Yesterday, I did something I’d been dreaming about since I first heard the announcement last year; I finally played “The Beatles: Rock Band”. As I expected from a marriage between “Rock Band” and The Beatles, the game is everything I hoped for and more. From the opening of the game to the interludes in between gigs in Story Mode, “Rock Band” creators Harmonix have created a game that fans of The Beatles will cherish and will open up the Fab Four’s music to a whole new generation of fans. For more of my thoughts on the game and why I think a (hopefully) inevitable “Rock Band 3″ is going to be awesome, click the jump:
Depressingly, I was only able to play the game for about three hours yesterday as I got it late in the day and I’m writing this review on a cross-country flight. If I didn’t have to spend my entire day in an airplane, I’d have woken up with my plastic guitar in hand.
With all that out of the way, let’s talk “The Beatles: Rock Band”.
The opening of the game makes the last two “Rock Band” openings look like amateur hour. My friends and I sat captivated by the animation and music as we watched the credits from beginning to end. Because it’s all Beatles music, you can see that everyone took the time and care to make every song its own individual design. Harmonix has done right by the band and their millions of fans by not only loving these songs, but understanding how to translate them into a rich interactive experience.
When you start the game, you can play through Story Mode but if you choose Quickplay, all of the game’s 45 songs are available without any unlocking required. My Beatles group chose Story Mode and started playing early Beatles music and ended up in the studio with some of their later recordings. Again, we only played for about 3 hours so it’s hard to write about everything that happens in the game.
In Story Mode, each gig gives you a certain amount of songs that you have to finish in order to move on. Once you do, the game shows you an interlude (a brief mixed-media vignette) that previews what songs you’re about to play along with what The Beatles were doing during that time period. These animated interludes are of a cinematic-quality and I knew everyone else thought so because no one wanted to get more drinks or use the bathroom when a vignette was about to start.
Of course, some of you are probably wondering how it compares to the first two “Rock Band” games in terms of playing the instruments. The quick answer is it’s the same game. While some of the buttons on the bottom of the screen are slightly different than the first two “Rock Bands”, if you’ve ever played either of the previous “Rock Bands”, you’ll be able to jump right in and rock out.
But they have introduced a new gameplay element and it wouldn’t be a true Beatles game without it: harmonies! Up to three people can harmonize at once and thanks to Harmonix sending me a new wireless mic, we had two singers on songs and had an absolute blast. While some may be worried that having more than one singer might be confusing or difficult to figure out, we jumped in with no instructions and it’s incredibly easy to understand who is supposed to sing and when.
The way it works is this: During the harmonizing sections, the words glow so it’s very easy to see. The main singer’s words are in blue and the second singer’s are in brown and it’s easy to see who has to sing which pitch. We didn’t have a third microphone but if you, the third color is orange but the mechanics are the same. So, with your bassist, guitarist, drummer, and up to three singers, this is the first “Rock Band” game that allows up to six players at once.
And that’s the reason “Rock Band” is one of the greatest games to hit any console and one of the greatest party games of all time. It makes people come together to share in a love of music. First person shooters can reward one player or one side, but there’s no true co-operative element in multiplayer. In contrast, “Rock Band” rewards everyone for playing as a team and it rewards the group for playing together. Harmonix upping the number of potential players from four to six means that more people can get off the couch and rock.
This brings me to “Rock Band 3″
First, let me be perfectly clear that there has been absolutely no announcement for “Rock Band 3″. But considering the series’ overwhelming success combined with their current packing in releasing major installments into the series, I’d imagine we’re looking at the next official sequel sometime late next year. Again, that’s just an assumption but Harmonix has never been one to rest on its laurels and the only real question is if we’ll need a “Rock Band 3″ beyond gameplay tweaks since the “Rock Band” store already has over 800 songs and they’re aiming for over 1,000 before the end of 2009.
With the introduction of two more microphones, I think the next installment is going to start taking advantage of songs with multiple vocals. While this is just my guess, I think it’s a pretty logical one especially when you consider that the series’ biggest hurdle thus far is that singers are always in short supply and maybe if you have someone next to you butchering the lyrics of a song like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody (again, purely speculation). Also, will Harmonix open up some of their already released songs to include other vocalists? If you’re not excited at these possibilities, then rock and perhaps all music may not be for you.
While I had very little time to play the game, I mean it when I say “The Beatles: Rock Band” is a fantastic game that requires you to gather at least five of your friends, pick up the plastic instruments, and grab a ticket to ride. Also, if you have any instruments from the previous “Rock Band” games, they’ll work fine. But for those just joining the “Rock Band” party as well as true Beatles loyalists, there are three deluxe versions of the guitar (George Harrison’s Gretsch Duo Jet Guitar, Paul McCartney’s trademark Höfner Bass, and John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325 Guitar) which are available separately or in the Deluxe Version of the full game. This game is a must-own title that is a must for fans of The Beatles, “Rock Band”, and all music-lovers.
Oh, and for those worrying about Beatles songs outside of the 45 available in the game, Harmonix will be releasing full albums as downloadable content on a monthly basis with “Abbey Road” coming out on October 20th, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” sometime in November, and “Rubber Soul” in December). Finally, on September 9th, “All You Need Is Love” will be available for a limited time as downloadable content.
This review was for the XBOX 360 version of the game; it will also be available for PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii. All three games will be released on September 9th and share the same gameplay features.