that your playing doesn’t have the same effect on the music as it has in previous titles. Apple Corps - the Beatles’ record label - is extremely protective of the group’s intellectual property, and refuses to let you bend notes with the whammy bar or add additional filter effects like you could in previous Rock Band games. If you miss a note, the track for your instrument will cut out, but that’s pretty much the entirety of the control you have over the music. There are no drum fills, either – we’ll admit crazy fills would feel pretty out of place in, say, “Here Comes The Sun,” but the lack of interactivity hurts the overall sense of immersion.


Above: Pound that whammy all you want, son – you’re not messin’ with Sir Paul’s licks

That said, the production values in TB:RB are way above anything you’ve seen in even Rock Band 2, and despite the lack of personalized avatars, you’ll feel more immersed in the universe of The Beatles than you might expect. This is thanks in large part to the strong visuals, which put both Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero: Metallica to shame. Some Rock Band Gurus have complained that the songs in TB:RB are too easy, and there’s some truth to that. We rarely failed songs, even on the hardest settings. But if you’re itching for a challenge, know what you can do? Double up – see if you can play guitar or drums while singing at the same time. We guarantee you’ll have new ways to show off to your friends.


Above: Sing and play an instrument? You mean, like an actual musician?


“Meh. Call me when they add ‘Run To The Hills.’”


The Giddy Fanboy


Who you are: This reviewer, for one. For you, the melodies and lyrics of every Beatles song are fully lodged in your subconscious from years of casual listening, though you wouldn’t necessarily call yourself a die-hard fan. Likewise, you’ve played and maybe even bought a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game and liked it a lot, especially before the series got so hardcore that every song looked like someone pouring a bag of Skittles onto a yardstick.


Above: Yeesh

So… you like Rock Band, you like the Beatles, and you like the idea of the two of them together. Congrats! You’re the target demographic for The Beatles: Rock Band.

What you should know about The Beatles: Rock Band: There are going to be songs that you wanted to play that won’t be there. The full set list for TB:RB is readily available should you not know it already, but we’ll guarantee there’s some song you’ve been itching to play (Help? Hey Jude?) that didn’t make it into the retail release.

Now, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you’re a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” sort of person. When you created your imaginary setlist of Beatles tunes you wanted to play in TB:RB – don’t lie, you know you did – did you think a little too broadly? The Beatles’ catalogue of brilliant music is more enormous than you might think, and perhaps some of your favorite songs aren’t really Rock Band material, especially if they don’t heavily feature guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

Still, there are plenty of downloadable tracks on their way to fill your metaphorical glass all the way to full, so long as you don’t mind paying extra for them. Developer Harmonix is hoping you’ll spend a lot of money on TB:RB, either through buying songs, getting fancy new plastic instruments, or both.

Speaking of which, the instruments that come with the full band bundle of TB:RB are worth mentioning for two reasons: One, they look so good and work so well that you might actually care about them getting mangled by your ham-handed friends. Two, in both the guitar and drum set that came with our review copy, the start button was extremely squishy and often didn’t register our attempts to press it at all. Word of warning – until we figured out what was going on, we thought the game itself was broken.

Despite that, you should still find a lot to love about The Beatles: Rock Band. There are those who say that music games are killing real music, but you’ll know better after playing TB:RB. Even if you’ve listened to The Beatles’ music all your life, you still may find yourself catching little nuances in the note arrangements that you’d never noticed before. That alone is worth a high recommendation in our book.


“I can’t play through Revolution 9 on vocals? Damn it! I’ll have to write an angry letter once I come down off the joygasm that has enraptured my being since the opening title sequence.”

Next up: the Cave-Dweller, and we wrap this all up

More Info

GenreOther Games/Compilations
Description

This is clearly and indisputably the Rock Band we’re all familiar with, reskinned with some swanky Beatles animations. Fans might be disappointed that there isn’t a bit more band history, though.

Franchise nameRock Band
UK franchise nameRock Band
PlatformWii, Xbox 360, PS3
US censor ratingTeen
UK censor rating12+
Release date9 September 2009 (US), 9 September 2009 (UK)
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