June 12, 2009

The Beatles: Rock Band Trailers

The first substantive The Beatles: Rock Band details emerged at E3 last week.

The animated intro sequence:

There’s a fantastic frame-by-frame breakdown of the dozens of Beatles easter eggs in the animated intro. I had no idea!

E3 trailer, featuring lots of gameplay:

The game looks amazing; the customized “dreamscapes” for some of the songs, along with the authentic historical venues, really take the experience to the next level. I’ve often thought a more song-specific experience would accentuate the bigger songs in Rock Band, like a great music video does. That desire appears fully realized in The Beatles: Rock Band!

Also, if you watch closely during the trailer, you’ll see the long rumored feature — up to three-part harmonies!


That’s right, no more relying on the vocalist to carry the song all by his or her lonesome. Better brush up on those singing while playing guitar (or drums) skills! The Wired blog has a great recap of how, specifically, vocal harmonies work in the game:

[Up to] three microphones are counted as a single “player.” On the screen where you select your instrument difficulty level and choose between guitar and bass, you’ll be able to pick either “solo” or “harmonies” for the singer.

If you pick “Solo,” it’ll just have one line, for the lead vocals. If you choose “Harmonies,” up to three lines will be shown at once: blue for the lead, and orange/brown for the two harmony parts.

Sounds difficult, right? Here’s the helpful catch: You don’t need to decide who sings what part. If you want, everyone can sing the lead vocals. Hitting the harmonies is additive, not punitive; if you sing two distinct parts, you’ll get a “Double Fab!” score for that phrase, and if you sing all three you’ll get the coveted “Triple Fab!” Anyone can sing any part they wish.

As you might imagine, some songs are easier to sing in harmony. The easiest would be something like “Octopus’ Garden” or “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” in which the parts are totally separate — somebody can sing the melody while somebody else takes the lies beneath the ocean waaaaaves part, for example.

Slightly more difficult, but still easy to fudge, is “I Feel Fine,” or other such earlier songs where the harmonies follow a pretty standard formula and are easy to pick out of the mix. Where it gets tough is “Day Tripper,” which has very strange close harmonies — I sang it quite a few times but wasn’t able to pick out more than a few of them on the fly.

How about scoring? When the song is done, you can switch between a simple view of the score and a more complex one. The simple view combines all scores into one and shows you how well the whole group did — if at least one person hit each note, then you’ll get 100%. (This happened a lot.) If you flip to the breakdown, it’ll show you what percentage of each of the three color-coded parts each person hit.

Some additional details on the enhanced vocal gameplay from GameSpy’s Sal “sluggo” Accardo, who played it live at E3:

  • You can plug all your mics into any USB hub, including the ones bundled with previous Rock Band games.
  • Just about any USB mic should work; Harmonix specifically mentioned support for the mics from Lips on the x360 and Singstar on the PS3.
  • All the harmonies are mashed into one vocal track; That’s where all the scoring is done.
  • When playing as a band, you can turn harmony tracking on or off, so if you only have one singer, you can shut the feature off completely and it’ll look like normal Rock Band.
  • It doesn’t matter who sings into what mic. I could sing lead on one phrase, you could sing lead on the next, and the game will give you credit. It basically mixes all the mic inputs into one audio feed and if the right notes are present, you get credit. It doesn’t seem to care what mic the notes come from.
  • Instead of the vocal “pie,” there’s now three little bars on top of each other that fill up as each part is successfully completed.
  • Harmonies are tracked as kind of a bonus score. At the end of the song, you’ll see a % for how much of the lead vocal was successfully sung, and then bonuses for completing two-part and three-part harmonies.
  • All vocals are locked into one difficulty. If the vocalist picks Expert, all the harmonies are Expert as well.
  • The special edition bundle will include a mic stand.

In practice, this means you can have up to 6 “players” now: a drummer, guitarist, bassist, and 3 people singing. That bodes well for parties, and c’mon: who doesn’t know pretty much every Beatles song by heart?

Another small, but significant change: no more drum fills during overdrive activation sequences. Notice how the drum overdrive only occupies the green cymbal slot now.


I suppose this was to better preserve the integrity of the music. Fine by me. I’ve never been a big fan of random drum fills in the middle of songs, anyway.

Harmonix also announced that the album Abbey Road, in its entirety, will be available as DLC for the game upon release. Presumably more Beatles tracks will be released as DLC later. And to nobody’s surprise (well, I’m not surprised, anyway), DLC will not be compatible between Rock Band 2 and The Beatles: Rock Band. They are totally different games.

The game looks better than I could have possibly hoped. While I’ll probably take a pass on the special Beatles fake plastic rock hardware, I’m all over the game — and I’ll probably invest in a copy of Lips to get two wireless microphones.

Oh, another important gameplay note: THERE ARE NO DRUM FILLS in The Beatles: Rock Band!

Doesn’t bother me much, as I was never a big fan of them anyway.

Apparently the fills are normal notes; the only part that is the “same” is that at the end you can hit green (cymbal) to activate.

Jeff Atwood
June 13, 2009 at 1:12 am

G’day Jeff – the “Lips” mic works with Guitar Hero:Metallica too, if that helps. However, I don’t enjoy the Lips game itself. Your mileage may very (and it would be interesting to see what you thought anyway).

Cheers, Thomas

Thomas Williams
June 14, 2009 at 2:49 am

I’m glad they’re doing away with drum fills to activate overdrive, they’re very annoying and this is a MUCH better system.

June 14, 2009 at 7:02 pm

Cool, that’s everything I wanted to know. I’m looking forward to this.

June 30, 2009 at 7:41 pm

I don’t know, the drum fills sorta grew on me — both as a player and as a listener (when playing guitar or bass for example.) It lets the drummer add his own touch, whether to slow or speed up and hit the crash… The drummer’s gotta know what he’s doing though, otherwise it really does sound like shit.

July 16, 2009 at 9:11 pm

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