The newest edition to the Harmonix music-game empire is The Beatles: Rock Band. Boasting not only popular songs from the influential British band, but audio-samples, behind-the-scenes photos, and videos all previously on lock-down from Apple Corps; it seems that The Beatles: Rock Band should be an instant winner. Unfortunately, only hardcore Beatles fans may actually think so.
Instead of creating a player and beginning a career that takes you all over the globe, TB:RB has introduced a Story Mode. As Harmonics and MTV Games has stated from the get go, this will be a ”progression through and celebration of the music and artistry of The Beatles.” We are lead through the history of The Beatles from their beginnings at the Cavern Club in ’63, to the Ed Sullivan show, to time spent at Abbey Road Studios, and even their unannounced concert from the Apple Corps rooftop in ’69.
The big difference between TB:RB and it’s predecessors is you can’t create a player, customize them or their guitars, name them, unlock costumes, or purchase upgrades after playing different shows. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, in fact, it was a big factor in maintaining the integrity of the artists. Guitar Hero has done a couple branch-off games based around the bands Metallica and Aerosmith, which have healthy doses of the main artist’s songs but also songs by other artist as fillers. Without those fillers, TB:RB was able to focus all their attention on beautiful backdrops, fantastic character animations, and a story/time line of events that will give even the most hardened of Beatles critics a better appreciation of the band.
Unlike Rock Band and Rock Band 2, The Beatles: Rock Band is a stand alone game. They have alienated existing Rock Band fans by not making TB:RB content available by DLC or compatible with their previous games. RB2 owners were spoiled by the interoperability of the second game with the original Rock Band content and any song tracks they have purchased online since the title’s release. Not so with TB:RB. The only thing that’s compatible between these games are the instruments. The setlist includes an impressive but staggeringly undersized roster of 45 popular songs, where as RB2 and Guitar Hero 5 both sported 85 tracks and cheap but vast collections of purchasable songs online. If you want to download a song for TB:RB, be prepared to drop some coin. At a projected $14 an album and $2 per individual song, it’s a pretty steep price to pay to beef up your setlist that can only be played on the one game. The only benefactors of this tiny setlist is the game manufacturer; they have left themselves plenty of popular songs to get even more money out of Beatles lovers through DLC.
Though the setlist may be meager, the cinematics are spot on in keeping with the overall storytelling atmosphere. Each new chapter you progress to has a masterfully crafted mini-show; a montage of events and photos that lead you into the next year of Beatles songs, and I really found myself looking forward to them. A new feature that sets this game apart from the others is the addition of 2 more mics. Anyone can sing on any of the harmonies or melodies (assuming you have enough mics), or you can just stay with the one singer. The more singers you have that can carry a tune, the more points you will earn. Rock Band also kept the drum trainer around to help those avid drummers out there nail Ringo’s specific drumming style, as well as a vocal practice studio that can single out each of the harmonies for the songs.
Not surprisingly, the difficulty is basically non-existent in this game. The Beatles don’t provide the most difficult material to begin with, but Rock Band is known for being a little less challenging than Guitar Hero. If you can play at least on Hard on GH or RB, then you are ready for Expert on TB:RB. Luckily, Rock Band stayed true to their note tracking system and still give you a realistic feel when you play, keeping it enjoyable. You will fly through the game in about 3 hours and unlock quite a few of the achievements on your first go ’round. You earn photos by getting 5 Stars on every song, as well as unlocking the only other game type besides Story Mode and Quickplay: Venue Challenges. Basically this is an attempt to artificially extend TB:RB’s game play and replay value. It boils down to you having to do each chapter of the story again, only without a break between the songs. Not very challenging.
The Beatles: Rock Band is definitely aimed at a specific audience. If a Beatles fan hasn’t already purchased instruments, they are looking at about a $300 price tag to enjoy this game with all it can offer. If you have instruments already, and are more of a Rock Band fan then of the Beatles, I wouldn’t recommend buying this game. If this had just been a DLC addition to RB2, or had a much lower price to off-set the lack of features and replay value, then I would think differently about it. If there is any band deserving of having it’s own game, it’s The Beatles. But when you slap the Rock Band name on the box, you are slapping on quite a few expectations. It may be a beautiful tribute to a worthy band, but the experience is too short and underwhelming for a premium price of $65 and up.
I give The Beatles: Rock Band 3 “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” out of 5.
by Rachael Edwards