#968 The Beatles: Rock Band

Posted: 25th June 2011 by Mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , , ,

64th game played so far

(will someone PLEASE think of the children!)

Genre: Music
Platform: Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Year of Release: 2009
Developer:  Harmonix, Pi Studios (Wii Only)
Publisher: MTV Games

So, we spent some simoleons investing in a complete instrument set for the Xbox 360 and it is time to take them on a bit of a test drive. It would have probably made more sense for us to buy a copy of the earlier games but The Beatles: Rock Band really did seem so warm and inviting that it seemed to be well worth it.

Our Thoughts

With the exception of Band Hero this was Jeroen’s first exposure to both the drum and guitar controllers so I think I’ll let him lead the charge in talking about these. The benefit of this being that when we later play other games with the same exact controllers we NEVER have discuss them again (which when you consider the number of times we will be strumming and banging will be a blessing to anyone reading this). Yeah, although this of course does tie in to DJ Hero, with its own controller and music tie ins. Beforehand, I had read the warnings that the controller were not like the normal ones (microphone, of course, exempted), which seemed like a good thing – I can’t play a guitar, and drums were limited to a very basic rhythm during secondary school music lessons. Out of the two remaining, the drums feel more ‘right’. You don’t get as much feedback as you’d normally expect, but they play well. The main issue is that it sometimes felt the recognition was a bit off and it didn’t always recognise your drumming. The guitar seems more different (it’s not as if you’d normally have that many buttons). It seems vaguely easier to keep up with, just moving your fingers, but then again, the additional buttons and speed make it harder to keep up with. They do, however, accomplish their main goal: They make you look cool. Especially the guitars look right. And nothing else matters. On a side note I have always been more a fan of the guitar as the snare pedal usually gives me the beginnings of foot carpel tunnel. Something we did manage to vaguely alleviate in our last playthrough. On the other hand, I’m as good… or bad… as any at them and it’s clear my singing training (yeah, I did) didn’t leave much of an impression.

Anyway. The game itself then. Unlike what you would have thought considering the legal battles between Apple Records and Apple Computers this game was pretty much controversy free. There was only one main stipulation from the likes of Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono… that the game features songs spanning the entire Beatles catalogue. This is something that, to be honest, is a huge strength of the game since it managed to skirt around being a vanity project showcasing the Beatles greatest hits and instead walks the player through the band’s history by re-enacting some of their major concerts (such as the infamous outing on the Ed Sullivan Show). I guess that in the end what the game has been able to do is introduce the music of the Beatles to the Google generation which is always a positive when you consider that they stand amongst the true musical trail-blazers. The downside to this is that songs such as ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ don’t feature in the main game (ka-ching downloadable content) whilst questionable songs such as ‘Eight Days a Week’ get some of the spotlight. It’s of some comfort that John Lennon was quoted as calling the song “lousy”… but this re-opens the question of its inclusion. But… I digress. I was personally looking forward to ‘Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da’, a song that isn’t even on the DLC list.

The sound is supplemented by some gorgeous visuals. Obviously, they don’t usually have much of an impact – when playing you’ve got better things to do than gawk at the visuals – but there are some gorgeous options here. First, during the actual music playing, the background is often that of the band playing. The earlier albums and studios obviously feature known Beatles concerts and appearances, but as there were few to none in the Beatles’ later years, it changes into fantasy concerts, often based on the visuals they included on their albums and in their later movies. The first we saw of these is Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but it was exemplified by I am the Walrus. The song is… trippy, to say the least (with a very interesting story behind it), but the visuals in the background are just insane. Usually not as scary as what we see above, but it makes you wonder how, what and why. It ranks up there with the mindf***ery that is the current anime season Deadman Wonderland (try it out). However there are no ways that you can fault the graphics on show during this game – both during the songs and during the opening sequence. And intervening FMVs. So much time and effort has been invested in giving most of the songs their own music video that it will be hard to go back to earlier games in the Guitar Hero/Rock Band bracket without sarcastically thinking “oh great it’s the stage again, fantastic”. Although you still get that in earlier games, with a few songs on the same stage, it’s not as repetitive as I noted in Band Hero. Don’t worry you’ll see it in all the other games within their respective franchises. Except for this one, obviously.

And that leaves us with the gameplay. I’m not sure what’s new here compared to other games of the franchises, but there seems little that could be different. Not a bad thing, as it’s fun to jam along to songs of one of the best bands in the world, but it makes it hard to say more about it. The enjoyment of this game really does depend on how well you like the music of The Beatles. I am not their greatest fan but can appreciate what they did for pop music so have really enjoyed this game. It’s impressive how well this sold considering the game’s singular focus on one artist’s back catalogue. Especially since the first Guitar Hero games featured avatars more aimed at the rock/metal crowd. Only five bands have had games of this genre centered around their music… and the Beatles does stick out against the likes of Van Halen and Metallica. Granted there was also a Green Day: Rock Band… but I doubt we’ll ever have to cover that when the book gets an updated. In the end, as we’ve said before, a game like this stands or falls with the music.

I guess in the end The Beatles: Rock Band has the mass appeal that previous installments lacked. This is probably why this was so warmly received critically and by fans of music games (unlike Band Hero whose sequel plans were shelved pretty quickly).

Final Thoughts

It’s a good fun game but to be honest there is not much more that can be said for this compared to the earlier games in the batch… so look forward to some short write-ups in the future!

  1. […] for a slight step back. We’ve played Beatles: Rock Band before, as well as played something from the same series through DJ Hero. Now it’s back to […]