What differentiates The Beatles: Rock Band from Rock Band games that have come before it? Harmonix and MTV Games are releasing more than an artist track pack, with this standalone Rock Band akin more to a playable band biography.
The Beatles: Rock Band also adds to the series' established gameplay by letting up to three vocalists perform at once, assuming lead or harmony vocal duties in songs like "Paperback Writer." Players won't suffer score-wise for flubbing those harmony parts, but serious players will likely welcome the challenge of matching The Beatles harmonising chops.
Oh, and the publisher added three more songs to the songs confirmed to appear in the game with "Do You Want To Know A Secret", "I Wanna Be Your Man" and "And Your Bird Can Sing." Read on for our latest impressions of the game.
What Is It? Rock Band formula meets The Beatles. The latter is not simply slapped onto the former, however, as The Beatles music, career and personality is applied to tried and true Rock Band gameplay, adding support for up to three vocalists. In addition to the chance to quick play the band's classic tracks, players can also follow the group's musical career, from its hundreds of appearances at The Cavern Club in Liverpool to its American debut on the Ed Sullivan show to beyond.
What We Saw Harmonix previewed, among other things that we can't talk about yet, the game's 'Vocal Trainer' mode. The Beatles' regular use of three-part harmonies—which can be incredibly complicated, particularly for those of us rarely have an opportunity to harmonise with two buddies—is going to require some getting used to, musically. Some of us can barely screech our way through a tune in Rock Band, let alone differentiate the lead from the complementary harmonising vocal tracks, so this brand new addition is more than welcome. We also got to play a handful of songs previously not shown to the public.
How Far Along Is It? "Percent Complete: 90%" according to the preview. To our eager eyes and ears, everything else seemed to be in place, from the necessary training modes that will get new players and veteran Rock Band players up to speed, to a robust song listing. If there was anything still left to be buffed to a mirror shine, we sure didn't see it. The game hits retail in less than two months, so a near-final product didn't surprise us.
What Needs Improvement? Not Enough Sitar! As revealed in the game's newest trailer, "Within You Without You" will give Beatles fans the opportunity to experience the thrill of playing sitar with a plastic guitar. Harmonix reps gave us the impression that this was the only song, so far, to let gamers unleash their inner sitar hero. Let's pray that's remedied.
What Should Stay The Same? Vocal Trainer: Even for the vocally handicapped, the finer points of harmonising can be understood and maybe even executed, thanks to The Beatles: Rock Band's tutorial. Using the left trigger on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 controller, budding harmonisers can cycle through a three part harmony's lead and harmony tracks, singling out notes that might be harder to hear. Better still, a guide note can be layered on top of the vocal track to offer the listener a clearer sound. It's perfect practice for finding that perfect pitch.
Advanced Vocal Scoring: And, once serious Rock Band players get a feel for the intricacies of singing those harmonised vocal tracks, they'll be able to aim for perfect scores. The guitar parts we played on "hard" difficulty really weren't that hard. Not that "Twist & Shout" is a technically complicated guitar song, but Rock Band fans nonplussed by the instrument difficulty will find something potentially difficult to master—especially if they plan on playing an Expert guitar or bass note highway while harmonising. A handy advanced vocal scoring chart can be reviewed after completing a song, showing the player just how many "Double Fabs" and "Triple Fabs" a trio of vocalists earned.
Beatlemania: It's been covered before, but there's a certain degree of enjoyment to be had from playing Beatles songs as they were meant to be played. "Beatlemania" scoring bonuses, known as Overdrive in other Rock Band games, does little to muck with the master tracks. No chaotic drums fills here to kick it off. No whammy and flange effects turning "Paperback Writer" into a sonic mess. And that's refreshing.
Love: Even as an extremely casual Beatles fan, seeing the attention to detail laboured upon The Beatles: Rock Band is exciting for the medium. The "dreamscape" settings employed as backgrounds for songs like "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Yellow Submarine," songs which wouldn't feel appropriate in concert or recording studio settings, add charming personality to the package. Some of the other additions—again, which we'll have to discuss later—exude extreme care on behalf of the developers and the creators.
Final Thoughts It's hard not to get excited about The Beatles: Rock Band, even for those of us who don't categorise themselves as serious fans of the band. The game's new Vocal Trainer mode will be an education in itself, a genuine learning tool that teaches a skill even better than discovering to play drums—well, play "drums" on a custom game controller. The initial track list announced by Harmonix features a good blend of well-worn hits and deeper cuts, all of which are fun to play and experience in either the virtual settings Harmonix has either recreated based on real world landmarks or built from the ground up.
See some of those real world and otherworldly settings in new screens in the gallery below.