My review of The Beatles: Rock Band is up now at thephoenix.com. This is probably Harmonix's strongest work in terms of presentation, and I understand that the music of the Beatles is highly regarded in some circles.
Still, it seems like there's no way to talk in a measured way about this game, or the band, without coming off like the proverbial turd in the punch bowl. When I say on Twitter that I'm not a huge fan of the Beatles, I mean exactly that. I'm not taking a veiled dig. I have a couple of their CDs. I find many of their songs to be terrific. And yet I don't make an emotional connection with almost anything they've done, not like I do with my very favorite bands. Therefore I say I like the Beatles. But I am not totally sold on a music game that features only them.
Maybe I buried the lede, too, because the real issue I see is that Rock Band has been the catalyst for introducing people to new bands, and new ways to experience music. This game is more about elevating the Beatles over the player. That's no small distinction. For example, I've developed a habit of delivering a drum solo at the beginning of every Rock Band track -- just a little wailing away while the song cues up. It's a way of making the songs mine. You can't do that in The Beatles. Hit a drum pad before the song starts, and nothing happens, because that sound isn't on the original recording. There goes your live performance feel. (I should say that they did a great job with the audio of shrieking teenaged girls, though.)
More important, it's the game's way of making sure that you don't dare mess with perfection! I'm not a huge fan of that attitude. Past -- and, technically, current -- Rock Band games are about engaging with the music on an equal level. This game, though, is a ball-washing of the highest order. Maybe the Beatles are more deserving of such treatment than any other band, but I don't think any band deserves that treatment. Not now that I've seen the alternatives.
There I go, sounding like I didn't like the game. I liked it a lot! I like the Beatles! I had a lot of fun with this game, and I look forward to playing it more in the future. I am just suspicious of claims of divine authority.