Anytime a band specific music game is reviewed, you have to take one thing into account. Musical tastes differ, which means not all music games are for everyone. That was true for Aerosmith and Metallica, and it's even more the case with The Beatles Rock Band. While other band-centric music games include a few guest acts, this game is all tracks from The Beatles. There aren't even any of the songs from the group member's post-Beatles careers. Notice that "The Beatles" comes before "Rock Band" in the title; this tight focus on the band and not the franchise is clear throughout the game. If you don't like the Beatles, look elsewhere. But for diehard Beatlemaniacs, and even casual fans, there's a great experience to be had here.
It may seem cliche to refer to The Beatles Rock Band as an experience, rather than a game, but it really feels that way. An incredible amount of tender loving care shows in every aspect. From top to bottom, every single menu, graphic, and font is dripping with Beatles flavor. This is obvious from the first time you fire up the disc. The opening cinematic is brilliant, quickly and yet convincingly taking you through the history of the band. We found ourselves unable to skip it, and watched it every time we played the game. The transition videos that play when you clear a new set are not quite as impressive as the opening, but are extremely enjoyable on their own. It's worth playing through the game just to see all the videos, in my opinion.
In The Beatles Rock Band, you don't start a career, you begin the story. Different venues from Beatles history unlock in chronological order. The game starts in the Cavern Club, and follows up with the iconic performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. When you play your first song in this venue, you see a group of people huddled around a TV store window, and the camera zooms in on the screen as Ed Sullivan himself introduces the Beatles; then, the note tracks lay down and you begin. For someone who only heard about this appearance, and didn't experience it firsthand, it was the next best thing to actually being there. After this, the game moves on to stadium appearances before taking you into the recording studio at Abbey Road.
You might think a recording studio is a bit boring for a stage in a music game, but you'd be wrong. The band begins these songs in the studio, with headphones and microphones everywhere. But as the songs sontinue, abstract "dreamscapes" fill the screen. To put it quite simply, these are stunning. The environments are usually related to the lyrics, sometimes even including words in the backgrounds. You play, singing bubbly underwater in a yellow submarine, and flying in the sky, surrounded by countless diamond-like points of light. This is so far above and beyond the norm for other games, it just has to be seen to be believed. At times, I even found myself wanting to stop playing my instrument so I could watch the backgrounds.
I've spent quite some time covering aspects of the game that aren't related to gameplay at all. Usually, I would not do so, but all these things are done so incredibly well that they simply must be discussed. There are dozens of unlockable photographs, trivia, and even behind the scenes videos, including a feature about the ultra-collectable Christmas record. In some ways, these things are the best part of the game, as they are interesting and entertaining. After playing through The Beatles Rock Band, I have a much deeper appreciation for the Beatles, and this is true for my kids as well. My teenaged son told me he could really see why the Beatles were such a big deal after playing. And my youngest boy, after watching a few of the unlockable videos, said "they really are the best band, aren't they Dad?" I suspect that others would likely have similar feelings after spending some time in the game. The developers really put a huge effort and lots of love into the game, and it shows.