Beatles Rock Band Review

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Play with a little help from your friends


In case you hadn’t noticed, Beatlemania is back. It’s been 40 years since the legendary band’s last live performance, and to commemorate the anniversary all their albums have been re-released in remastered form. But even more excitingly — for console-heads anyway — is this videogame, created by Harmonix and MTV Games, with full co-operation from Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and George Harrison’s widow Olivia (the idea for the game came from George’s son Dhani).

If you’ve played one of the Rock Band games before, you’ll know the score. Strap on a plastic guitar (in this case the customised instruments include a replica of McCartney’s signature Hofner bass, authentic right down to the wood grain), sit down at the drum kit or just sidle up to the mic stand, select one of the Fab Four’s classics (or if you’re //really// confident, demonic rocker Helter Skelter) and try to keep up with the procession of notes on screen. For the first time in Rock Band history, this game involves harmonies, which provides an extra challenge – Team Empire’s efforts to croon soulfully together at first sounded like a screaming baby trying to open a creaky door.

Obviously the music itself’s not too shabby, but what boosts this to must-get status is the loving attention to detail. You can select from six iconic venues from the Beatles’ career, from the Cavern Club in Liverpool where they cut their teeth to the rooftop of Apple Corp where they played their farewell gig, but can only perform the actual songs that they played at each one. For the Abbey Road studio years, a format called “Dreamscapes” unleashes stunning and ever-more trippy visuals that match the lyrics as the band journey into their psychedelic phase. And the Beatles themselves, though rendered in cartoonish form, capture the essense of each of the legends. A lot of work’s clearly gone into it — according to Harmonix, they had to follow a series of intricate directions from Yoko Ono just to get Lennon’s hair right.

It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t get a kick out of this. If you can’t stand the Beatles full-stop, you’ll have issues, but their music takes in such a wide range of styles and influences — not to mention the Ringo and George songs studded in with the Paul and John ones — that there can’t be many in that bracket. And the gameplay is, frankly, horrendously addictive. Sadly, groupies, mind-altering narcotics and Maharishi not included, but otherwise it’s a near-perfect gaming experience. Just say yeah, yeah, yeah.