|The Beatles: Rock Band|
|Developer(s)|| Harmonix (PS3/Xbox 360)
Pi Studios (Wii)
|Designer(s)||Chris Foster, Sylvain Dubrofsky, Casey Malone|
|Release date||9 September 2009|
|Age rating(s)|| ESRB: T (Teen)|
|Platform(s)||PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360|
|Media||Blu-ray Disc, DVD, Wii Optical Disc|
|Input||Guitar controller, drum controller, USB microphone, gamepad|
|Credits | Soundtrack | Codes | Walkthrough|
The Beatles: Rock Band is a music video game developed by Harmonix Music Systems, published by MTV Games and distributed by Electronic Arts. It is the third major console release in the Rock Band music video game series and, like other games in the series, it allows players to simulate the playing of rock music by using controllers shaped like musical instruments. The game's soundtrack consists of 45 songs by popular British rock group The Beatles and features virtual depictions of the band members performing the songs. Additional songs and albums by The Beatles were made available for the game as downloadable content. The game was released internationally on 9 September 2009, coinciding with the release of new, remastered compact disc versions of The Beatles albums. It incorporates many of the gameplay features of the Rock Band series; however, it is not an expansion pack for the Rock Band series and content for it and other Rock Band titles is not cross-compatible. Harmonix co-founder Alex Rigopulos described the game as "... a new, full game title production built from the ground up." Gameplay mechanics differ slightly from previous Rock Band games, including the addition of a three-part vocal harmony system. The game was developed with the blessing and critical input of Apple Corps, including former Beatles members Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. George Harrison's son Dhani helped to bridge discussion between Harmonix and Apple Corps, while Giles Martin, son of The Beatles' music producer George Martin, ensured high-quality versions of The Beatles' songs would be available. The Beatles: Rock Band was well received by the press, both as a genuine means of experiencing the music and history of The Beatles and as a standalone music video game. Although the game's sales were considered respectable, with more than half a million units sold during its first month of release in the United States, analysts had projected larger sales volumes and attributed the lower sales to waning interest in the rhythm game genre and the video game industry recovery from the late-2000s recession.
The Beatles: Rock Band allows players to perform simulated rock music by providing up to six players with the ability to play three different controllers modeled after music instruments (a guitar controller for lead guitar and bass guitar gameplay, a drum controller and up to three microphones for vocals). Players simulate the performance of rock music by using their controllers to play scrolling on-screen notes. For lead and bass guitar, this is accomplished by holding down colored buttons mimicking guitar frets and pushing the controller's strum bar; for drums, this requires striking the matching colored drumhead, or stepping on the pedal to simulate playing bass drum notes. When singing vocals, the player must sing in relative pitch to the original vocals. A pitch indicator displays the singer's accuracy relative to the original pitch. For songs with multipart vocals, players need only to stay in tone with the lead singer to score points and keep their performance meter up, but players earn additional scoring bonuses when they successfully complete phrases in harmony.
As in previous Rock Band games, successfully hitting the proper notes in sequence earns points for each player and boosts their "performance meter". If a player fails to match the notes, their performance meter drops. If the meter empties, that player is forced to drop out of play, which in turn causes the band's overall performance to drop. Any player to drop out can be "saved" if another player activates "Beatlemania" (referred to as "Overdrive" in previous Rock Band titles), which is collected by successfully completing specially-marked phrases. Beatlemania can also be used to temporarily increase the amount of points the band earns. Activating Beatlemania is specific to each "instrument". For guitar, the controller must be temporarily shifted to an upright position; for drums, a specific drumhead must be hit when prompted; and for vocals, a noise must be registered by the microphone when prompted.
Some alterations to the Rock Band formula were made to preserve the sound of The Beatles' music. Audio cues that provide feedback on how well the band is doing, typically through the crowd cheering, singing along with the lyrics, or booing if the band is failing, are not included. The virtual band members are not booed off the stage if a player fails a song. Rather, the game simply cuts to a "song failed" menu with the option to try again. Variations on Overdrive/Beatlemania activation include the removal of player-controlled audio effects. While guitar players can use the controller's whammy bar on sustained marked note to collect more Beatlemania, this does not alter the sound of the note. There are also no freestyle drum fills in the songs for activating Beatlemania; instead the player continues to perform the correct note sequence before being presented with a note to activate Beatlemania.
Prior to The Beatles: Rock Band, no song by The Beatles - or a cover of a Beatles song - had been featured in any Guitar Hero or Rock Band title, whether as disc-based or downloadable content. The idea of The Beatles: Rock Band came about during a chance encounter between MTV president Van Toffler and Dhani Harrison, son of George Harrison, at a luncheon sponsored by Robert Earl during the 2006 Christmas holiday, shortly after MTV's acquisition of Harmonix. Dhani, having been familiar with the Guitar Hero franchise and learning of the recent acquisition and plans for Rock Band from Toffler, suggested a game based on The Beatles. Though both Dhani and Toffler considered the concept an unlikely possibility, their meeting nonetheless spurred Dhani into further discussions with Harmonix's president, Alex Rigopulos. At the same time, Dhani helped to introduce the Rock Band concept to Apple Corps, the music production company created by The Beatles, and its key shareholders Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Yoko Ono. Initial meetings were arranged with the shareholders using an early prototype of the game to garner their interest in the title. One stipulation that the Apple Corps shareholders required of Harmonix was that the game feature songs spanning the band's entire career. Harmonix subsequently created a more complete demonstration that used examples of music and artwork that they envisioned for the game. The five-song demo, which included an early build for "Here Comes the Sun", was finished in February 2008. It was used to gain approval from McCartney, Starr, Ono and Olivia Harrison, effectively bringing them aboard the project as creative partners.
The Apple Corps shareholders considered The Beatles: Rock Band a new way to introduce the band's music to the public. They approved of the songs and venues that would appear in the game, and provided feedback on the artwork, character representations, and storyboards for animation sequences. McCartney and Starr fact-checked certain anecdotes relating to The Beatles while Ono and Harrison provided insight on their late husbands' performances and lyrics. At the developer's request, Ono visited the Harmonix offices late in development to provide critical feedback on several visual elements. In a Wired article, MTV's senior vice president of the games division Paul DeGooyer was quoted saying "She gave the designers hell". DeGooyer clarified the statement soon after the article had been published, asserting that the visit was "a high point of the two-year development process" and "has been mischaracterized by some in the press."
Though The Beatles: Rock Band aims to present a visual and musical history of The Beatles, the game does not attempt to replicate periods of turmoil between the band members. Rather, it presents a "fantasy version" of The Beatles to better serve the entertainment purposes of the video game. For example, Ringo Starr was estranged from the rest of the band during periods of recording for The Beatles (commonly referred to as The White Album). Thus, he did not perform on certain songs, such as "Back in the U.S.S.R.". In the game, however, the Ringo Starr character plays drums during the animated performance of the song.
Additional songs are available for the game as downloadable content. The song "All You Need Is Love" was first to appear as downloadable content, proceeds from which ($1.40 of the $2 song cost) are donated to Doctors Without Borders. The song was initially made available as an exclusive for Xbox 360 on the same day the game was released. Within two weeks of the game's release, "All You Need Is Love" was announced by Microsoft and MTV to be the fastest-selling downloadable song across any of the Rock Band platforms, with tens of thousands of downloads; The song had been downloaded more than 100,000 times by the end of September.
Full albums were also made available as downloadable content; the remaining songs from Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Rubber Soul have since been released on the consoles' respective store services. While there is potential for the entire Beatles catalogue to be made available, this will be unlikely, according to John Drake of Harmonix. Drake identified the costly development process as a potentially prohibitive factor: "Every time we do one song, it's not like Rock Band where we wait for the masters to come in and just author them... its like, send people to Abbey Road, use the original tape, separate them out... it costs thousands of dollars." Drake asserted that Harmonix would take sales of the currently announced albums into consideration before continuing development of downloadable content. Harmonix's Foster stated that solo acts from The Beatles' members (for example, John Lennon's Imagine album or Paul McCartney's work with his band Wings) will not be included as downloadable content for The Beatles: Rock Band.
The respective downloadable content for The Beatles: Rock Band and other currently available Rock Band titles (including Rock Band, Rock Band 2, and Rock Band Unplugged) are not cross-compatible. Furthermore, the songs contained on The Beatles disc are not exportable to other games in the Rock Band series. Harmonix's Chris Foster cited the game's new vocal harmony feature as well as the unique song-specific dreamscape animations as reasons for the lack of exportability to other Rock Band games. John Drake stated that the developer had a responsibility to treat The Beatles' songs as "iconic", and keep its music separated from other songs.
The Beatles: Rock Band received high praise from several media outlets upon release. Regarding the game's cross-generational appeal, Chad Sapieha of The Globe and Mail suggested that the game would spark a new wave of Beatlemania, while Seth Schiesel of The New York Times called it "nothing less than a cultural watershed". Some critics hailed the title as landmark of the music game genre; Randy Lewis of the Los Angeles Times described the game as a "quantum leap forward for the music video game", while Johnny Minkley of Eurogamer called it "the new standard by which all band-specific game experiences will be judged".
Described as an "interactive Beatles experience", the game was considered to bring players closer to the band through both technical and emotional means. By playing each song's respective note chart, players were said to have a better appreciation for the structure and complexity of the compositions and performances by The Beatles. Emotionally, critics commented on the sentimental values of the game's career mode, recalling the history of the band. Critics were mostly positive concerning the visual and aural elements of the game; G4's Abbie Heppe considered it a preferable package to the newly remastered albums, citing song-specific animations as a strong feature. The dreamscape sequences in particular were likened to live performances, praised as "dazzling" and "evocative". However, Schiesel remarked that due to the players' concentration on the note tracks, the animations "serve mostly to entertain onlookers rather than the players themselves". Heppe observed that the color saturation of the background elements as well as the "Beatlemania" visual effects can sometimes contrast poorly with the scrolling notes, making it difficult to play. After the game's release, Harmonix lead designer Chris Foster acknowledged that the visuals can be "too overwhelming for [some players] at moments". The implementation of three-part harmonies, expressed by some to be the most significant addition to the series, was well received.
Critics primarily found fault with the game's length, as the bulk of the game's content can be completed in only a few hours. Will Tuttle of GameSpy questioned whether Harmonix limited the number of songs on release knowing that there would be a market for the game's downloadable content in the near future. The low number of songs, along with the new themed instrument controllers, were found to make the game an expensive proposition for those new to rhythm games. Due to the limited selection of songs on the disc, some critics questioned the specific inclusion of certain songs or the exclusion of more popular songs. Furthermore, critics claimed that the game's complete dedication to The Beatles, without the option for cross-compatibility with Rock Band or vice versa, can potentially lead to tedious play sessions with minimal variety, hampering the social nature of the game. Justin Haywald of 1UP.com considered that in attaching the Rock Band name to the game's title, there was a certain expectation on an expandable library of songs and interoperability with previous Rock Band titles, which The Beatles: Rock Band failed to meet. Some players coming from previous versions of Rock Band would consider the songs in The Beatles: Rock Band to lack technical challenge. However, the less difficult note tracks were seen to be a welcoming benefit for newcomers to the series as well as those attempting to sing along with the harmony portions of the game. For purist fans, some critics noted that the game purposely avoids certain aspects of The Beatles' history; former band members such as Pete Best or collaborators such as Billy Preston are never seen during gameplay. Concerning supplemental content, Hilary Goldstein of IGN felt the extra features could have been more substantial, especially in comparison to the additional material that accompanies the remastered CDs. PC World listed The Beatles: Rock Band as their 9th Best Product of 2009. The game won for 'Best Music Game' on the Spike Video Game Awards 2009.
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