Published Oct 01, 2009The battle between Guitar Hero and Rock Band continues unabated. But as far as artist-related battles go, it's pretty hard for Guitar Hero: Metallica to compete with The Beatles: Rock Band, a game whose existence is so unlikely to begin with, considering, as Chuck Klosterman recently wrote, the Beatles are such an obscure '60s band that their music isn't even available on iTunes!
So, how did Harmonix land digital music's holy grail? You can thank the Beatles' babies, specifically George Harrison's son, Dhani, who initially broached the idea, and George Martin's son, Giles, who came onboard as the game's music producer.
The game works so well because the Fab Four had such an adventurous songwriting streak that their title can easily avoid Metallica's same-same game play.
In fact, the 45 included songs barely scratch the surface of the prolific Liverpudlian band's ten-year back catalogue, missing both small-scale fan favourites like "Rocky Racoon" and epic jams like "Hey Jude." These, one assumes, will eventually arrive as downloads. In the meantime, this fall and winter will see album packs for Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rubber Soul.
The game itself is an audio-visual musicology curriculum following the band's career trajectory from pub rockers at the Cavern Club to British invaders on The Ed Sullivan Show and Shea Stadium to counter-culture insurgents holed up in Abbey Road Studios. The game concludes, as it should, with the band's last show in 1969 on the roof of the Apple building with a performance of the splintering group's last recorded song, "The End." (The studio-era songs are enlivened by a series of psychedelic, song-inspired dreamscapes since the band stopped playing live.)
Newbies (who will enjoy the "No Fail" mode) and Beatlemaniacs alike can buy Beatle-specific instruments ― Paul's Höfner bass, Ringo's Ludwig drums, John's Rickenbacker 325 and George's Gretsch Duo Jet guitars ― but pretty much any modern music game accessory will work here.
As with the fantastic-sounding remasters, much of the awesomeness comes from the songs, which are neither enhanced nor reduced by pushing coloured fret buttons, smashing drum pads or singing karaoke harmonies (yes, Beatles Rock Band allows for three-part vocalizing).
Sure, the New York Times' claim that this "may be the most important videogame yet made" is way hyperbolic but this is still the freshest rhythm gaming has felt since they added drums. Not bad for an obscure '60s band. (Harmonix/MTV Games/EA)