I must admit, I’m not the biggest Beatles fan in the world. I don’t even own any of their records. That’s not to say I don’t like them. I’m just not that much of a fanboy. But when this game was announced, I admit it, I got a little giggly. In music based video games terms, I guess the Fab Four are pretty much the Holy Grail, so a whole game dedicated to them and only them is like drinking from the fountain of eternal youth.
Upon loading the game we are presented with the opening video which leads you nicely into the game where, once the calibration for the guitar has taken place (that you actually get an achievement for), you find yourself at the main screen and have a few options open to you. Do you go for the quick play? How about online? No point looking at what you have (haven’t) unlocked yet , so Career Mode it is.
Career mode takes you, as the title suggests, through the career of The Beatles. Whilst this isn’t a lengthy process, you do find yourself playing a few songs at a selection of some of the more famous gigs they had over the years. Starting at the world famous Cavern Club in Liverpool, you progress through television appearances, the Shea stadium in America and even a certain rooftop. In the middle of our journey we enter the “Abbey Road” era, and it is at this point the real selling point of the game becomes clear.
Whilst Sgt Pepper and the following albums were widely regarded to be masterpieces, they were never taken out on the road. This presented the developers a bit of a problem. Twenty or so songs just watching them play in the studio? That’s going to be more than just a teensy bit dull. So, those wonderful people at Harmonix, with plenty of guidance from the remaining Beatles set about creating what have been called ‘dreamscapes’. The first of these is Yellow Submarine. They foursome are playing away in the studio when you realise there is a bit of seaweed appearing in the corner. Water is seeping in also, and my word. Is that a fish? Gradually the studio melts into an aquatic wonderland, complete with the yellow submarine itself.
Each of the songs featuring dreamscapes are beautifully realised and keep in line with a great deal of the old Beatles imagery that we remember from way back when. They truly are something to behold, and much kudos is given to Harmonix to enable us to also watch these moving paintings without the trappings of note charts.
Progression through the career unlocks a whole treasure chest of extras, titbits and delights. Complete a song with three or five stars and you are presented with some rare or never before seen pictures, along with a little written piece adding insight to either the photograph, or the song from which is obtained. These then build up and you can unlock further goodies. Everything about the game is done with so much love, care and attention, it’s hard to see how any fan can be disappointed. The developers have even gone as far as including sound footage of the band before and after every song, whether a studio piece or a concert. Tuning the instruments, making a brew, or getting tongue tied whilst introducing a song, they add a great deal of authenticity to the proceedings.
It is not all good, however.
First, a slight note about the instruments. Well, one instrument to be honest. I’m talking about the replica Hofner Violin bass guitar. Upon first inspection, it is beautiful. Truly gorgeous. As close to the real thing as a plastic replica with buttons and no strings can be. However, there are a couple of niggles. The first is the strap. Now, when you attach the blasted thing to one of those little metal bobble jobbies, you find the one on the right. That’s fine. No problems there. Then you go looking for the other one on the left. Well, it is on the left, but for some insane reason, it is on the back of the peripheral. Now, this has the rather unfortunate effect of making the guitar lean forwards as it hangs around your neck. It just feels wrong. As such, playing the thing doesn’t feel quite as natural as it should.
The second problem I have is that it’s quiet. Now, sometimes quiet is good. This is too quiet though. It’s as though someone has replaced the entire inner workings with cotton wool. Everything feels so light. Now, the lack of noise isn’t the real issue. The problem lies with the fact that you get your brain confused every once in a while. You are sure that you haven’t adequately pressed the button, or flicked the strum bar. There you are, strumming along quite happily and you get to a bit of a tricky part. Did I press that? Oh I missed it. Did I miss it because it didn’t register or did I miss because I was wondering if I pressed it? Oh crap, I’m missing more.
It’s also very easy. Now, as I have said, I have only road tested the guitar so far, and yes, I’m only playing on medium, but damn. This thing is just a piece of Jane Ashers’ chocolate cake. In truth though, Beatles songs aren’t the most taxing in the world. It doesn’t help either that there are only 45 songs on offer here, and the majority come in at around about the 3 minute mark. Yes, you’re gonna sail through this.
The song choices are odd in places too. So whilst you would expect Get Back to be there, you wouldn’t expect Dig A Pony over, say, Let It Be. These will all be available through download, of that there is no doubt. This little taste of ‘cash in’ does leave a bad taste, but I get why some of the more popular tracks are omitted. I mean, who would buy Dig A Pony, except the die-hards Beatles fans?
Cynical money making exploits and silly little niggles aside, this is an amazing piece of software, and one that will make other ‘one band only’ title hang their heads in shame, run away, and live in a cave. It is fan-service to the n’th degree. And whilst the library of music to add is finite, with the mates round, the instruments plugged in and the beer flowing, there is no better band, or game, for a bit of a sing along.
Electro Candy Score – 8/10