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The Beatles: Rock Band

The Fab Six.

It might simply be "happenstance", as Harmonix man John Drake describes it, that The Beatles: Rock Band hits day and date with the fully remastered back catalogue, but it is nevertheless an unprecedented Beatlesgasm beyond the wettest, wildest dreams of oily marketing men.

It's hard to understate just how big a deal this simultaneous release is for the games industry. Remember, after all, that this is the most treasured, valuable back catalogue in music, and one that has notably never been made (legally) available in digital form. Yet, on 9th September, gamers will be able to download Abbey Road in its entirety as part of the first wave of DLC.

And it would have been so easy to do the game on the cheap. Stick out a 'Beatles' disc for Rock Band, with a by-the-numbers, boring Bootleg Beatles setlist, and sit back as the cash rolled in. But Beatles: Rock Band seems no less a labour of love that the fastidious, forensic remastering of the music itself.

Sure, you can argue that the replica instruments are nothing more than a cynical marketing ploy (though they have been recreated in commendable detail), but look at the tracklisting. "A Hard Day's Night", "Eight Days A Week", "Drive My Car", "I Am The Walrus", "Come Together..." No surprises there.

One of the game's 'Dreamscape' sequences. This one's for "Here Comes The Sun".

But "Boys"? It wasn't even written by the group (it's a Dixon/Ferrell track penned originally for US girl group The Shirelles). But, during live performances in the early sixties, it was seen as the band's big drumming song, first performed by Pete Best before Ringo clattered in.

Likewise, "If I Needed Someone" is another non-obvious pick, but Harrison's track offers a snapshot of the influence Indian music was having on the band during the Rubber Soul period as well as, no doubt, providing a supreme vocal challenge with the droning harmonies. And so on.

The core of Beatles: Rock Band is a career mode that charts the band's musical evolution from the earliest days of the Cavern Club, right through to the impromptu performance atop Apple HQ. And songs have thus been chosen not just for their crowd-pleasability, but also significance to the canon. Oh, and that they'll hopefully be a riot to knock out in your living room.

The band's rooftop gig at Apple HQ awaits at the end of Career mode.

The content even stretches beyond the band's career to include "Within You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows", a mashup taken from the mesmerising Love album, released in 2006. "It's part of the Beatles' canon and we felt it was important to represent it," says Drake.

The game features the remastered music, boasting technically exclusive mixes which have been tweaked to accommodate the needs of people waving plastic toys around and shouting at the telly.

"We need audio in stem format - drums, guitar, bass, vocals all separated, so when you miss a note you can drop out your part," Drake explains. "It's a priority of the game. Obviously the early Beatles recordings are in stereo, where you have vocals on one side and all the instruments on the other. So Abbey Road was really great about going and finding this amazing audio forensic tech to separate this stuff out."

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The Beatles: Rock Band

PS3, Xbox 360, PS2, Nintendo Wii

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Johnny Minkley


Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.