Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Beatles: Rock Band Impressions (360)

If you believe The Beatles are the greatest rock band in history (note: they are), please abandon this post immediately and proceed to your local store to purchase the game. The game is wonderful, and you will be thrilled.

For the few of you who are left, let's talk. If you're the guy who plays music games but doesn't really care about The Beatles as a band, what's in it for you?

Well, quite a bit, actually.

Let's start with the basic functional differences between TB: RB and Rock Band 2.
--no freestyle drum or guitar sections
--no unlocking of songs (well, except for the "secret" ending song). All songs are immediately playable via the Quickplay mode.

If you have friends to sing with, and they can actually sing, then you're done here. Please go join the group of people already standing in line at the store from the lead paragraph. Even if you want to (inexplicably) argue that the Beatles are not the greatest rock band, there should be absolutely no dispute as to the quality of their harmonies. That's beyond discussion.

If you enjoy playing the bass, you can also leave this post and go buy the game. Paul McCartney is universally regarded as one of the greatest bass players in rock history, not just technically but also creatively. The bass lines are inventive, challenging, and fun.

Guitar? George Harrison, #21 on Rolling Stones' list of the greatest guitarists, with a sound that is entirely distinct. Plus you get John Lennon on guitar as well (he played lead on some songs, including "Back in the USSR," if I remember correctly). There are a ton of licks that qualify as iconic and completely unforgettable. Go to the store.

Hmm. I'm guessing you're a drummer. Well, it's certainly fair to say that Ringo Starr was the weakest member of the band. No dispute there. However, quite surprisingly, the drum lines are fun to play. Lots of fun, actually.

If you're the guy who's a top 1% player, then the difficulty on Expert drums will not satisfy you. Feel free to not purchase the game, and instead wait for DLC from Thrashmetal Crushfest Headstompers. However, if you belong to the other 99% of the population, the difficulty is just fine. It does vary significantly from song to song, but I didn't find that distracting or unsatisfying.

So go to the store.

What, are you still here? Oh, you must be a "value" guy, and you've read some of the reviews that knock the game for not having enough content.

In short: those reviews are whack.

Look at it this way: if there was no separate game for the music of The Beatles, and instead, a 45-song DLC pack was announced at regular DLC prices of $1.99 a song or $60 ($1.33 per) for the entire pack, it would be hailed as a fantastic value.

Instead, you get 45 songs and the most brilliantly creative and polished product ever created in this genre. The dreamscapes alone are epic and so incredibly whimsical that it's hard to believe The Beatles didn't create them themselves.

The meticulous attention to detail in terms of documenting their careers in the game also stands out, and again, you're getting all this in addition to the 45 songs.

So if it's value you're looking for, go to the store.

I do think there is one misstep in the game, which is totally surprising to me, given the unerring instincts of the development team in every other area. I don't think this is a spoiler, since the venues have been mentioned exhaustively, but if you have any concerns, stop reading here.

You should have already been on your way to the store, anyway.

The last venue is the rooftop concert. If you watched the original footage in "Let It Be," you know that it is a surreal moment. The Beatles start off playing to only a few people on the roof, but by the end of even the first song, people were climbing onto fire escapes and running across roofs to get a closer view. There was a building sense of excitement, even jubilance, that grew with every song, and as the crowds quickly grew, so did the police presence.

It was a wild scene.

I felt none of that in the game. It was strangely flat in comparison to the exuberance of many of the earlier venues and dreamscapes. Like I said, the development team seemed so in tune with what The Beatles were doing and what they meant that it floored me when they missed on this.

Did it reduce my enjoyment of the game? Only barely, and the game is such a beautiful, creative, respectful treatment of the music of The Beatles that I almost feel miserly even mentioning it. In no way does it diminish the towering achievement that this game represents.

What? Why have you not left for the store?

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