Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts "Rock Band"

Beatlesrockband1They're considered to be the greatest rock band of all time by millions, and rank up there with Elvis, Michael Jackson, and Beethoven as one of the biggest forces that shaped music as we know it. They're the Beatles, and on September 9, 2009 (Number Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine, get it?), they're getting their own game in the form of The Beatles: Rock Band.

Yesterday, I had the chance to get some hands-on time with The Beatles: Rock Band. I picked up Sir Paul's Hofner bass guitar and rocked out with Harmonix publicist Alex Navarro (on Ringo's drums) through two tracks: "I am the Walrus" and "I Saw Her Standing There."

If you've played Rock Band or Guitar Hero before, or even just heard of them in passing, you're probably familiar with how they work. Notes comes down, you match them with whatever plastic instrument controller you're using. I conquered "Walrus" handily, but my unpracticed fingers could hardly keep up with the tricky bass-line of "I Saw Her Standing There." With both songs, I felt as much like a Beatle as I could reasonably hope for while holding a fake plastic guitar.

The game uses the original master tracks for its 45 playable Beatles classics. Unfortunately, their demo used television speakers in a wide open space, so any hope for aural immersion flew out the window. With that equipment and in that environment, an SACD of the London Philharmonic would sound tinny and underwhelming. Hopefully with a decent audio system, the game will offer sound worthy of the Beatles.

While the game's 45 songs hardly encompass the band's entire catalog, they provide a broad and varied selection that stretches from their early days ("Twist and Shout") to their radical later years (Back in the U.S.S.R.). Unfortunately, it won't include "Abbey Road," the band's final album. However, Harmonix says that it'll be available as downloadable content after the game's release. It's nice that the option will be there, but the omission of the album from the retail release of the game disappoints, especially since it comes out on the same day as the band's entire remastered catalog, on CD.

Rock Band has always been about the accessories, and this new version will not disappoint. The Beatles: Rock Band will come out alongside an entire line of Beatles replica Rock Band controllers, including John's Rickenbocker and George's Getsch guitars, Paul's Hofner bass, and even a Ringo-inspired drum kit with "pearl" finish and Ludwig-branded Beatles kick drum head. All it's missing is a quartet of bowl-cut wigs.

If you like the Beatles and enjoy video games at all, this could be a must-have title. Keep an eye out in September.

Will Greenwald