There aren't many bands I would consider doing a full blown musical game around of. Of course, there aren't many bands like The Beatles. When it was first announced that there was going to be a Rock Band game based off The Beatles, I was pretty surprised. Here's one of the most legendary bands lending all their music and assets to a video game when their songs aren't even available on iTunes yet. I can't imagine the pressure that Harmonix felt in trying to create a game that would be both fun and a tribute to one of the greatest bands ever. Well, Harmonix has done a pretty good job at capturing the feel of The Beatles as well as providing a fun trip through the history of the band's many, many years.
The Beatles: Rock Band walks you through the early days of The Beatles playing in The Cavern all the way to their final days together at Abbey Road. 45 great songs are on the disc with albums and songs available on launch day as well. Now, the amount of music that's in this game is about half of what you would expect from Rock Band 2 and recent Guitar Hero releases so in that sense I do wish there were a few more songs to round out the initial set but it is on par with the amount of songs released with Rock Band 1 minus the bonus songs. The songs encompass songs recorded from 1962-1969, which is pretty much close the entire time The Beatles were together. The variety of songs on the game are great as you get the rocking tunes with hits such as A Hard Day's Night and I Want To Hold Your Hand to the soft, slow ballads such as Here Comes The Sun. All the songs are master recordings so you get the true sound from the Fab Four coming to you from your speakers. Before songs, you'll also hear some rare chatter from the band itself which is pretty cool to hear. I am glad there's a sampling from all the records The Beatles produced giving you a wide variety of songs from different time periods to play. You won't be able to import or export songs to the Rock Band games as this is The Beatles only area and the only compatible DLC will be upcoming Beatles singles and albums. A little disappointing but an understandable decision given the subject matter and what licensing deals Harmonix had to go through to secure the rights to make the game.
Gameplay, for the most part, follows the Rock Band 2 setup with a few additions and changes. The big addition is support for up to three microphones in the game. So, up to six people can play the game at once should everyone take an instrument and a separate mic. Built into the game now are harmony sections and separate lyrics for different singers. While only one person needs to fill up their meter to be successful in that singing section, two or three people doing so will earn more bonus points. The lyric track has three distinct arrows now so you know which one you are as well as three different colors to let you see easily where you should be singing. In reality any one person can take any part as the game doesn't specifically assign a mic to a color but you can choose one part to concentrate on if you wish. Trying to get Three Fab bonus with each person completing a specific portion of the harmony is pretty hard but when you do get it it's a really cool feeling. Harmonies are pretty fun and tough to accomplish and adds a nice wrinkle to the singing portion of the game.
For the drummers out there, there are no longer drum fills to activate Star Power or Beatlemania as it's called in this game. Now, there's just a single glowing green note for right handed folks or red note for left handed people that needs to be hit in order to activate Beatlemania. IF you skip the note, you won't be penalized if you have a streak going so that's good. I'm not for or against the change but I can see Harmonix removing the drum fill to be more true to the music.
All in all, the gameplay is really not much different from Rock Band 2 which is good as it works out really well and I don't see any reason to change what's not broke. For those wanting more, you'll be disappointed but really in my opinion, the gameplay is just how it should be. You don't want to throw too much of a curve when designing a game around The Beatles and to follow a formula that's been proven to work successfully to ensure that that old fans will enjoy it as well.
Turning on No Fail mode used to be a little chore but now, anyone choosing Easy will automatically turn on No Fail mode for the player. This is a great decision as this allows those that are new to the game to play the game with more seasoned players who want the challenge of keeping up with the music with the threat of failing out. If you want to turn on the feature for all the players in the band, accessing the mode is easily done in one of the menus leading up to the song now. It's a nice, quick way to ensure everyone can enjoy the game should there be inexperienced players on board. If you aren't playing with the mode and do fail out, the game just ends with the menu allowing you to try again or continue with other options. There's no booing and no animations of The Beatles showing off their frustration because, really, who would boo The Beatles off stage? You also don't hear any booing should you not do well during gameplay and the crowd's always excited. Again, this is another subtle change to keep to the true spirit of the band and something that I don't think takes away from the game at all.
Instead of a career mode, there's now a story mode which takes you through a linear progression of various key events in the band's history. Along the way you can earn prizes and pictures should you perform well. Between venues, you'll see a nice montage of pictures and images from the band set to a tune of some of the great music they performed. Yes, you do have to complete all the songs for each venue to continue but there are only 45 songs to get through so it won't take you too long to finish the story mode. You might have to go through it a few times though as some photos can only be won by getting five stars but you'll get at least one picture by the minimum three star finish. For those that don't know too much about The Beatles, it's a fun way to see what they went through and their rise through stardom.
Besides the photos, you'll be able to pick up certain prizes along the way. Prizes are unlocked when a certain number of photos have been won so getting 5 stars will unlock these prizes faster as you get an additional photo over a 3 star performance. They have some really interesting items that can be viewed when these are picked up such as the Christmas album for you to listen to. It's another area where you can learn and hear more about The Beatles and their life.
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