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The Beatles: Rock Band Review

Review; Jan. 11, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
All you need is love. All you need is this game.

Before playing The Beatles: Rock Band, ask yourself two questions: Do you like The Beatles, and do you enjoy Rock Band? If you answered yes to either question, then this game is for you. At first glance, it appears The Beatles: Rock Band is an expansion to the Rock Band franchise in the same way that Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Guitar Hero: Metallica are to the Guitar Hero franchise. And perhaps from a cosmetic standpoint, that's true, but it really couldn't be further from the truth.

The Beatles: Rock Band Screenshots
Click the image to view screenshots.

The Beatles: Rock Band has all of the features from the previous games, including the ability to play as a four man band, the list of songs to complete, or the career mode option, which is basically the game’s single player mode. The game has a new vocal harmony feature. This allows up to three vocalists to harmonize with the four players on instruments. The purpose it to emulate the Fab Four’s singing while playing, and in this case, it works perfectly. It’s a real joy to have up to seven people singing and playing to the game’s 45 selections. It transforms what could have been a simple expansion consisting of Beatles songs into an even more challenging musical experience. Along the way, you’ll unlock different items, such as photos and videos from the Apple Corps archives, some of which haven't been seen by the public until now.

As for the songs themselves, they're great but not perfect. Most of the most well-known Beatles hits are present and playable. From “A Hard Day’s Night” to “The End,” the selection is fairly substantial should present plenty of recognizable songs for the casual listener to the most hard core Beatles maniac. The main issue, though, is this is not the ultimate Beatles experience. Some very notable songs are absent, and while their inclusion may not have been possible due to a lack of appropriate instruments, it feels weird not having them in an otherwise definitive Beatles collection. Later released DLC helps to alleviate this a little, but there are still some significant songs not included. This may seem a minor gripe, but it takes away from being the comprehensive experience the game claims to offer.

From a visual perspective, the game is beautiful and by far the best in the series. Going beyond the simple stages and venues of previous Rock Bands, the visuals in this game take their cue from the Beatles' past concerts and studio recording sessions, from their beginning at The Cavern Club to their famous performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. The attention to detail, and later on, the fantastic visual creative liberties taken with each song is what makes this game great. For example, in The Cavern Club, each of the members wear simple vests and ties, while later on during the Magical Mystery Tour, each member is wearing the full pastel band uniform. "Yellow Submarine” features the Beatles playing in, well, a yellow submarine as it travels under the sea. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” takes place in a bright field surrounded by flowers, and later on, takes place in the sky, with The Beatles in a giant floating pagoda and the lyrics to the song appearing next to them. It’s these visual set pieces which make this edition stand out from all other entries in the series. If The Beatles had access to today’s technology, this is what we’d probably see. It’s like a modern day update, crazy cartoons and all -- only this time you get to play along.

The Beatles: Rock Band is not only a fitting tribute to the band, but an excellent entry in the Rock Band series. Harmonix Music Systems went beyond what could have been the equivalent of a quick cash-in and created a tailor-made experience which fits the style of The Beatles and provides a platform for Beatles fans and Rock Band fans to play together and experience the career of one of the world’s most famous bands. Minor issues such as inability to transfer songs to Rock Band 2 or 3 and the fact that it is slightly less challenging than the other entries in the series keep it from perfection, but at this point, it’s just nitpicking. The quality and care which went into this game far surpasses any other single band music game ever produced, and unlike the Guitar Hero entries, it's able to stand on its own without the addition of other songs from other bands. If you haven’t already, play this game. Beatles fan or not.


Review Score


Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

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