Friday, October 16, 2009

Reviews - The Beatles: Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5.

I've written a lot about music games. How saying people should learn an instrument instead of playing them is dumb. How I think the genre is kind of doomed. But I'll love them while they last.

I've spent a lot of time lately with The Beatles: Rock Band and Guitar Hero 5. I am not proud of it, but it keeps me from playing with my children, so it's time well spent.


It's like a Rock Band game, but it's all Beatles songs. Therefore, it is awesome.

(That's pretty much it. But there is one interesting thing. Rock Band has totally changed the way I listened to music. Instead of hearing the song with all the instruments mushed together, I find I now often listen to individual tracks. I'll listen to the bass for a while, then the drums, and so on. It's a side-effect of listening to the songs and paying attention to individual notes, and it's pretty cool.

Thanks to the game, I find that my Beatles albums sound fresh and different. And, considering that I've heard these songs so many times they're part of my DNA, that alone makes the game worth my sixty bucks.)


I've always had the subtle feeling that Guitar Hero games hate me. Guitar Hero 5 is a huge step forward. It hates me, but only a little bit.

It has a million songs. Two of them I was desperate to have in a music game. (Smells Like Teen Spirit. Bullet With Butterfly Wings. Both awesome.) And 999,998 that make me go, "Whuh? Who?" 29 of the games 85 tracks are from the last three years, and none of them make me feel that there is any point in humanity producing more music from this point on.

The party modes are totally excellent. Anyone can play any instrument. The harsh tyranny of ever having the "Who's gonna' have to play bass?" conversation is gone forever. The campaign is really relaxed ... you can play each song on any instrument at any difficulty. The individual songs in the campaign mode each have a special challenge attached to them (hit all the notes in a certain section, play a bass song with only upstrums, etc), and these are surprisingly fun. Everything is much more polished.

Also, you can play as Kurt Cobain. My current basic line-up is my XBox Live avatar and three Kurt Cobains. This is just as awesome and appalling as it sounds. Especially when I play Jessie's Girl. Which is daily.

Also, the ability to play Cobain or Johnny Cash keeps you from having to look at the default musician models, which are just as unpleasant as ever.

But then, there is the hate. The guitar songs always seems to be a little bit unnecessarily complicated and overcharted, as if the designers wanted to make my hand hurt. The Guitar Hero people also haven't picked up Rock Band's knack of only picking songs that are fun on all instruments. Sure, having Sympathy For the Devil on your music game sounds awesome. Then you realize that the song is basically piano and conga drums. It's as awful to play as it sounds.

And sometimes, the hate is just mischievous. You know. Playful hate. For example, they boldly answered the call of the multitudes and put in a song by 70s rock sensation Peter Frampton. And, of course, the only reasonable option was to go to a live album and pick out a song FIFTEEN MINUTES LONG. Thinking about teenage boys going head to head online and randomly getting this song make's me giggle.

But, overall, it's fun. I've played it a lot, something I can't say for Guitar Hero: World Tour. Plus, buying Guitar Hero V early netted me a free copy of Guitar Hero: Van Halen, which I got in the mail last week. It's an awesome game ... If I place the disc on my new coffee table and then set my drink on it, it does an excellent job of keeping the moisture from damaging the wood.


  1. A very nice post, Jeff. It echos a lot of my feelings about the games (but voiced them better than I could!).

  2. Instead of hearing the song with all the instruments mushed together, I find I now often listen to individual tracks.

    Ah, finally something useful in common between real musicians and play-musicians.

    Keep it up and you'll really appreciate the difference between beautifully mixed songs, and those that sound like mud with everything mushed together.

  3. Guitar my favourite !! Oh I love it...Never played Beatles. I shall bring it from some friend any try first. LOL.

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  4. "Also, you can play as Kurt Cobain."

    With the guitar, microphone, and shotgun controllers?

  5. Great game with some great songs including Sultans of Swing and Sympathy For The Devil. My main complaint is that the game is getting too hard. Unlike Rock Band the game more for perfectionists and now the medium level is more like the expert level of earlier games, without the orange fret. If Activision continue to make it harder then they are liable to losing the fun side of the game. Anyway if you have time, take a visit to my Free Games Website :D Nice review mate!

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