(This is the second part of my experience with The Beatles: Rock Band- check out my first hands-on feature here.)

The Beatles: Rock Band is going to be huge. You know it, I know it, hell, the surviving Beatles know it. That’s why they’ve been behind the project from the start, lending much more than their music and likenesses to the game. This game will almost train you to be a Beatle.

Besides the vocal harmonies, another new feature of the game we were shown off was the drum trainer. At first look this seems just like the drum trainer mode from Rock Band, which was fun enough but nothing people really went back to. But this one’s different- it actually teaches you the names of the beats and styles and each successive lesson will build upon the previous ones. Drummer wanna-bes will find a whole lot to love here, and then when they’ve mastered this all there’s something for expert drummers- Beatle Beats.

This is a selection of Ringo’s actual beats from the band, and if you’ve ever made jokes about the drummer you’ll soon be shut up. He’s always been better than people gave him credit, and watching John Drake from Harmonix (an actual drummer in real life with a song in Rock Band 2!) struggle with a few of the beats showed that these are no joke. 86 different beats are included that will truly be a challenge to complete.

But of course, that’s not the real meat of the game. We already know it’s going to play fantastically and that the usual Quick Play mode will be the one most frequently used but fans of the band will undeniably want to venture into the story mode.

This chronological trip through The Beatles’ career will bring you to a bunch of famous locations and try and make you feel like you were actually there. They each have little intros- we seemed to be part of the audience at the Cavern Club, for example,
walking down the stairs to the small, packed venue and seeing the fab
four on stage. Later levels will include such famous performances as Ed
Sullivan, Shea Stadium, their rooftop performance and even Abby Road
Studios 2. Some of the songs will be bookended by audio clips of
conversations of The Beatles’ recording sessions, some of which have
never been heard before. Each venue will have about four to five songs, each specifically created around the location.
Some people might wonder why they even bothered including a career mode- after all, all the songs are available to play from the very start, so there’s no reason to play through the career. Right? Wrong. Besides being a blast to experience there’s also incentive in the way of an absolute ton of unlockables.

Unlike any of those other music games that focus on one particular band, this game is going to fill you up with more info and behind the scenes stuff than you can handle. While progressing through the career mode you can unlock extras that most people  in the world have simply never seen or heard before. Much like with the regular Rock Band games, your performance in each song determines how many stars you get on it (up to five) but here there’s much more of an incentive to play well. At both three and five stars you’ll unlock a picture from the Apple Corps archives- some of which are personal photos taken by friends of the band that have never been released before! Apple and Paul McCartney went over every single picture and told the story behind each one, sometimes correcting the historians and filling in a bit more of the info. Some might be specific to the song or the location, and they’ve done an absolutely amazing job of including fun tidbits and stories.

But that’s not all. Unlock a set number of photos and you can start to obtain prizes. The first is The Beatles Christmas Record, which was sent out to members of The Beatles’ American fanclub and then never released again. There were only 25,000 copies of the 7″ pressed and it’s almost impossible to find nowadays, but the whole recording is now available here in its entirety. You can hear them perform a rendition of Good King Wenceslas and hear them goofing arond, John stating “This is John speaking to you with his voice!” and Paul trying to talk while getting punched. The video shows off the actual record and artwork while the track plays.

This is just the first extra to unlock, and guess what? These are all going to be things here that you won’t find in the Anthology, stuff given exclusively for the game. It’s mind-boggling how Harmonix managed to convince them to open up everything to them like they did, but it just goes to show you how much more thought and love was put into this game.

Rock Band owners might be sad to note that The Beatles songs
can’t be integrated into the rest of their DLC, but it’s simply not
possible- they’ve made too many changes to the game to simply be able
to plug in the songs. The harmonies, the way that star power is
initiated on the drums, hell, even the animation systems have been
vastly improved over the previous few game. Besides, if any band in the
world has earned their right to have their own standalone game, it’s
The Beatles.

There’s so much more to be excited about with The Beatles: Rock Band- the harmonies which let up to six players play at once, the competitive multiplayer like Score Duel and Tug of War, the multitudes of DLC on the way, never mind all the songs that will be included (a list that was recently leaked). But simply writing about the game has me excited to play it again, and it’s just under a month away from its 9/9/09 release, so we’ll leave it at that.