Game Review

The Beatles: Rock Band Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Zach Kaplan

Here comes the fun

We've seen the market quite saturated with numerous Rock Bands and Guitar Heroes, and at this point we’d need something extra special to pique our interest in the genre. The Beatles are happily just the right thing. They’re the perfect band for a music emulation game to take as its focus, their repertoire being one of the most highly acclaimed and varied in recent history.

Its creators knew that they'd have to design a great game to justify the prohibitive licensing fees, and that's just what they delivered. Everything feels authentic and lovingly crafted, and the result is an immersive ambiance that transcends the experience of the average Rock Band game. It feels closer to placing the needle on the band's original vinyl than downloading their greatest hits to your iPod, something truly worthy of the Beatles name. This alone sets it apart from most other games.

Once you're firmly intoxicated in this inarticulately wonderful aura, you'll discover that it's a lot of fun, too. The enjoyment of playing those fake instruments to this list of tracks makes it the perfect party experience, and you can rest assured that you won't have to skip that one song that everyone hates. There are none to dislike on this compilation, and that's an incredible asset in itself. Even a so-so Beatles song beats an average one by most bands.

The variety of gameplay is great as well, boasting an expansive list of forty-five songs as well as almost thirty downloadable tracks, each with its own unique vibe. As the band developed, their style changed dramatically, resulting in great degree of variety in their repertoire. Whether you're after the fast-paced pop of "Twist and Shout," the sultry, driving "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" or the meditative, Indian influenced "Within You Without You", this list delivers and does so beautifully. Another layer of variation is the fact that inclusion of four instruments - guitar, bass, drums and microphone - means that there are four very different ways to play each song. On top of that, each of the boys takes a turn at the mic, each with his own individual vocal range. Just because you can easily five-star John, then, doesn't mean you won't have to work hard at George.

Each song is accompanied by a music video of sorts, either a recreation of a live performance or a "dreamscape" constructed to match the feel of the song. These are quite beautiful and enjoyable to watch, though one is compelled more to focus on the notes at hand rather than enjoy the scenery. It's very cool and impressive, real eye candy, and will continually please and remain pleasant once the eyegasm fades. Without a doubt, the game looks as gorgeous as anyone could hope it would. And it sounds as great, too, with digitally remastered songs and a lot of love put in to isolating each track from the original master and fun Beatle banter to hear while waiting for each song to load.

For those unfamiliar with the series, players emulate members of a band using plastic “instruments,” all of which feel quite intuitive to manipulate. Handling the guitar and bass scantly feel like playing their musical counterparts, while the drums are closer to the real thing. If a friend wants to play along and can't figure either out, they can still have a great time at the microphone. Play well and perform a special move to trigger Beatlemania and multiply your points, play poorly and you'll fail, having to start all over at the beginning (unless you turn on "No Fail" mode). If you need to bone up, try the impressive training mode, which isolates any section of any song that you'd like to practice.

The meat of the game is story mode, available in both single and multiplayer. You play through the history of the titular band from the tiny, intimate Cavern Club to their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show and so on, culminating in their famous rooftop concert. It is a joy to watch the band mature and to play along with their music as it changes in tone and grows in complexity throughout the journey. You can earn up to five stars depending on how well you perform and unlock rare photographs and video clips for doing so, and after each segment you can play the chapter challenge and try to five-star each song in the set. The creators' reverie is obvious, but here it serves as an arguable detriment to the experience gone are any mention of the band's darker days. It makes for quite a joy ride, but a full-fledged, true to life plot with all their ups and downs could have provided a richer experience. The game then serves as more of an homage than a historically accurate portrayal, which in the end is fine, but will impair the experience of those who enjoy complex narrative. Not that the authenticity suffers at any other point, the creators even including an explanation in the instruction manual of other little things they had to alter - who's really playing the tambourine and so forth.

Centering around the history of one band means that all the little perks of creating one from scratch are gone. There's no fans to be gained, no costumes to be unlocked, and very little customisation whatsoever. It cements the experience as solely belonging to The Beatles, so those for whom Big Head Mode is a must-have, be warned. This isn't about creating your own rock band, it's about celebrating and emulating the Beatles, period.

There's also Quickplay mode, perfect for social gatherings, which lets you pick a song or build a playlist from the library for single or multiplayer use. Then there's the competitive modes Tug of War and Score Duel, both of which pit two players against each other on the same instrument in slightly different ways - the former has players alternating between different sections of the song while in the latter mode, players perform the song in its entirety. While the developers included online functionality, it's quite unfulfilling to perform a song with someone who's not there. The latter two modes are fun but require finding a friend on a separate Wii or purchasing multiple guitars or drum sets, and the spirit of this title is one of cooperation rather than competition, making Quickplay by far the best of these three modes.

To correspond with the group's partiality to harmonisation, the developers included a feature that allows your friends' voices to join your own. Unfortunately, it's a bit tricky to differentiate between whose pitch arrow is whose, but if you're willing to spend some time puzzling it out, you're in for a treat. This puzzling is somewhat contradictory to a party atmosphere, though, so it's a sad fact that it's not more user friendly.

The difficulty is quite fair, both simple and complex songs making up the mix. The game shows you how hard each track is on a baseline scale, and one may alter this over four difficulty levels from easy to expert. The biggest change from one to the next is on guitar/bass, where hard and expert utilise the fifth key. Mastering the technique required for this is truly one of the most satisfying experiences in a video game.

We found the scoring system to be flawed, however, much to the detriment of the single player experience. You acquire points as you progress through a track and then earn up to five stars at the end. A good job on easy, medium, hard or expert will result in more stars, though you'll earn more points on a more challenging setting. Not only does this make deciphering scores a bit of a chore, but takes the oomph out of earning prizes (rare photographs and footage) in Story Mode as these are unlocked solely by gaining stars. Why try for five stars on expert when you can get the same reward for said achievement on easy or medium? While one might muster enough willpower to challenge themselves thusly, the self-gratification engine only goes so far before running out of steam. Worse still is the fact that no matter who plays on Quickplay Mode, there is no way to tell the difference between your score and your friends'. The friendly competition factor is regrettably damaged as a result, unless you’re willing to keep a ledger or something.

The developers also tackled the problem of Wii games not having accomplishments - those quirky little goals that give you a little something extra to feel good about yourself for achieving - by adding in as a feature of the game itself (rather than a feature of the console that utilises game content, as on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360). For those gamers to whom being awarded a trophy for maintaining Beatlemania for a minute or getting a 550-note streak while playing "I am the Walrus" on drums sounds appealing, this will certainly add even more replay value to the experience.

Conclusion

If you're planning on throwing a party and you've got a Wii but not The Beatles: Rock Band, go out and buy it right now. It's incredibly fun and easy to pick up, as well as looking and sounding simply gorgeous. With an unbeatable track list including plenty of stylistic variation and a great range of difficulty, The Beatles are the perfect foursome to inject new life into the music emulation genre. Though an overly simplistic scoring system takes away from single player mode, this game's still extremely fun and satisfying with practically endless replay value.

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User Comments (37)

thebigM

#2

thebigM said:

I have this since day one. Excellent game, not only for fans.
Reminds me, that I wanted to look at the DLC.

warioswoods

#4

warioswoods said:

I know I'll eventually have to get this just out extreme Beatle-fandom, as well as its use for Karaoke, but I'm still torn about the fact that the first big music game to use the Beatles is yet another follow-the-prompts game.

That's not what the Beatles were about musically; it feels deeply contrary to the inventive core of their music for the player to simply be asked to perform written parts as indicated. That's not music at all, it's just another video game while listening to music. Oh well, experimental music games don't sell well, so that was inevitable.

I'm also slightly unhappy with the reduction of their instrumentation to the standard drums-bass-guitars setup of your typical band. That's certainly where things began, but you miss out on some of their most incredible musical accomplishments if you are restricted to those instruments (you can't have the exquisite For No One in this game, to name one). It just feels like the Rock Band formula has been applied to a band whose musicality was all about a kind of inventiveness that is contrary to such limiting gameplay.

Kid_A

#5

Kid_A said:

Warioswoods, I'm with you (and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks For No One is one of their absolute finest songs) but once you actually get the game in your hands, it's impossible smile like an idiot.

The world may not be ready to accept a more experimental music game, but in the meantime this game really does capture the spirit of the Beatles in ways I wouldn't have thought possible. I'm not totally sold on how limited Rock Band's gameplay is either. It's a horrible representation of music-making and it is, as you say, entirely contrary to the inventive music the Beatles are known for.
But I'll be damned if the game isn't some of the most fun I've had on the Wii.

warioswoods

#7

warioswoods said:

@Kid_A

True, I know that I'll have a great time once I get this (in particular when my fellow Beatle-fan friends come over). I suppose I'll just have to sit down at the piano for a while afterwards to make amends. ;)

warioswoods

#8

warioswoods said:

I'm also resistant to having to own those huge plastic instruments. That's probably holding me back more than anything; I've always had fun with Rock Band games at houses of friends, but I shudder to think of storing all that corny plastic in or near my living room. The balance board is enough by itself, and at least that's a clean, flat object that I can slide under a table.

Zach

#9

Zach said:

@warioswoods About more complex and experimental music emulation games, I believe that the makers of Rock Band - it might be Guitar Hero - are making just that with their next iteration. They've said it will be a lot more like actually playing music, and not much more. I for one am excited, but until then, this game's absolutely wonderful.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#10

Philip_J_Reed said:

Haven't had a chance to read the review yet, but I'd like to add my name to the For No One mini-lovefest in the comments here.

Of course, I wonder who will join me when I decide to unmask myself as a lover of She's So Heavy.

warioswoods

#11

warioswoods said:

Bah, I Want You is a fine song, the plus-size connotations of its remaining lyrics notwithstanding.

Another of my favorites, What's The New Mary Jane?, will likely provoke more disagreement.

JakobG

#13

JakobG said:

Now that one took you a while, right?
I love this game, it's executed extremely well.
I was also a huge fan of The Beatles, but this game got me even more into the band and it's music. The graphics are impressive too, as long as we are talking about the main models; the rest is somewhat sloppy.
Otherwise, the game is stunning. Downloaded titles take a while to fire up, and you have to wait a while to get 2-3 partner in online mode, but you can really tell they took their time on that game.
It's also not only a port from the 360 version, they actually reduced the sceneries so it would run smoother.

Zach

#14

Zach said:

@warioswoods I just wanted to add that if you're upset that you can only play four instruments, you may be happy to learn that the guitar is used to emulate a variety of others, including the sitar in "Within You Without You" and the strings in "She's Leaving Home". That might take a bit of the sting out of the reduced complexity.

Caliko

#15

Caliko said:

@warioswoods

I COMPLETELY agree. Try Wii Music, It's a game for art and creativity.

I wondered to myself "Will I be able to play All You Need Is Love". I can't afford this game now, but I'm sure a lot of non "band" songs couldn't make it.

mnementh

#16

mnementh said:

@Prosdy - somebody should make sure it goes into metacritic... might push it from 89 to 90 (also fix that link on the right). anyway, I haven't played this one, and I don't own any of these peripherals. I think it's a fun concept, but once I tried it, I have no interest in getting better in such a thing.. I think it's a real waste of time.

Kid_A

#17

Kid_A said:

@Chicken Brutus
It's a fantastic song (and a perfect lead in for the cheery "Here Comes the Sun"). Then again, I'm in the crowd that thinks Abbey Road is the band's finest achievement.

Big_A2

#18

Big_A2 said:

@18.Caliko: You can get All You Need Is Love and songs from Rubber Soul, Sgt Pepper, and Abbey Road (that aren't already in the game) for about 200 Wii points each for DLC. Which, to be honest, is a little steep for 3-4 minute songs.

@Kid_A: Funny you should mention, that, considering I Want You and Here Comes The Sun used to be separated by a side break on the original album.[/Beatle know-it-all]

EdEN

#19

EdEN said:

I rented The Beatles: Rock Band upon release, finished all the songs in 4 days and... didn't really like it. I might get it eventually once it's $10-15 down the road but the fact that it's a RB game and the drums aren't properly represented sorta puts me off.

theblackdragonAdmin

#20

theblackdragon said:

guys, please remember that downloads are Nintendo Life's main focus (Virtual Console, WiiWare, and DSiWare games). Retail reviews here are secondary; though big-name or first-party releases will generally see reviews at launch (or as soon as embargoes are lifted, lol), other games are reviewed on a 'when we can' or a 'who has _____ and can review it?' basis. If you have a problem with how long it took for this game to be reviewed, please take it up with the admins directly and keep the off-topic discussion out of the comment thread. thank you :3

miketh2005

#22

miketh2005 said:

Do you need to buy any peripherals to play this game or can you just use the controller (and) nunchuck?

BlueBandanaJake

#26

BlueBandanaJake said:

You can use the Guitar Hero Guitar and Mic only, the Drums have to be Rock Band Drums.

Yeah, I was surprised to see this review kinda come up randomly, but it was a pleasant surprise if anything! I love this game, its very fun to simply become engrossed in the music and to interact with it in some way. Honestly, my favorite part about it is the visuals (obviously, aside from the music itself). Often I find myself letting the game play itself on No Fail mode with one player on the Mic (and it simply sitting there). It's like watching an animated music video.

Nice review, I couldnt agree with it anymore!

OldBoy

#27

OldBoy said:

Not for me thanks. I'll stick on their albums and play along with,ya know, a real guitar. I loathe Rockband games.Booooring.

Morpheel

#29

Morpheel said:

it's been like years since this this game is out, but here comes the review.
I like this this game, but my brother over plays it a little and goes go go ga joob all day long.
Do you want to know a secret? Now i can't stand the beatles, seriously.
maybe if i had a silver hammer...

warioswoods

#30

warioswoods said:

@abgar

Did you not have a reference in your post to John Lennon's solo song "I Don't Wanna Face it" and then delete it? Weird . . .

Anyhow, one barrier to this game at the moment is the surprising lack of availability; it seems that the only version still out there including instruments is generally the ridiculously priced collector's edition with the replica instruments ($250+), and the versions with less-extravagantly-priced-cheap-plastic no longer exist.

JohnWalrus

#35

JohnWalrus said:

This might be the only single-band music game from Harmonix or Red Octane that makes me want to buy it (unless they make one catering to Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, or Led Zeppelin).

My friend rented it and quit after "I Am the Walrus" (he said he was scared). I felt like killing him.

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