E3 2009: The Five: The Beatles: Rock Band
The 10-Cent Tour: You know Rock Band? Well, The Beatles: Rock Band has songs from the Beatles in it. I know, right?
1. Besides the new songs, the biggest gameplay addition is the option for three-part harmonies. Three color-coded bars scroll along the standard vocal track area, allowing each player to find their appropriate tone with ease. During sections without harmony, all three singers can help each other out on the single vocal track. Harmonix calls the setup "constructive harmony," meaning, basically, "you don't get penalized for being awful if someone is good."
2. The game and interface have been tuned slightly for the new players Harmonix plans to attract with the Beatles catalog. There are no more improvisational drum fills -- Overdrive scoring (now called "Beatlemania") is activated on drums by hitting a single, glowing green cymbal note. The No Fail mode is no longer hidden in the options menu, but appears front and center on the matchmaking screen, and players set to Easy difficulty will automatically be set to No Fail. Most importantly, all 45 on-disc songs will be unlocked immediately in Quickplay.
3. World Tour mode has been replaced with a tour through the career of the Beatles, with venues and backgrounds ranging from Liverpool clubs to the Ed Sullivan Show to Shea Stadium and the Apple studios. Songs set in the latter setting slowly transition from the studio scene to more abstract, song-appropriate dreamscapes. In "Octopus's Garden," a Harmonix rep explained, "they are underwater, but they can breathe because they're the Beatles."
4. While the new Beatles-inspired guitar and bass play nearly identical to previous Rock Band instruments, the new Ludwig-inspired drums felt a little springier than even the Rock Band 2 set. The addition of a central black dot on the white drum-pad heads makes centering your drum taps easier than ever. Don't worry if you don't want to buy new instruments -- the game will work with all existing Rock Band and Guitar Hero controllers.
5. Playing an instrument and singing at the same time is hard. Some of you no doubt knew this from experiments with the first two Rock Band games, but the three-part harmonies make such a skill more necessary than ever in The Beatles: Rock Band. Suffice it to say you pretty much need either the vocal part or the instrument part effectively memorized to make it work. With the extremely memorable Beatles songs, though, this isn't out of the question.
The Crispy Forecast: The fact that The Beatles: Rock Band isn't cross-compatible with songs and downloadable content from the previous Rock Band games will annoy longtime fans, but it's hard to see anything else not to like about the combination of the world's greatest rock band and the world's greatest rhythm game.
This preview is based on a hands-on demo of the Xbox 360 game at E3 2009.
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