GOONL!NE Review – The Beatles: Rock Band

Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: MTV Games/EA Partners/Apple Corp
Also on: Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360
Console Played on: PlayStation 3
Release Date: Wednesday September 9th 2009
Age Rating: PEGI 12

It seems somewhat bittersweet, ironic and yet well suited that the final song of the The Beatles: Rock Band has to be “The End”. You may feel it’s a bitter anticlimax when there could have been songs worthy of the finale, possibly like Hey Jude, Penny Lane or whatever, but the truth is The End is what makes the end of this game special, as the final scene in the game and the encore for the game.

It shows how special this game is. But in what way?

To emphasise how important The Beatles backlog is the most important in all of music, all you have to do is look at bands like Radiohead, R.E.M etc. Bands like them could easily have their own Rock Band or Guitar Hero as they have the backlog and popularity to do so. But The Beatles is the holy grail. It’s music has never been on a format like games, never been legally downloaded until All You Need is Love was released on Wednesday with the game and never again will this be replicated. It’s somewhat a miracle it is released.

What my point is that even with the release of OK Computer 12 years ago and Kid A at the top of the decade, even Radiohead, who have been tagged as our generation’s Beatles in some areas, dont even come close to the real deal.

First off, this aint no Guitar Hero: Aerosmith or Metallica. While with them, you get the bands and guests, with Beatles: Rock Band, you get what is exactly on the cover. Beatles, Beatles, Beatles. No guest bands. Not even stuff from the solo days of Lennon, Harrison, Starr nor stuff from McCartney, be that solo or with Wings.

When The Beatles: Rock Band boots up, you get that fantastic opening scene we seen at the Microsoft press conference at E3. Starting from Twist and Shout, all the way through Paperback Writer, Here Comes the Sun and I Am the Walrus, it shows you in a short snip how The Beatles went from their debut album to their last releases, Abbey Road and Let it Be.

Of course, there is the much more expansive story mode of the game, which tells you how band went from The Cavern Club in 1963, going through the Ed Sullivan show, playing Shea Stadium, the Budokan in Japan before hiding in seclusion for five years in Abbey Road going through Sgt. Pepper, The White Album and Abbey Road itself, before ending it all with that infamous rooftop gig at Apple corp studios in 1969.

A nice touch of the game is that while a song is loading, you’ll hear audio of the band speaking or tuning. It’s really insightful from the band’s perspective during Abbey Road, hearing them tune up for a song like Revolution, Here Comes the Sun and Come Together, although there are more. It’s also the same during live performances when they tell the crowd what song is coming next, particularly the Shea Stadium concert.

Story mode for the game is basically career mode from Rock Band and Rock Band 2, and while it ain’t the full story of how The Beatles came to be the biggest band of all time, it does do a good job in filling in some of the most important parts of the band’s career. Although it has to be stressed you must like The Beatles to get this game at all in a gist. If you don’t, there is absolutely no point in you getting this game at all. That said, if you’re looking to get into the band through the game, you cant get a better job then what Harmonix have done with the game.

As you go through the game, if you manage to three star or five star songs in the game, you unlock photos of the band during some of their most important periods the game. The more photos you unlock, you also get to unlock special videos of the band, showcasing stuff from a Christmas message to their fan club members, an outtake of The Ed Sullivan performance just to name a few.

You also get your standard online modes from a Rock Band game as well as the chance of playing the story mode online with up to three other people.

During the Abbey Road period of the game, instead of just seeing four men playing instruments for the game, you’re treated to what is known as “dreamscapes”. Some of these dreamscapes really show how much some of the art guys back at Harmonix deserve a pay rise. Stuff like Back in the USSR is plain but subtly nice, Come Together in black and white is a nice touch. But I Am the Walrus is the weirdest dreamscape of the lot, Sgt Pepper/With a Little Help from My Friends is wonderfully designed, Helter Skelter changes back and forth is just mad as hell in a rock sense, but the biggest comparison can come between two songs from George Harrison: While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Here Comes the Sun.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Here Comes the Sun use the same setting, but where as While My Guitar Gently Weeps uses a bleak background with wind blowing in the background, Here Comes the Sun is laid out with a dreamscape of sun, green grass and meant to be seen as relaxed. Two big differences, but they share the same concept: they are beautifully designed. Although Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and Within You/Without You looks like an acid trip thats gone bad.

Thats not to say anything before Abbey looks amazing. The Shea Stadium and rooftop performances do look great to look at, especially with the last cinematic at the end after the Apple corp concert. But I’ll be honest, you cant beat the dreamscapes.

But of course the strongest part of the game is the soundtrack. 45 songs (including The End, unlocked at the end), plus All You Need is Love; a timed exclusive from Xbox Live Marketplace, but will be coming to the PlayStation Store and Rock Band Shop on the Wii version; and the DLC albums like Abbey Road, which is coming on October 20th, as well as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rubber Soul on the way as full albums.

I’ve picked out some of the games best tracks, all 45 of which you can try in quickplay mode from the get go (bar The End).

  • Here Comes the Sun
  • While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  • Day Tripper
  • Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band/With a Little Help from My Friends
  • Birthday
  • Helter Skelter
  • Revolution
  • Don’t Let Me Down
  • Come Together
  • I Got a Feeling

Dont get me wrong, the soundtrack as it is a fantastic selection of songs from Please, Please Me to Let it Be. But 45 songs? Guitar Hero 5 has over 80 and Rock Band 2 has over 100, and thats including the free downloads. It could have been stronger, a lot stronger. I mean where is Hey Jude? Penny Lane, Eleanor Rigby? While most of the listing in the game is, in my opinion, second to none, there are some serious absentees from the listing.

The full DLC albums will hopefully rectify this.

CONSUMER Beatles 1
Final Thoughts: Simply put, this is the best music game ever. Period.

Harmonix could have taken the lazy route and released all of this as track packs for Rock Band 1 and 2. But instead, they have made a game which was crafted with love and care. This aint no Guitar Hero: *insert band here*.

Gameplay – 9: Standard stuff. Guitar, bass, drums and vocals. That said, it goes really well with the game.

Graphics – 9: The dreamscapes are amazing. Here Comes the Sun is the standout favourite for me by a mile.

Sound – 9: If the tracklisting was more than 45 on the disc, it would have been a 10. Make no mistake though, this is the game’s strongest area.

Overall – 9: The Beatles had an obsession with the number nine. It’s no coincidence that the band released the remasters of their thirtreen album catalogue and the game on the 9th day of the 9th month of the 9th year of the 00′s.

It’s no coincidence also somewhat the game gets a nine from me. It’s earned it.

One Response to “GOONL!NE Review – The Beatles: Rock Band”

  1. I just love the Beatles, have you tried out – you can download all their albums there!