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Beatles: Rock Band (XBOX 360, PS3, Wii) Preview

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Little Beetle
Little Beetle
The Beatles Rock Band promises a lot for fans of their music and fans of the music game genre. 411 has a preview for you.

When it was announced that MTV/Harmonix had signed an exclusive deal with the Beatles many speculated what that meant. Later news hit that the Beatles would get their own Rockband game, similar to the Guitar Hero Aerosmith and Metalica offerings. but this would be different because it would be a "Beatles Experience." So entering E3 this year we were hoping to see something with the highly anticipated game and MTV/Harmonix delivered. Not only did we get to see the Beatles onstage but we were able to demo the game as well. The game releases on September 9th, and I along with millions of Beatles, Rock Band, and Music Game fans are waiting for the day to come. Until then, here's a little preview for Beatles: Rock Band.

I got to go with fellow 411 writer John De Large into the Abbey Road recreated room to see Harmonix perform songs for us on a stage. As someone that is 22 years of age, I didn't get to experience anything about the Beatles but I did grow up with their music. So I was very excited to check out what the game looked like and what we could expect from the game itself.

The first song performed was "I Saw Her Standing There" which was actually the first single off the Beatles debut album "Please Please Me" and the location Harmonix used was the Cavern Club. This is where the Beatles made their start, performing here 292 times between 1961 and 1963. It is nice to be able to sit back and actually see what's going on behind the music highways. The Fab Four are easily recognizable thanks to the terrific art design done by Harmonix and overseen by Dhani Harrison. For each location the Beatles also have matching clothing.

The highways themselves are a bit different than those in a normal Rock Band game. They are colored in a vibrant way to match the sign of the times. Secondly the vocal highway is white with a blue scrolling line that pass through the words.

After this song, Harmonix explained to us the three-part harmonies and how they would work in the game. All the singers have to do is match the lead vocalist's tone to pass, but you get extra points if you can successfully harmonize the song. They are represented by a double fab or triple fab on screen. They also announced that no-fail mode would make a return in this game and it can now be triggered on and off for each individual instrument at the difficulty select screen. Also anyone that chooses to play on Easy mode will automatically be put on no-fail, which is great for first time players.

Harmonix then went into performing the second song "Taxman." The location used for this one was at the Budokan in Japan, complete with a bunch of screaming girls. The Beatles performed at the Budokan in June and July of 1966, the first rock group to do so. The Budokan was constructed for Judo in the 1964 Olympics and has been the host of many albums and rock performances since The Beatles.

This song introduced the three part harmonies well, as you can clearly see the brown and orange lines show up on screen, when a harmony appears in the song. There will be a practice mode that allows people to learn the harmonies just right. So you sound real cool at a party or family get together. At the end of the song the game will measure which harmony was hit the most and give each singer an individual score as well. If you don't have people to sing harmonies with or just want to sing solo, don't fear that can be done too.

Before the last song Harmonix explained what they did for the post touring years, which the Beatles spent most of the time in Abbey Road Studio 2 recording most of their psychedelic music. Thus the introduction of "Dreamscapes" which are imaginings of what a video or live performance could have looked like. They then performed "Octupus's Garden that has the Beatles playing with colored words showing up every now and then, and did I mention that they are under water during the song?

After that I went and tried out the game for myself. I played the game three different times over my days at E3 and I had a blast. The first time I played Bass to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", the second time I played Guitar to "DayTripper" and finally I sang lead vocal on "Here Comes the Sun." It's pretty much Rock Band with the Beatles and three-part harmonies, but that's the point.

The only thing I noticed while playing that wasn't described to us in the meeting, was that in this game there are no fills. The drummer has to continue to hit notes until the green button shows up on the highway to activate "Beatle-mania" (their word for overdrive). Though its not as fun as the fills were, it limits squeezing and it is a bit more realistic. This also allows the drummer to play uninterrupted, as normally in Rock Band 2, waiting to fill up the overdrive meter a bit more can get annoying because a fill shows up every few notes and almost forces you to hit overdrive at the risk of losing your rhythm.

Harmonix also went the extra mile in modeling the Beatles actual instruments. You can play with Paul's Hofner Bass (which he still uses today), it has the longest neck of all the Beatles inspired instruments. There's also George's Gretsch Duo Jet and John's Rickenbacker 325. Ringo's drums have a pearl oyster finish on the back, sides, and around the drums as well as a "Beatles" kick pedal frame. They look fantastic but anyone hoping for a real guitar feel don't get your hopes up. They are exactly the same weight and model of the Rock Band 2 guitars. The drums are the same too except for the different finish. So its up to you if you wanna spend $99 dollars on getting a Beatles inspired instrument.

There will also be a bundle included at launch that retails for $250 dollars that includes: Paul's Hofner Bass, Ringo's Drums, a microphone w/ a stand (I wish they included a stand with Rock Band 2's bundle), plus the game. Too bad they didn't include the ability to have an extra bass or guitar in the actual game, so you cold really be like the Beatles. Though people are still welcome to attempt to play a guitar or bass and do the harmonies at the same time, as this game supports three singers as well as the three instruments to play at one time.

Probably one of the coolest parts about the game aside from the promised story mode that takes you through the Beatles ten year career. Is that if players complete specific challenges in the story mode you can unlock special art or studio chatter straight from the Apple Corps. archives. This gives those hardcore Beatles' fans a chance to hear never before released audio and see special art from the band.

Finally before I get to the lists, and most people already know this, but just in case. DLC & Rock Band 1 or 2 (aside from the instruments) will not be cross compatible with Beatles: Rock Band. Harmonix says its because of the use of the actual Beatles characters and the three-part harmonies that would make it difficult for this to happen. Not to mention, Harmonix had to basically remaster all the audio from the Beatles original albums to get the audio for the game to work properly. They put a lot of work into this and I don't blame them for wanting to make sure people appreciate it. Plus, all the songs are unlocked from the beginning to play in quickplay.

Honestly though, what's the big deal with changing a disc? And on a personal note, I don't want to see anyone but the Beatles singing their own songs, nor do I want to see the Beatles singing "Colony of Birchmen", "Carry on My Wayward Son", or any of the other regular Rock Band tracks. It would just look wrong, not to mention I think we'd be required to pay a hefty price for that to happen.

So before I go, I leave you with the setlist that we know so far, locations used in the game, and a gameplay trailer for those who haven't seen it, or just want to see it again.

Locations: Cavern Club, set of the Ed Sullivan Show, (Beatles first performance in America took place here), Shea Stadium, The Budokan, Abbey Road Studios, and the rooftop of Apple Corps studios, which is where the Beatles held their final live performance in 1969.

"I Saw Her Standing There"
"I Want To Hold Your Hand"
"Here Comes the Sun"
"I Feel Fine"
"Get Back"
"Back in the U.S.S.R."
"I am the Walrus"
"Octupus's Garden"
"All You Need is Love" - A timed exclusive XBOX Live download available at launch, eventually comes out for PS3 and Wii

Three songs included in opening cinematic, but not yet officially announced by Harmonix. Since Harmonix has never used a song in an opening cinematic that wasn't in a game, I'm pretty sure they are in the game.

"A Hard Day's Night"
"Twist And Shout"
"Paperback Writer"

Announced DLC: Abbey Road full album shortly after launch.

Dhani Harrison has hinted that after the albums have been released, they could release solo work from each of the Beatles. Harmonix has neither confirmed nor denied this. They do seem to not be too into the idea though, as someone was quoted as saying "Beatles Solo work is not the main focus or point of the game." I obviously paraphrased there.

Gameplay Trailer:

411 will try to keep you up to date with any more information that comes out about this game. The Beatles will also release remastered versions of all their albums for sale the same day the game releases on September 9th.

Sean Garmer

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