>Beatles: RB Impressions

>There was never a doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t enjoy every minute I spent with The Beatles: Rock Band; aside from being a big fan of the RB platform, I have been a huge Beatles fan for most of my waking life and I’ve spent almost every minute since my packages arrived on 9/9 either playing the game or listening to the remastered albums. I plowed through the game’s story mode in a few short hours and kept on going, playing each of the game’s 45 songs on at least 2 different instruments. (The only thing I haven’t done yet is sing, which is usually my last option in regular Rock Band anyway.)

Any concern of mine that this was just an easy cash-in was immediately wiped away; a tremendous amount of love and care went into the crafting of this experience, and it shows. The bass lines are all tremendous, but the guitar experience is just as interesting, especially since there’s quite a few songs where there are no discernable guitar parts, so the guitar line is transferred to horns or strings or piano. Even just the sound of clicking on stuff in the menus while holding a guitar put a smile on my face – it’s all little samples from “Getting Better.” Hearing in-studio chatter while the next song loads might not seem like a big deal to the casual fan but to a die-hard it’s so incredibly cool.

But I must admit that I wasn’t sure if my wife would care. She’s ambivalent towards the Beatles; she doesn’t like the super-early stuff but overall she doesn’t mind them, even though she doesn’t listen to them. She likes Rock Band, though, and she knew that I was going apeshit for the Beatles version, and I suppose my enthusiasm was infectious. Before we started, though, she was a little apprehensive; she didn’t think she knew any songs besides the really obvious ones. But she picked up her guitar and began to play, anyway.

You know where this is going, of course. I had the game pick out a random setlist of 7 songs and I’ll be damned if she wasn’t singing along to all of them. Even she didn’t know she knew all those songs. So we picked another random 7 (I’m not sure why 7 was the magic number) and, again, she sang along to all of them, even as she clicked away at the guitar parts.

I’m 33 years old, and I suspect that most people my age have the Beatles hardwired into their DNA whether they know it or not. I don’t know that my parents would ever enjoy playing the game, as they’d probably be fighting the controls the whole time, but certainly they might enjoy watching us play it; the game looks fantastic and the music sounds as good as it ever has. I suspect, though, that the game’s real coup is how it will introduce little kids to the Beatles. What better way to appreciate the music than to feel like you’re playing it?

I was listening to the AV Club’s Beatles podcast and they hit on something very true in the show’s closing moments – the Beatles might just be the last musical group that 20th and 21st century Americans can all agree upon as being truly great. The game does as much to ensure that the band’s legacy will continue to live on, and that’s no easy task; look at Activision’s gross mishandling of Kurt Cobain’s likeness in Guitar Hero 5 as proof that it’s very much possible to totally screw it up.

The Beatles: Rock Band is very easy to recommend. Yes, you can bitch that you can’t import the Beatles songs into RB2 and vice versa, but that’s really just you being lazy and not wanting to get up off the couch and change the disk. It’s not an issue for me; I couldn’t just play one Beatles song, anyway, without wanting to play the rest.

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