The Beatles broke before I was born, so my first exposure to the lads from Liverpool was spinning Abbey Road on my dad's record player, and increasing the speed so they would sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. It would later become one of my favorite albums of all time for much different reasons, though it did make singing along to 'Here Comes the Sun' harder than it should have been.
This is not a history, but a tribute, crafted with love and talent by Harmonix, with plenty of input by the surviving members of the Beatles, the spouses of John and George, and other members of the extended Apple Core family. Serious fans are going to notice some serious rose colored glass-ery going on here with all the Beatles happily playing along in the studio together, with no sign of Eric Clapton on My Guitar Gently Weeps (though the riffs are clearly Cream-era Clapton). What you will get is the feeling of the Beatles sunk in the depths of the Cavern Club, and then rising up through bigger and louder performances, nearly drowned out by the collective scream of the crowd if you dare to play on the Realistic setting. Then it's a somber retreat to Abbey Road Studios, where their recording sessions are transformed into psychedelic dreamscapes, to come to an end with their legendary rooftop performance. It starts with a lively animated intro, while each era is bookmarked by photo cutouts in motion to put you into the mood, and the ending of all this has to be seen to be believed.
No Beatles fan should miss this. Doesn't matter if you've never played a music game before.
All the songs but one are unlocked from the start if you feel that story mode would be too much of a slog, though you will get some cool photos and videos if you brave it. The bulk of these tunes are really fun to play on any instrument, if not out and out classics. There's a few surprises here that will likely delight, and a few that you'll probably play once and never touch again. It's a better average that just about every other Rock Band / Guitar Hero game out there, but a little easier to achieve with fewer songs. Playing them in story mode especially feels like someone's holding the fast forward button on the band's six year journey, leaving me wanting more, but the quality is undeniable.
There are a lot of little details. The interface has been made softer and brighter, making Rockband 2 look dank and harsh by comparison. Even the font of the 'Fab!' that pops up during your singing bonus is cheery. The models of the Fab Four themselves have been painstakingly put together as something that's not quite real and something not quite a cartoon. Each era is matched by the look of the time, while all their little individual quirks have been faithfully animated, from Paul's quick head shake while singing backup to Ringo's smile while hammering away at the drums. The studio songs all get unique backgrounds, full of life and wonder to the point they can be a bit distracting the first time around. So the concert sections disappoint a bit with repeated background characters. Really, how often do I need to see that cop in the rooftop performance?? He must have had some other expression other than mild confusion.
Not a lot has changed from the core gameplay, with the major addition being able to sing in a three part harmony to some songs. This gave me a new respect for the Beatles and bands in general, because it is damned hard to play and sing on key at the same time, even if you're laying out the chorus while someone else takes the main mic. Easily enabled no fail mode comes in very handy here, as does a few drinks to build up a bit of courage to wail along with your mates. While it's great you only need a single controller to handle all three mics, this comes at the cost of no longer being able to use the Microsoft headset to sing along, forcing me to craft a makeshift mic stand on more than one occasion. Though if you buy the full kit you'll be set, since it comes with one.
The overall chart difficulty has been taken down a notch, but there are still some tough tunes in here that will test you on all instruments; yes including drums. Actually, if you were intimidated by trying out the drums or any instrument before, The Beatles: Rock Band is the perfect place to start. It has extensive training modes for everything, and some very easy and enjoyable songs to start out with. Take Yellow Submarine drums on easy. Anybody can play that decently, and once you've got the beat, you can increase the difficulty level to build your skill, and take on some of the harder tunes.
No Beatles fan should miss this. Doesn't matter if you've never played a music game before. There's no way you love the music, and haven't sung along at one time or another. If you're not a Beatles fan, naturally you're not going to get much out of this one, though if you're a heavy Rock Band player that hasn't been truly exposed to their music, this serves as a great introduction to the greatest band of all time. The forthcoming album DLC will fix the game's only real shortcoming, but paying that on top of the $250 for the full kit might be a little too much for some.