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The Beatles: Rock Band
Graphics: 8.5
Gameplay: 9.2
Sound: 9.5
Control: 9.2
Replay Value: 10
Rating: 9.3

They are without question the most influential rock band of all time, having covered virtually every sub-genre of rock music and even going as far as creating a psychedelic sound that nobody can ever match. The Beatles are the world's most famous rock quartet, and perhaps the biggest music license in the industry. So, last year, when rumors began to circulate that EA, MTV, and Harmonix were able to secure a license from Apple Corps., the hype train began rolling. Following on the trails of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and the very hot trails of Guitar Hero: Metallica, The Beatles: Rock Band marks the first band-centric release for the Rock Band franchise, and it's here with a splash.

Unlike GH: Aerosmith and Metallica, which were largely based on GH3 and World Tour, respectively, The Beatles: Rock Band is built from the ground up and has nothing to do with any of the past Rock Band games. Much like other band specific games, Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were the prime sources of input for this particular game, in addition to Yoko Ono Lennon, Olivia Harrison, and Giles Martin. Martin is also the producer of the The Beatles: Rock Band, meanwhile Dhani Harrison, son of George and Olivia, is contributed in the form of modeling for the game's animation.

Upon booting up the game, you are greeted with probably the most epic and brilliant intro I've ever seen, but maybe I am a bit biased, since The Beatles are my favorite band. But still, there is absolutely no denying that the intro is absolutely staggering and so well done that the folks over at Passion Pictures, should be given some sort of a bonus or reward. Surely a collective group was responsible for the intro (which includes Gorillaz animator Pete Candeland), so I say we all chip in and buy them even more high-end hardware to create even better introductions.

Okay, rant about the awesome intro out of the way...what can you expect from the gameplay? Well, there are 45 songs to choose from, with a bunch more to appear as downloadable content. Not every one of those 45 songs is a Beatles single, though, so if some don't ring a bell to you, well...stop being a shmuck and listen to their entire library, because you'll need to familiarize yourself if you want to play through the Story mode successfully.

On the topic of the story, the game's progression covers the band's early days starting out in Liverpool, then pass through the psychedelic phase of Sgt. Pepper, into the self-titled 'White Album', Abbey Road, and everything in between. Audio bits we've never heard before can also be found in the game, in addition to never before seen video footage. The Story mode will not only cover the albums, but also chronologically cover the historic live concerts put on by The Beatles, as well as them playing at Abbey Road Studio. Your early days start off in The Cavern Club, and from there on: The Ed Sullivan Theater, Shea Stadium, Budokan, Apple Corps Rooftop, and Abbey Road Studio 2.

As you should all know by now, The Beatles: Rock Band will give four players the chance to team up and reenact all 45 tracks using their Beatles themed Rock Band instruments. These themed instruments are based on the instruments most frequently used by the band, such as Paul McCartney's Hofner bass, George Harrison's Gretsch, John Lennon's Rickenbacker, and a Ludwig branded drumset with design inspired by Ringo's actual setup. Despite the themed instruments, your original Rock Band controllers will work with The Beatles: Rock Band, so feel free to purchase the stand alone copy.

Unfortunately, due to licensing limitations, these Beatles tracks will not be made available as content for Rock Band 2 or future Rock Band games, largely for the same reason they're still not available on services such as iTunes. But there is DLC support for the game, and we'll be getting complete albums of: Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Rubber Soul. Furthermore, gameplay now support harmony singing, allowing players to use three microphones with the game, with one performing the solo/lead vocals, and the other two performing the background harmonies.

More unfortunate news, I've experienced one very awkward issue with the vocals in the game; there's a massive latency issue where my voice comes through the speakers noticeably late, and that hurts my score a lot every time I play. I'll get strings and strings of "FAB" (even on the most difficult songs) but because the game never registers the first lyric/word to every new verse, I get docked a ton of points. I have to 'jump' the first word of every verse ahead of time, but that totally throws off the timing and beat. Needless to say, something needs to be done, because there is no way adjust the lag for your microphone. I have also tried this on all the mics I have, including the SingStar and Rock Band 2 mics, and it's the same. I also absolutely hate how loud your voice comes through the speakers even when you have the mic settings set all the way down. You may advise me to keep the mic further away, well if you try that, the game will not be able to pick up your voice occasionally. The vocals in the game are extremely frustrating, to say the least.

I should mention that when you perform in Abbey Road Studio, instead of just having to look at a bland room, the background will eventually transform into a Dreamscape. These Dreamscapes are very colorful, trippy, and almost acid-like backgrounds that really give The Beatles: Rock Band an even bigger punch. It just makes the game feel so...alive.

Visually, the game continues the trend of music games looking cartoony, and so it does not aim at realism here. The character models clearly resemble their respective band member, but the overall detail and texture work is on the simplistic side. A nice touch is that there are numerous different character models, all of which represent the different looks of each member in the band as time went on. The details of the backgrounds are pretty solid, and you'll certainly appreciate the Dreamscapes a ton. In addition, the art-direction of the intro scene, which I gushed about earlier, is downright amazing, so the game earns some points there. Lighting is also very well done, and the framerate never bogs while the game renders its 720p resolution.

The audio is the most important bit, and it's also extremely well done. The tracks are loud when you want them to be, and quieter if you desire that instead, so you have the ability to tinker around with the in-game volume. My complaints about the microphone still stands, as it does affect the audio of the game, so some points are docked for that. But, as far as audio clarity, running this with Dolby 5.1 enabled is an absolute dream. Everything sounds superbly crisp and clear, and I simply cannot find fault in how these songs were brought over to the game. I'm also quite fond of the drum trainer/freestyle mode that allows you to pick any song out of your PS3's hard-drive and drum over it, it's a nifty feature, as your MP3s can also replace the menu music of the game, so feel free to customize it with additional Beatles tunes. 

Any Beatles fan with a gaming console absolutely owes it to themselves to experience The Beatles: Rock Band. If you own instruments from previous Guitar Hero or Rock Band games, feel free to reuse them. The new instruments are nice, but not worth the extra cash, unless you don't have a current set of instruments to use. If you're a fan of The Beatles, this Rock Band game is definitely the music game you want to own this year. It offers a ton of content and replay value, and truly makes for a great experience for you and your friends. I just wish they'd offer a patch to fix the microphone latency...

The full soundtrack is as follows:

"A Hard Day's Night"
"And Your Bird Can Sing"
"Back In The U.S.S.R."
"Can't Buy Me Love"
"Come Together"
"Day Tripper"
"Dear Prudence"
"Dig A Pony"
"Do You Want To Know A Secret"
"Don't Let Me Down"
"Drive My Car"
"Eight Days A Week"
"Get Back"
"Getting Better"
"Good Morning Good Morning"
"Hello Goodbye"
"Helter Skelter"
"Here Comes The Sun"
"Hey Bulldog"
"I'm Looking Through You"
"I've Got A Feeling"
"I Am The Walrus"
"I Feel Fine"
"I Me Mine"
"I Saw Her Standing There"
"I Wanna Be Your Man"
"I Want You (She's So Heavy)"
"I Want to Hold Your Hand"
"If I Needed Someone"
"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
"Octopus's Garden"
"Paperback Writer"
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
"Ticket To Ride"
"Twist And Shout"
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
"Within You Without You / Tomorrow Never Knows"
"Yellow Submarine"

9/8/2009   Arnold Katayev