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Critical Reception: MTV/Harmonix's  The Beatles: Rock Band

Critical Reception: MTV/Harmonix's The Beatles: Rock Band

September 9, 2009 | By Danny Cowan

September 9, 2009 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC, Columns



This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to The Beatles: Rock Band, a Harmonix-developed music simulation title that "sets a new standard by which all band-specific game experiences will be judged." The Beatles: Rock Band currently earns a score of 89 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Matt Miller at Game Informer gives The Beatles: Rock Band a score of 8.75 out of 10. "It's hard to fathom the number of stars that needed to align for this game to come to light," he begins, "but align they did, and the game community can now reap the benefit. Harmonix has done a remarkable job of bringing the Beatles' music to life in an interactive setting, devoting enormous attention to the details of history and authenticity that Beatles fans demand."

Miller finds that the traditional Rock Band gameplay experience has been refined for The Beatles. "The World Tour structure is scrapped for a simpler progression tracing the history of the band," Miller says. "Strong performances unlock old photos and other extras from the band's weighty career. Even loading screens have some added spice, with never-before-heard snippets of dialogue, tunings, and other audio clips gathered from The Beatles old between-takes recordings."

"The songs on display here helped shape entire branches of popular music that came in later years," Miller writes. "The game does an admirable job of showcasing that music, delivering a brand new way for fans to appreciate it, and undoubtedly drawing new fans into the fold."

Team Xbox's Andy Eddy rates The Beatles: Rock Band at 9.3 out of 10, noting that the title succeeds as both a satisfying musical experience for fans and as an excellent introduction to the band for newcomers. "[If] you're a fan, you'll thoroughly enjoy Beatles:RB," Eddy says, "because it's a fabulous trip back through the band's rise as a British R&B/pop band to it leading the way into the psychedelic-rock era to its harder-edged rock sound."

Eddy continues: "If you don't have any real experience with the Beatles, Beatles:RB will be like an interactive encyclopedia to show you where the band got its start and key moments in its history. "

Eddy finds that much of the gameplay in The Beatles: Rock Band has been seen before in previous Rock Band titles, save for its support for two- and three-part vocal harmonies. "The tracking of harmony parts is one of big innovations in Beatles:RB," Eddy writes. "If two singers can nail a passage with different harmonies, the song will give a 'Double Fab' bonus; and if all three parts are hit, a 'Triple Fab' is earned."

This gameplay mechanic may be underused, however, due to its difficulty. "While I think this is a really cool feature to add, I also figure that it will be one of the least used," Eddy admits. "From my experience, few people like to sing in these games as it is, but even fewer would know how harmonies are formed. I know some decent singers who don't have a clue how to do a harmony part."

"In my view, Harmonix did a great job in crafting a fitting tribute to the Beatles," Eddy concludes, "clearly one of the most significant bands in rock history -- but, perhaps more importantly, dramatically raised the bar in the music-game genre."

At Eurogamer, Johnny Minkley scores The Beatles: Rock Band at 9 out of 10, praising developer Harmonix for both its business savvy and for its respect to the source material.

"Complete the Story mode, and the endlessly rolling non-developer credits reveal a Gordian knot of unfathomable corporate complexity and competing interests," Minkley notes. "Somehow, Harmonix has not only handled that, but has then gone on to produce a celebration of such incredible care and artistry it sets a new standard by which all band-specific game experiences will be judged in the future."

While Minkley admits that The Beatles: Rock Band's 45-song tracklist may seem paltry compared to the offerings of other recent band simulation titles, he finds that the quality of The Beatles' catalog outshines any potential shortcomings.

"45 Beatles songs stack up pretty well next to the 28 Metallica tracks in the box for their Guitar Hero gig," Minkley notes. "Second, how many artists are there who have 45 songs strong enough to justify a commercial release?"

Minkley continues: "How many tracks on average do you genuinely love in the average Guitar Hero/Rock Band release? Be honest. I can only speak personally here, but every single track on The Beatles: Rock Band, whether it be a particular drum fill, a swooning bassline, ingenious harmony or classic riff, contains a memorable, enjoyable gaming moment."

"The Beatles: Rock Band is nothing less than a triumph," Minkley says, "and one with in-built longevity in the sense that these are songs that have already survived four decades unmatched, now given a new lease of life thanks to remastering and fresh enough to last another lifetime."


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