All You Need Is Love
‘Lovingly crafted’ is sadly not a phrase associated with many games these days. This is because the gaming industry is driven by an incredible thirst for profit. Not innovation, not quality, just cold hard cash. The games themselves reflect this, as for the most part, games produced are rushed, opportunistic, money-grabbing disasters. In recent years the rhythm genre has become one of the worst offenders, with Activision pumping out stale Guitar Hero sequels and spin off’s year after year. This is why it’s so refreshing to come across a game like The Beatles: Rock Band, which is thankfully about the music rather than the money. Obviously there is profit to be made, but the level of care, attention and sheer reverence poured into this title is down right startling in the current landscape of gaming.
It’s evident from the off that Harmonix has created a gaming experience that focuses entirely on The Beatles and their music. Unlike band specific titles from the ‘other leading brand’, there is no filler here. It’s all Beatles, all the time. Just the way it should be. Some might argue that a track list consisting of all Beatles songs might alienate those who wouldn’t consider themselves Beatles fans, and for some this may well be the case. But what this game does is introduce a whole new generation to their music, gamers and non-gamers alike. The party and social gaming aspects of this genre mean that the appeal is broad enough to draw in - through word of mouth, the Beatles name, and the fact that it’s a Rock Band title – a huge audience. I am a prime example, I had never seen the appeal of The Beatles, but to be fair, I had also never really given them a chance. This game has brought their music into my world in a fun and engaging way. In the same way Guitar Hero and Rock Band have expanded my musical horizons in the past, The Beatles: Rock Band has done the same only in a much more specific way. I’m sure my experience will be similar to a huge number of the people who buy the game. The rest are clearly fans so will enjoy it either way.
The games structure is much more similar to early Guitar Hero titles, than past Rock Band experiences. World Tour mode is nowhere to be found. You’re given a list of songs, and you have to play through all of them. The game aims to chart the entire Beatles career, so songs are divided into different events, representing different periods in the Beatles lifetime. You start off playing iconic gigs like ‘The Cavern Club’ and the ‘Ed Hardy show’, and work your way through each of the bands milestones until the final show on the ‘Apple Corps.’ rooftop. As you progress through the story, the song selections do a great job of showing the development and changes the band went through, both in terms of their sound and their looks. From a player perspective this is incredibly rewarding, you really begin to know and relate to them more. In addition to this there are a number of unlockable bonuses like photographs and video clips offering insight and anecdotes, further demonstrating the care and attention to detail put into the game, and generally boosting the appreciation that the overall experience encourages.
The games ‘lovingly crafted’ quality transfers over to the presentation to. The user interface utilizes simple shapes and colours to create a pleasing, more minimalist feel, whilst still encapsulating the themes and feel of the games definitive visual style. The note highway has seen some renovation since Rock Band 2. The colour palette is much brighter, with more pastel shades and a more varied range of hues. The Beatles, although not quite unrealistic are stylized caricatures of themselves. Their movements and facial gestures, drawn from their real life counterparts, give them a sense of character and personality that most music game avatars lack. Each location is also charmingly rendered, screaming crowd and all. Although once you get to the years in which the band stopped touring and did all their recording at ‘Abbey Road’, you are treated to ‘Dreamscapes’, acid-trippy visual free-for-alls. Each is song specific, and as you can imagine, the more abstract and drug-fueled tracks produce the most, shall we say ‘creative’, experiences.
Everything about this game screams quality, time, love and passion. The four things missing from most games, it’s the way games should be made. I hope that other developers and publishers and look at this game and take on board what Harmonix has achieved. It’s an incredible title, exactly what the industry needed to refresh a sinking genre, and demonstrate how to save it. Only once you’ve played it can you can truly appreciate the magic that is, The Beatles: Rock Band.