The Beatles: Rock Band

Review: A colourful, authentic homage to the Fab Four

Dedicated Rock Band fans will have gone through the shocking realisation a while ago. The songs they grew up with - their favourite tunes of all time - might not be as much fun to play on a plastic instrument as the power-ballads and rock 'n' roll anthems of this world.

That's very much the case with Beatles Rock Band. These are some of the finest tracks ever put onto disc, but they're not the kind that kick off a party - which is what Rock Band has always done best.

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The first thing you'll notice when you load up Beatles: Rock Band is the superb intro. Starting with a vista of Liverpool, the camera swan-dives into the Cavern club before filling the screen with Beatles-inspired, acid trip visuals. This is Beatlemania alright.

By the time the logo slides up the screen you'll either be tightening your strap so the body of your guitar is raised into your armpit, 60's style, or sitting on your drum-stool, bouncing your foot in syncopated rhythms. The stylised menus, even the sound you hear when you make a selection - all pure, unadulterated Beatles. Unreleased, remastered studio banter from the Fab Four in the loading screens? Check. John yelling when you fail? Check. If you're a Beatles fan, by the time you play your first note you'll be as giddy as a 16 year old girl at her first gig.

Paperback fodder
The Story Mode has you playing the sets from The Beatles' humble beginnings in the Cavern Club (compete with a few screaming girls), to the Ed Sullivan show (with loads of fainting, screaming girls) before ending in the infamous Saville row rooftop gig (with bobbies on screaming fan patrol). Each chapter is introduced with another one of those amazing cut-scenes and, just like the intro, they're flawless. Less trippy but still fascinating, incorporating photos, sound clips and art from each era of the Fab Four's career.

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And there's more. Even though you won't be unlocking tracks as you progress (all 45 are available from the start), there's still plenty of unlockables to keep you motivated. You get art, photos, video footage and even unreleased audio tracks. Our highlight? A personal message from The Beatles that was sent out to the fan club as a Christmas present.

There's the specific venue challenges for the Trophy whores, a drum training mode dedicated to Ringo's beats (which we rate by the way, especially his later work) and the vocal trainer. That means if you take it really seriously, you can grab a mic and fine-tune your vocals. Alone.

So, if you're a fan of both The Beatles and Rock Band you need to pick this up. And that's the problem. This is a well crafted, but ultimately, niche title. Well, niche sounds harsh - lots of these tracks have been proclaimed some of the best of all time, and - although you might not realise it yet - the majority of The Beatles' lyrics are already stuck somewhere in your head. Sadly, these won't be the first songs you unleash at your next Rock Band party if you own another game in the series.

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In terms of how this plays, it's the same Rock Band interface we know and love - you'll be strumming or tapping on your peripheral of choice in time to descending beats, but this time you get to harmonise with whoever's on vocals by using a spare mic or headset - a fitting addition. There's a trade off though; the improvised drum fills are out - you don't mess with the masters supposedly.

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