When Harmonix decided they were going to create a band specific version of Rockband, based on the most popular and influential bands ever, they knew they had to create more than a game... they had to create an experience.
Now lets get right to it... I can't remember the last time I enjoyed an entire gaming experience this much... every aspect of the game... The music, the story, the challenges, the extras... I just want more.. all the time.
Being a The Beatles fan my entire life (disclaimer!), Ive always loved the music but Ive never been obsessed with them so to speak, not that there is anything wrong with that, but since I didn't "LIVE" the Beatles, I had to experience them through cassette tapes ( remember those? ), and then CDs, watching the movies, and hearing the stories. The Beatles:Rockband is a completely new way for fans to experience the Fab Four, and it does an unforgettable job of it!
There are two ways to play this game, Quickplay, which allows players to jump right into the game, alone or with a group of friends, online or off, and play any one of the games carefully chosen 45 song track list. Pretty much on par with other games in the Rockband franchise, only all songs are unlocked from the get-go!
Of course where this game shines is the Story mode; taking players on a journey through the iconic careers of John, Paul George and Ringo. It starts off where the band did, at The Cavern Club in Liverpool England, and takes the long and winding road (I had to!) all the way to their now infamous final performance on the rooftop of the Abbey Road Recording Studio. During the journey, players make stops at memorable band performances including The Ed Sullivan Show, Shea Stadium, and Budakon. From there it shifts into the recording studio echoing the groups decision to stop doing live concerts. Rather than being satisfied with showing the boys lounging around the recording studio, the game presents dreamscapes specifically tailored to the song youre currently playing. From the underwater tones of Yellow Submarine, the imaginary tour of Sgt. Pepper and the psychedelic world of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Its an incredibly glimpse into a crazy 10 years of Beatlemania. Throughout the story mode, players are rewarded with pictures, videos and other tidbits that add to the glimpse into The Beatles.
Now I know what some of you are thinking... What if Im not a fan?. While fans of The Beatles will definitely get the most out of it, there is plenty here for fans of the Rockband series, and who knows... by the time youre through the story, you might be singing a different tune.
While a lot of The Beatles music is fairly straight forward and thus translates to a fairly straight forward note chart, there are moments of brilliance in the music that bring some very complex sequences. While the hardcore player might not be overly challenged theres enough here to keep players of all skill levels interested. Overall the difficulty is definitely tempered, an attempt to keep the game open to a broader scope of player, however the difficulty definitely takes a big step up once you go expert. The good news is that if youre not being challenged, you have the upbeat, catchy and very familiar songs of The Beatles to make sure youre having fun! Which I believe is the point! For those not familiar with The Beatles, this game can bring the essence and magnitude of just what Beatlemania was to a whole new generation.
The Beatles: Rockband introduces some very welcomed additions to the Rockband gameplay, the biggest of which is the addition of 2 extra microphones in the form of vocal harmonies. This allows for up to 6 players to enjoy the game or challenge players to play an instrument and sing at the same time. Some songs have up to three singing parts, each with its own differently coloured note guide and part meter as well as separated lyrics for a lead singer, and backup harmonies; a fitting addition for The Beatles. If it all sounds a little complicated, fear not theres an excellent set of tutorials to guide you through the harmonies mechanics as well as all other aspects of the game.
Some other mechanics that I think are worth mentioning and I hope become standards to the franchise going forward. No Fail mode can be activated from the band selection screen for easy on-off access when youre playing in a party setting. For those getting the collectors edition which includes the new instruments, theyve updated the firmware on the Start and Guide buttons to stop those of us who drum like Animal from hitting the buttons with our flailing drum sticks, pausing the game unceremoniously in the middle of a solo. If you do manage to pause it, or if mom comes in to interrupt, theyve added a 3 second count in once you un-pause similar to Guitar Hero World Tour. Also new are Leaderboards for players to compare their scores against other players on their friends list! This is a welcome addition for those of us who cant shake that competitive edge. The game also includes Achievement tracking lists similar to those you find in games like Gears of Wars 2 and Shadow Complex to help players track their status on certain achievements. Not all changes are here to stay Im sure, the whammy bar no longer changes the sound of the song, and the drum fills are gone, both changes no doubt requested by Apple Corps, The Beatles record label, however Id classify those changes as addition by subtraction.
As is the norm for Rockband games, Harmonix and Apple Corps have already announced upcoming DLC in the form of complete albums, though you will be able to purchase songs individually from each. Abbey Road, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rubber Soul are the first three slated for release soon. Us XBox addicts are graced with exclusive DLC right off the bat with "All You Need is Love" track available for download only on the XBox with proceeds going to the "Doctors Without Borders" organization.
The Limited Collectors Edition comes complete with the game, a microphone stand, a mic, wireless Ludwig branded drums with a The Beatles kick scrim for that vintage look, and Paul McCartneys signature Hofner Bass, to authentic scale.
Harmonix definitely revolutionizes the way band specific games are done. Theyve built a loving tribute to an iconic band which should provide hours of enjoyable gameplay and extras for fans of The Beatles, and Rockband a like!
The way I wee it: Buy it. Play it. Love it, and then play it again and again!