Beatles Video game bridges generation gap

The cross-generational appeal of the Liverpool Lads, makes this a landmark video game in many ways.

On October 5 1962, the first Beatles’ single, “Love Me Do” was released, transforming forever, the world of popular music. Now, 47 years later, fans have the opportunity of experiencing 45 of their priceless songs in a manner never possible before: allowing them to recreate the songs, using the actual instruments of the Fab Four; shifting to the famous venues of their live performances; taking a digitally recreated tour of the band’s legendary career.

Launched simultaneously with the first digital remastering of the entire Beatles repertoire last month, “The Beatles Rock Band” video game, lovingly recreates the sound of the Four’s original instruments: John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325 guitar, Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass, Ringo Starr’s drums, George Harrison’s Gretsch Duo Jet guitar.

The game opens with an animated video that traces the musical journey of the Beatles in an interactive format. It gives players the experience of actually creating the evergreen songs: One player can sing into the microphone, replacing the lead vocalist in the original song; up to two others can ‘play’ the guitars or base or use the special electronic drum kit that comes with the premium edition of the game.

The most impressive feature for most Beatles fans is likely to be the vocal harmonies feature which allows players to try and recreate the original vocal blend. The original songs had multiple vocal tracks – and one can choose to sing as lead vocal or as one of the harmonies – they are separately colour coded on the display. Every song has a special video based on classic images of the Four. There is a story line running through the game—players can enact the roles of one of the Beatles and perform their acts from their first British shows in the Cavern Club in Liverpool to their final recording, “Abbey Road” in 1969. Players can experience the thrill of singing in a stadium full of screaming fans.

Their enduring appeal makes The Beatles Rock Band game, a unique cross generational offering, appealing to today’s young as well as to elderly fans who generally shun video games. Even the New York Times -- not much given to hyperbole --, called this “the most important video game yet made”. It is slated for release in India in early October. While local pricing has not yet been announced, these are likely to be about the same as the rupee equivalent of global pricing.

The software alone is priced internationally at around $ 60 ( Rs 3000), while the Premium Bundle for Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or Sony PS3 platforms costs $ 250 (Rs 12,500). This includes special controllers that mimic the Hofner Bass, exact replicas of the Beatles’ rock drums and a microphone. The Beatles’ guitar replicas are available as paid add-ons.

The game is developed by Harmonix/Viacom, published jointly by Apple Corp and MTV Games and distributed by Electronic Arts 

-- Anand Parthasarathy

A shortened version of this review appears in the current ( Oct 5-11 2009) issue of The Week  .