…an interactive shrine to the legendary band The Beatles, staring you and your plastic instruments as the fab four. Unlike similar Guitar Hero band tribute games which also include the works of other related artists, The Beatles: Rock Band features only the music of The Beatles performed by The Beatles. Through the game’s story mode you relive the band’s history by way of a series of live performances, from their humble origins in Liverpool to their famous evening on The Ed Sullivan Show and beyond, as well as a number of fantastic dreamscapes inspired by their recordings at the Abbey Road Studios after they stopped touring. Otherwise, this is basically Rock Band with some minor tweaks.
The most obvious thing that works here is the music. I mean, duh. It’s The Beatles. The 45-song track list may not be perfect, and everyone will likely have their own personal gripes about tracks not included, but for the most part the selections are very solid. Second to that by only the slimmest of margins is the presentation, which is absolutely incredible. Each set is introduced by a musical montage that very briefly covers the historical context before leaving you to rock out at the venue. The sets are beautifully done, hell even Shea Stadium looks good, and watching the character models age slowly through the years is a masterful touch. But it’s the Abbey Road dreamscapes that enter into the realm of the truly spectacular. As you play the songs there you’ll watch as the studio fades away, leaving The Beatles to play and frolic under the sea in Octopus’ Garden and Yellow Submarine, enjoy a peaceful meadow to accompany Here Comes The Sun, and get more than a little trippy with I Am The Walrus and Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds among others. Some of them have to be seen to be believed. Overall it makes for an incredibly enjoyable tribute to The Beatles, both musically and visually.
What Doesn’t Work
While there’s nothing about this game that flat out fails, there are a few things about it that may throw up caution flags for some. Primary among them is the game’s length, which is to say it’s short. 45 tracks is a little light by any reasonable rhythm game standard, and many of the songs are under three minutes in length, making for a story mode that can be shredded in just a few hours. So called Challenge Mode is just a disappointing rehash of each set in which you play all the songs sequentially rather than adding any other kind of features. There’s also the question of the difficulty, which for the most part is very easy compared to other rhythm games. Any accomplished plastic instrument virtuosos will find very little here to test their abilities. Also missing is any option for unloading the songs into Rock Band 2, which is understandable but still irksome, as is the lack of headset support for vocals, requiring that you have a full-fledged microphone to flex those golden pipes.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that this is still The freakin’ Beatles in a triumphant rhythm game début. The music is fantastic, the presentation is out of this world (sometimes literally), and all done with the utmost respect and care. As you play the songs the effort that was taken to make this game in true homage to The Beatles is abundantly clear, and it fills everything with a kind of joy and wonderment that few games ever manage. Whether you’re someone who has cherished their songs for years or are just being introduced to them now, if you like music and you like the Rock Band formula you owe it to yourself to experience The Beatles: Rock Band. It’s a total no-brainer as a rental, and probably an easy decision to purchase for anyone with any appreciation for arguably the greatest band of all time. Somewhere members of Aerosmith and Metallica are sitting around wondering why they didn’t get the same kind of treatment in their games, and we can only hope some other bands are paying attention *cou-Led Zeppelin-gh*.