The Beatles: Rock Band

September 7, 2009

The Beatles have always been a tough group to license. A spat with Apple kept them away from the iTunes Store for years, and their songs certainly haven’t appeared in a rhythm game before. Harmonix put a considerable amount of effort into courting the various parties necessary to create this game, so there has been a lot of anticipation for this release. So how is it?


Pretty impressive, actually. The presentation is just gorgeous. The band members are well-animated in their various incarnations, the scenery and instruments are detailed, and the menus all have this slick psychedelic look. The controls are as tight as you’d expect from Harmonix, and the underlying Rock Band structure means most of the kinks have been worked out.


The main new feature of this set is the addition of multiple vocal tracks. You’ll need to find more microphones, but these are totally worth it. Rock Band’s vocalist problem — that is, that people tend to be shy and avoid singing — isn’t tripled with the new tracks. In fact, the problem is solved, as multiple singers mean people can join in with no problem.


Of course, the main attraction of this disc is the collection of Beatles songs. The collection of almost 50 songs spans the group’s short career, and includes about half from their concert days and half from the Abbey Road period’s studio pieces. The two are presented differently, with concert songs set in real-life venues like The Ed Sullivan Show and Shea Stadium, and Abbey Road songs given a psychedelic “dreamscape” treatment, with surreal fantasy sequences.


The Story Mode takes you chronologically through their career, and meeting 3-star and 5-star milestones on songs unlocks pictures and interesting information about the band. Amazingly animated sequences begin each chapter, and audio from before and after songs is preserved (such as Ed Sullivan’s introduction or post-recording chatter). After a while, players unlock rare gems like a recording of the band’s first “Christmas Record” with a bit of chatter sent to members of the fan club.


Here’s the main problem with The Beatles: Rock Band: as great as the group is, a lot of the fun in Rock Band comes from the variety, and the closed platform means that you can only play the Beatles songs on the disc or the available Beatles downloadable tracks. Still, it’s a great addition to a band game fan’s library. Just keep the Rock Band 2 disc around to switch in after a few songs. 


ESRB: T– Seriously, pay attention to the lyrics.


Pros: Amazing presentation, great bits of Beatles history in Story mode

Cons: Just Beatles? They had to, but it makes it a bit tough. 


Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.