Saturday, September 05, 2009

Beatles game one of the best of season

The band games are coming! The band games are coming!

Today, “Guitar Hero 5” – the latest title in a billion-dollar franchise that has sold more than 35 million games – launches tie-ins with instrument, equipment and footwear brands. What this means: Your rock avatar can now play with Ibanez guitars and EMG guitar pickups while wearing Converse sneakers. The game's set list includes everything from the Rolling Stones to Stevie Wonder.

But there's only one place to get the Beatles.

One of the most highly anticipated games of the year debuts Wednesday. “The Beatles: Rock Band” will come in two versions. There's the standalone software, compatible with previous “Rock Band” instrument controllers and most “Guitar Hero” hardware ($59.99 for Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360). There's also a “Limited Edition Premium Bundle” with equipment ($249.99). A line of Beatles-specific instruments will go for $99.99 each.

The game will allow fans to play 45 of the Fab Four's greatest hits (more songs coming soon). It is done in the mold of previous “Rock Band” games: Three players can use instruments (guitar, bass and drums), while another can sing – although this time, up to three friends can hit the mic to try harmonies.

There's a story mode that involves taking the Beatles from their early days to an infamous performance on a rooftop in London (originally performed in 1969). Another mode, called “Dreamscapes,” has the band in psychedelic fashions and features wild colors and flowers blooming while the music plays. Players can unlock special content, including previously unreleased audio from recording sessions. And of course, there's online play and a no-fail mode that keeps you from getting booed off the stage.

It's interesting to note that this is the first time that Beatles tracks have been legally available digitally (though gamers can only stream or download on the game console). The band has previously rejected attempts to make its 24-album catalog accessible online via retailers such as the iTunes Music Store.

Original band members Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Pete Best helped develop the game along with the wives of deceased members John Lennon and George Harrison (Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison).

According to article, this involvement resulted in great attention to detail. Ono was concerned with how the digitally recreated Lennon's eyes were moving on-screen. McCartney himself made sure that even the most minute visual details were correct.

Anyway, I got an early look at the game recently. My verdict? Graphically, the game is spot-on. That attention to detail is evident. And the actual gameplay experience is terrific.

Without question, “The Beatles: Rock Band” is one of the best games of the year.

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