When EA and developer Harmonix first announced that they were working on a version of Rock Band dedicated to The Beatles, they promised a musical experience like no other, something we'd never seen the likes of before. As it turns out, what we've ended up with is essentially Rock Band's take on the likes of Guitar Hero Metallica: a spruced-up version of the main game focused on one band instead of a variety of artists.
Not that this is a bad thing, of course. See, the advantage The Beatles: Rock Band has over the Aerosmith and Metallica versions of Guitar Hero is that so many more people love the Beatles and will be more than happy to play through 40 or so of the band's greatest hits. The sheer depth of the band's back catalogue also means that there are no filler tracks from other bands added to boost the tracklist as was the case with the Guitar Hero offerings. This is all Beatles from start to finish and fans of the Fab Four will be in for a cracking time.
Eight Days A Wii
The game's main meat is the Story mode. Here you follow the Beatles' career from their early days playing gigs in the Cavern Club in Liverpool, all the way up to their impromptu session on the roof of the Apple Corps building, with appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in America and sessions in the Abbey Road studios along the way.
Each stage is introduced with a nifty little animated photo album which sets the scene nicely, and you're then presented with a list of songs you need to clear before moving onto the next part of the story. It's all fairly straightforward and keeps things going at a nice pace.
In terms of overall presentation, the game is flawless. The same slick Rock Band menus keep things easy to understand, and when you get into the action itself it's the minor details that make you smile and really set the mood. Before you start your first song on the Ed Sullivan Show you see some Americans watching the programme on TVs in a shop window and during the song, the camera occasionally cuts to screaming girls in the crowd. In between songs up on the roof of the Apple Corps building, you'll hear real recorded footage of the band talking to each other. Tilting your guitar to trigger the usual "Overdrive" mode now triggers "Beatlemania", which makes the girls scream even louder. It's these details that prove this game is a real labour of love, rather than just Rock Band with the generic characters replaced by John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Don't Let Me Down
The only real drawback The Beatles: Rock Band has is the difficulty level. These guys didn't bother with ridiculous Dragonforce-style guitar solos or eight-minute Metallica epics, and as a result long-time Guitar Hero and Rock Band experts looking for a challenge will be disappointed: the hardest song here is Get Back and even then it's not too tricky. Harmonix has put in a rewards system that increases the challenge to some extent so if you clear a song you unlock a rare photo from the Beatles archive, and if you clear it with a five-star rating you unlock another one. If you keep collecting photos you'll start unlocking some genuinely impressive and rare extra features. Stuff like this keeps things interesting and once you've unlocked the first of these extras (a complete recording of the Beatles' Christmas message LP which was sent to members of the band's fan club in the early days) you'll enjoy it so much you'll feel genuinely driven to continue on and five-star every song to see what else you can get.