reviews\ Sep 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm

The Beatles: Rock Band - PS3 - Review

In my opinion, all of the Guitar Hero's and Rock Band's prior releases to the release of The Beatles expansion were absolutely necessary in order for this game to work. Players needed to have a familiarity with the gameplay, developers needed to have gone through a couple of iterations in order to fully grasp what work's and what does not. Then, the whole genre had to take off like a skyrocket and infect every owner of a modern gaming system and lastly, a couple of other bands were given their due in the form of games dedicated to them, all in order to make things come into focus, oh, and Mars had to align with Jupiter. 

But this is the first time that a Rock Band game not only dedicated the entire songlist but a series of instruments and gameplay solely to this one particular band. This is the honest to goodness top of the heap when it comes to musical-themed games - period, bar none. So in order to get the most out of this review, I contacted my father who not only may be the greatest living Beatles fan living in Montana, but who purchased the game himself and all of the instruments. I, unfortunately, was not given the instruments for this review, so I leaned on him heavily to get the information needed.

"Whenever Paul was upset with George, he would eat an onion before performing."

Now before I get into the guts of the game, I must tell you that the instruments truly do elevate the game to a whole other level. For starters, the developers have opened things up by creating four instruments modeled after the legendary Beatles themselves. Paul's Violin shaped Bass, John's Rickenbacker 325 guitar, George's Gretsch Duo Jet guitar and Ringo's Ludwig pearl-finish drum kit. These are all high quality, well-built controllers and feature some new tricks. For example, if no one is playing the drums, you can disconnect the bass pedal and plug it into Paul's bass. And instead of swinging your guitar up in the air to activate Beatlemania (star power), you can just pump the pedal to do so.

Next, the game (with instruments) comes with a very nice, well-built microphone stand so that you can play and sing at the same time. Yes, this is the first time where the developers have tried to make it so that the player truly becomes the Beatles and therefore, not only does one of the players have to sing lead and play an instrument but with the addition of headset microphones, allows the players to sing three-part harmonies as they play. That is three independent lyrics singing in harmony. And even though I have listened to the Beatles since I was pretty much born, I was actually shocked to discover what some of the lyrics actually were; to think I had been singing the wrong thing for years.

In addition, the guitars all have the same action and flick switch we are all used to, but also are clearly a bit more thought went into their design. My father absolutely loves Paul's bass and John's guitar, but had less love for Ringo's drums and George's guitar. Call it what you will, but to purchase all of these items - which includes the Paul's bass, Ringo's drums, microphone as well as the stand - will set you back $250. If you want the other two guitar's they are $100 each, that's $450 for all of the stuff and if you want to do three-part harmonies, you will need two more wireless microphones. Easily, you could spend more than $500 to achieve Beatlemania (the feeling you get, not the star power). And here is where I think Harmonix and those responsible for the Beatle's merchandising and pricing dropped the ball. $500 is far too much for anyone to just play a game. Granted it is a good game, but c'mon, you could buy a PS3 and a 360 Elite for the same price.

Lots to see, lots to do.

So aside from the hefty price tag, the only other real dig I have on the game, is the fact that it only comes with 45 songs. This is far less than previous installments in the franchise and quite frankly a slap in the face. By my father's count, there are more than 200 Beatles songs and since every one of them went on to have solo careers, you would think they could have come up with at least 75 songs.

But back to the game, which features an interesting story mode that pretty much everyone will play, and which allows you to play through the (too) short career of the actual band. Starting off in England's club scene, off to the Ed Sullivan show, Shea Stadium and eventually the famous rooftop concert at Apple Corps. The developers don't quite get the actual history chronologically correct, but they do a good job nonetheless.

While playing and playing successfully, you can unlock exclusive pictures, interviews and other content that, to me, really doesn't amount to much. My Dad, though, could not have been happier, but I guess since I wasn't around when The Beatles had their heyday, I can't really relate to some of the significance of the interviews or pictures. So if you are a Beatles purist then you may have found the pot of gold, but for those of us who just liked their music, then it is unnecessary, or at the most, just another accomplishment, achievement or trophy to be had.

"Who knew we could run an electrical cord 37 miles into this field?"

Now this is the first time that I have found in a music game, graphics going on in the background that I actually wanted to watch. I had to let others play so I could appreciate the modeled likenesses of the Fab Four as they played at different venues, flew to famous concert locations and, of course, go through their weird style choices. It all looked great, and had the appropriate goofy stuff going on in the background to help move things along. Playing at the Shea stadium concert showed the same couple of girls freaking out but when we got to the Yellow Submarine section of the game, things got really strange but in a good way. Of course, the music bar and lyric line all were sharp looking and easy to see. Star power has been changed to Beatlemania but it all cranks out the same way, although the scoring seems to have been altered a bit. Ultimately you still want 5 stars on every song.

The sound completely stunk; no, I'm just kidding, this is a game with one of the greatest bands ever - of course it sounded great. Harmonix and representatives of the Beatles' apparently provided some music that was freshly digitally enhanced and here it is on a video-game for all to enjoy. Sometimes the crowd noise can get a bit out of hand, but is there to remind the player that being a Beatle can be difficult, what with all that fame and talent, and millions of adoring fans. Interviews are the real deal, the actual footage and sound was brought in and serves as a complement to the band. 

Review Scoring Details for The Beatles: Rock Band

Gameplay: 9.3
Upping the ante, now you have three-part vocals and the challenge to sing and play and instrument at the same time. Smooth and fun as ever.

Graphics: 8.5
They look good, the game looks good, but there is only so much zip you can put into a Rock Band game.

Sound: 9.8
Uh, hello, the Beatles.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
You can play the game like any other and have great success, but the real challenge is get four people all who can play and harmonize to the point of perfection. None of the beats or riffs is crazy difficult.

Concept: 8.8
It does move the genre forward with the addition of new instruments with new capabilities and the multiple microphone harmonies.

Multiplayer: 9.5
I still consider the Rock Band series of games the most fun/family/party games ever made. Now we can harmonize.

Overall: 9.1
The price tag for everything is steep, and there are not enough songs for my liking, but this is a true representation of a legendary band. Great songs and great fun make for a great game.


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