Well, The Beatles: Rock Band is finally out. At long last, one of the most hyped games ever has hit stores and, I’ve got to say, it’s pretty damn good. While Guitar Hero is quickly approaching “glut” status, with three games already released this year, and one more on the way, Rock Band is picking its punches and has been able to craft one of the most special games ever. But, much like other band-centric music titles, the lasting appeal may not be there for non-hardcore fans of The Beatles.
While Guitar Hero, ever since World Tour, has been rehashing the same gameplay for its titles, TB:RB has taken the genre a huge step forward. The single biggest, most important difference between this title and its comrades is harmony singing. While Rock Band 1 and 2 and all the Guitar Hero titles since World Tour have made use of four inputs (two guitars, one set of drums and one microphone), TB:RB, as you certainly know from reading our preview, pushes the envelope by allowing the standard two guitars and a drum set…but allows up to three singers, with one melody singer and two singing harmony, allowing up to six players to jam at once, or giving three brave souls the opportunity to sing while they strum (or beat the drum), and everything in between.
The changes don’t end there. Harmonix took great care in preserving The Beatles’ music. Because of that, things like the effects switch found on the standard Stratocaster guitar are now rendered useless and the whammy bar is now used exclusively for charging up Star Power/Overdrive/Beatlemania, and has no actual distortion effect. Additionally, drum fills have been removed (that is, you now have to play Ringo’s drum fills). None of these are a huge deal, however, and the game benefits as a result. On top of this, things like a streamlined menu system, an achievement-tracking screen and the ability to do things like change between guitar and bass, turn on and off No-Fail Mode and switch between lefty and righty before each song helps things move smoothly, without having to constantly flip through menus during parties.
Sublimed gameplay aside, the game’s single strongest aspect is its graphics and presentation. Compared to Guitar Hero: Metallica’s fairly realistic style and Van Halen’s “we don’t really care anymore” direction, TB:RB stays close to the somewhat cartoony visuals found in past Rock Band titles. It goes much further than any of its predecessors before, with incredibly well-done interpretations of the Fab Four throughout the years, from the bowl cuts they rocked in their early days to their goofy Sgt. Peppers costumes to the beards and sideburns they rocked in their rooftop concert. Additionally, there are unique sequences for each individual song, whether it is a concert featuring squealing schoolgirls or a “Dreamscape” featuring yellow submarines, strawberry fields or other stuff associated with whichever song you’re playing. These are all so well done, they end up almost distracting (and, regrettably, there is no way to just watch the songs without having to play them).
Personally, I’m not an aficionado of The Beatles and, as such, I can’t really comment about quality of the song list. Many of the songs, for me, were recognizable but that doesn’t really speak to anything. I gave a strong score in the sound department (which is where I put my subjective scoring of the song lists in these games) because of Harmonix’s commitment to keeping the songs perfect and because this is the first band-centric game to actually have all the songs in the game be from the featured band. The game deserves credit for that.
While The Beatles: Rock Band is a very good game on the whole, it isn’t quite as prolific as Rock Band 2. Rock Band 2 is such a huge value that it’s hard to recommend anything else if you’re looking to just start playing these musical games. Hell, if you’re looking to get into the music game genre, the Rock Band 2 bundle is $150 USD cheaper than the TB:RB bundle at this time, and all the instruments are fully compatible with each other. Meanwhile, for all you guys who get these games just to mash out solos from Avenged Sevenfold or Judas Priest, you’re probably not going to like this game much, simply because the actual guitar playing is mellow and genuine and lacks the crazy hammering and pulling that a lot of people really enjoy. Still, there’s a lot to love about this for gamers and for music fans. Anyone interested in learning about The Beatles or anyone just looking for a nice, laid-back musical game should check this out.