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The Beatles: Rock Band

The Beatles: Rock Band

The Beatles: Rock Band

The Beatles: Rock Band is a 2009 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, in which players can simulate the playing of rock music by using controllers shaped like musical instruments. The Beatles: Rock Band is the first band-centric game in the series, and it is centered on the popular English rock group The Beatles. The game had proved to be a huge sales success with multi millions of units sold in its first year. The game features virtual portrayals of the four band members performing the songs throughout the band's history, including depictions of some of their famous live performances, as well as a number of "dreamscape" sequences for songs from the Abbey Road Studios recording sessions during the group's studio years. The game's soundtrack consists of 45 Beatles 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. Subsequent games in the Rock Band series would reuse these new elements, including vocal harmonies.

The game was developed with the blessing and critical input of Apple Corps, including former Beatles Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, who both made public appearances supporting the game. 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-fidelity 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 Gameplay

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. A "Lefty" mode allows left-handed people to play, by switching which colour the beats are given. 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 multi-part 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". Each separate instrument is given a level, defined by their instrument icon, and the average level is also displayed. 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 other Rock Band titles), which is collected by successfully completing specially marked phrases. These phrases appear in white, and if the phrase is completed, the energy bar, displayed at the bottom of every track, fills by one quarter. 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 special "cymbal" (Green, or red for "Lefty" mode) is hit; 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. The song is restarted from the beginning. 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.

Throughout the song, players receive points for every note hit, and this is totalled up and displayed at the end of the song, along with a percentage of how many notes they hit, and a rating: 1 to 5 stars. If the score is close to perfect, normally requiring at least 98% of the notes, the rating is five 'gold' stars, instead of the normal bronze. The score is saved and shown alongside the song in the select screen; over time, as the song is replayed, it shows only the highest score.

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 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 or Eric Clapton 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 ninth Best Product of 2009. The game won for Best Music Game on the Spike Video Game Awards 2009. The game won the Family Game of the Year and was nominated for the Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack 13th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. The game was also nominated for the Best Audio Game Developers Choice Award. The game's official website, published by Harmonix, won the Games-Related category for the 14th Annual Webby Awards. In 2010, the game was included as one of the titles in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.

The Beatles: Rock Band is currently being used as a finale for each performance of the 125th anniversary season of the Boston Pops Orchestra; the orchestra leads the audience in a sing-along to several songs by the Beatles played by the orchestra but synchronized to the visuals from the game.

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