Each of the key events is accompanied by playing at an important venue or Dreamscape, which are all imaginative and different. For the early years, you'll be playing in The Cavern, Ed Sullivan Show, and Shea Stadium. The crowd sizes will, of course, mimic the venue so it's fun to see the screaming teenagers at the Ed Sullivan Show with The Beatles performing and doing their signature bow at the end. I did find it a little funny that the crowd when The Beatles play in Japan is all Americans though. It was a small distraction at first but it's something you can get over pretty quickly. As you move into the era of Abbey Road Studios, you'll see the Fab Four in the studio performing the song and then morph to a Dreamscape venue that fits the song's style. For example, when playing Octopus’s Garden, you'll see the four members of the band underwater playing in a sea themed venue complete with refractions generated by being underwater. If you want something really trippy, just check out the one for I Am the Walrus. You do get to play with The Beatles in their famous roof top concert at the Apple building on 3 Savile Row in London on the final set. The replication of the various famous venues are really fun to watch as you get a small feeling of what it's like to have been them in that arena. The Dreamscapes are a nice little representation of the band and their music during the Abbey Road days giving you some great visuals to watch when you aren't the one playing the game.
The look of The Beatles also changes as you go through the story mode. You'll start out with the Fab Four in the black suits and bowl style haircuts. As they get older you see their individual styles change from the haircut to growing of facial hair and clothing style. The instruments being played by the band also change as well as you progress through the different eras. Finally, you get the famous look of what they ended up with as the band plays their last live set together on top of the Apple building. It's pretty cool to see how The Beatles change as they grew throughout the years they were together.
As you finish each chapter, a challenge for that chapter is unlocked allowing you to play through all the songs on the set in trying to earn the most points as possible. You don't have to play each song on the same difficulty level though so that's nice but you do have to play through them all to record a score. You can then compare how you did against your friends online. It's one of the items that offer some replay value and competitiveness to the game.
The game's not trying to be like the past musical games where you start out easy and work your way up to the hard songs. The songs aren't overly complicated but there are some areas for each instrument that can get a little hairy even for those that play a lot. In the end, it's more about experiencing The Beatles, their life, and their music. This is a game for the fans of the band and for those that want to know more about one of the greatest bands in the history of music. There's no create a character nor interactive career mode; you just go through the life and times of the Fab Four.
While we didn't get the instruments to review, you'll be able to pick up many great replicas of the band's instruments for the game. Paul McCartney's Hofner Violin Bass, John Lennon's Rickenbacker 325 Guitar, George Harrison's Gretsch Duo Jet Guitar, and a Ringo Star inspired Ludwig Pearl Finish drum set will be available so you can not only play and sing like The Beatles but look like them too with replicas of their famous instruments. The special edition will have the Bass and drum set while the Rickenbacker and Gretsch will be separate purchases. You can only use two guitars though unlike Guitar Hero 5 so you can't truly mimic the band's setup but you can get close. You can use instruments from past Rock Band games and most Guitar Hero games to play though so you don't have to spend a lot of money if you already have instruments at home. I played through the guitar sequence with the Guitar Hero World Tour guitar and used the drums from Rock Band 2 in my review of the game without any problems.
Unfortunately, I couldn't get into any online mode before the release date as it might have crashed Harmonix's servers. So this review will be sans online play but if it's anything like Rock Band 2, then all should be good. I'd love to see how it works with a full six person set playing online but I will save that for a future news item as a follow up to this review.
In the end, The Beatles: Rock Band is Rock Band 2 with The Beatles branding and some changes to fit the spirit of the game. It's good to know that the game went in production with the blessing and some feedback from the surviving band members and their relatives as you get a lot of cool little nuggets as you play that I don't know if they could have gotten without their help. For Beatles fans, it's a great visual and audio trip down memory lane. As with any band-specific or genre-specific musical game, non-fans will want to skip out on the purchase but that's to be expected. Like food or types of movies, not everyone's going to be a fan and those that don't buy the game won't miss out on anything. For those that are fans or even enjoy the Fab Four's music, The Beatles: Rock Band is a great pickup and a fun way to experience their music in a different light.
There's a lot of fun to be had going through the history of The Beatles. Songs aren't overly complicated but you get at least one song from every album they've produced. The Dreamscapes are imaginative and great to watch. Only fans of the band need apply as it is strictly Beatles content on this one.
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