Fulfilling A Lifelong Fantasy With The Beatles: Rock Band
Users can feel what it was like to perform on Ed Sullivan's stage.
(photo courtesy Harmonix/MTV Games)
I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not a Beatles fan. It seems that from the beginning I have been immersed in their music, history and mythology.
In my wildest fantasies, I was a member of the group (Preferably John; I was always a John person), but there was the slight problem of being born more than a decade after they broke up. I've also never had an ounce of musical talent. That left me attempting to fulfill my Beatles fantasy by playing air guitar and singing horribly off key as I listened to their albums.
With the video game The Beatles: Rock Band, though, I can finally be a part of the greatest band of all time.
Developed by Harmonix in conjunction with Apple Corps., The Beatles: Rock Band gives Beatles fans and gamers around the world the opportunity to experience what it felt like to be one of the Beatles.
Beginning at the hallowed Cavern Club in Liverpool, the game's story mode takes you from historic Beatles concert locations (the Ed Sullivan Theatre, Shea Stadium and the Budokan) through the band's studio years and classic performance on the rooftop of Apple's studio.
The concert chapters of the story mode look and feel incredibly accurate. The Cavern Club is dark and intimate while the Ed Sullivan stage is replicated perfectly, including the Beatles outfits and the exact instruments they used for the performance. Small things such as having John's suit jacket unbuttoned for the Shea Stadium chapter show that the production team did their research. The game also perfectly captures the mannerisms of the Beatles while performing, from the well-known stances to the head bobbing.
(photo courtesy Harmonix/MTV Games)
For the studio years, the game introduces "dreamscapes," which take the band from the studio into artistic scenes that are a visual representation of the song being played. When the dreamscape songs come to an end, the band is brought back in to the studio and the camera often zooms out into the production booth, giving the gamer the point of view of the great producer George Martin.
The stunning dreamscape visuals might even be too eye-catching as at times I found myself watching them instead of the notes I was supposed to be playing on the guitar.
Fantastic artwork is in fact found throughout the entire game. The opening cinematic is spectacular and the chapter introductions in story mode give quick and creative lessons in Beatles history.
The band's history is further fleshed out by the extras that can be earned as a player progresses through story mode. There are 104 photos that can be earned, each of which comes with a little anecdote concerning the song, album or performance it is connected to. Rare audio recordings and videos, such as The Beatles' First Christmas Record and Ed Sullivan rehearsal footage, can also be unlocked.
Completing the story mode will also unveil the song "The End," the only track not initially available in other modes of the game.
Aside from the story mode, there are the standard Rock Band Quick Play, Tug of War and Score Duel modes. Unique to The Beatles: Rock Band are chapter challenges, two different drum training modes to teach you "Beatle Beats" and vocal harmonies trainer.
However, the game is not perfect.
The biggest criticism of the game has to be the track list. It is shockingly small, consisting of only 45 songs (by comparison, the latest Guitar Hero game has 85 songs). This leads to career mode being completed in only few hours (It took me less than three).
Of course Harmonix is not going to let the track list sit at 45 as more songs are planned for release. The song "All You Need is Love" is already available for the Xbox 360 version (it will be available to the other platforms at a later time). Entire albums will also become available over the next three months, with 'Abbey Road' being released in October, 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' in November and 'Rubber Soul' in December.
The drawback here is that it will take gamers dishing out more money to get these additional songs.
It's a move that paints Harmonix as greedy and only looking to capitalize as much as possible on the Beatles name. It doesn't help that the special edition Rickenbacker 325 and Gretsch Duo Jet guitars for the game, neither of which is included in the bundle pack, cost $100 each. The guitars are no different than any other Rock Band guitar controllers, but Harmonix knows they can price accordingly since Beatles fans will buy them.
The initial track list also has many songs that would not be considered "Rock Band worthy." Most of these are the songs which feature Ringo as lead vocalist. Surely there must have been an attempt to even things out among the Beatles in terms of how many lead vocals each member has on the game, but when fans think of songs like "Yellow Submarine," they usually don't think of the song's rocking beats.
The inclusion of these atypical Rock Band songs leads to worthier songs being left out of the game. "She Loves You" and "Help!" from the band's early days comes to mind as being wrongfully excluded while "Happiness is a Warm Gun" and "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" from their studio years would have been exciting to play.
It also would have been great if Harmonix had included the few outside musicians who played with the Beatles. Seeing Eric Clapton joining the band for "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and having Billy Preston present for the Apple rooftop concert would have enhanced the Beatles experience.
Long standing Rock Band gamers might also find the songs a bit too easy. The songs are easier than the ones found on previous entries of the game, but it must be reasoned that the true fans won't care about the difficulty of the songs. They just want the Beatles experience and having easier songs gives the player the opportunity to both play an instrument and do vocals (so genius to include a microphone stand in the bundle pack) at the same time.
Sure, it would be awesome to conquer a really hard guitar solo, but nothing felt better than being able to play the game as the guitar player and vocalist. I really felt like I was a performing with the Beatles, bouncing up and down as Lennon did.
And that is how the game will succeed: with Beatlemaniacs of all ages who will play it for simple enjoyment. They might even be like me and use the game as an escape from reality; a way to fulfill those long held dreams of creating great music as the Beatles did.
And in the end, having fun is all that matters.