Thursday, September 10, 2009

I hate Beatles: Rock Band

Yup, I think it totally stinks. And I'm going to resurrect that old videogame forum standby and legitimate my opinion by saying that it stinks on every console equally. And everyone agrees. Erm, well, they should. I'll sit here tapping my toes while everyone reads the rest of this post and corrects their mistaken acclaim. Tum tum tum...

In all honestly, I haven't played Beatles: Rock Band, The and I don't intend to. I will not need to buy a new wireless microphone so I can harmonize with someone. I will not play Beatles: Rock Band, The on my plastic controller that looks like Ringo Starr's drum kit with Across the Universe playing on another TV behind me. I will not play Beatles: Rock Band, The for hours each night and then listen to the all of the rereleased albums while I sleep. And then I will not buy the songs again as DLC for Beatles: Rock Band, The when someone decides that the audio tracks for the game could use a little remastering. The thought pains me.

But I refuse to think it stinks because it is expensive or peripheral-laden. I think it stinks because it's redundant and peerless as a wasted opportunity. I have absolutely no doubt it delivers on its promises and will meet the level of Rock Bandyness people expect. But the game really seems to be an exercise in the laws of marginal value. People have become rather familiar with the Beatles' repertoire. It is more or less inescapable in Western popular culture. People have also become rather familiar with Rock Band. Aside from a single-player mode visualizing a story that most Beatles fans already know, what is necessary about this game? I have a strange sensation that the results of combining these two very familiar things will be...familiar!

As for the unreleased music that is included with the game, well it's not going to convince people who spent serious bucks for the game otherwise about the Beatles' greatness. And if they weren't already released, there's little chance that the new songs will convert any new fans. Also, congratulations Beatles audiophiles! You now get to listen to new Beatles music...through your TV's speakers. I'm not quite sure why this is exciting, at least not cover of Entertainment Weekly exciting. It's marketability as a standalone version of a game people already own points towards game consumers' giddy tolerance for reshelling, but that's for another post entirely.

As for Beatles: Rock Band, The being a wasted opportunity: a game company got the license to create a game based on the Beatles and they produce...a rhythm game featuring Beatles' songs. They had to pry that shit from Michael Jackson's icy fingers and they make a rhythm game? How many amazing things were the Beatles' involved in for decades and decades? I can instantly think of several ideas that would have made 10x cooler games (licensing details notwithstanding):

1) A platformer, with a mechanic similar to that of Trine, based on Yellow Submarine.

2) In honor of Yoko Ono, a WarioWare esque collection of Fluxus games that are won based on random criteria. Think of how appropriate cutting Yoko's hair with the DS stylus would be.

3) British Invasion: The Reckoning (aka The Fab 4 Dead). Holed up in the Ed Sullivan Show dressing room, the boys must shoot their way through increasingly ravenous flocks of adoring teens.

Perhaps something like this is better reserved for indie devs (although I do think the third one has market potential). But why should it be difficult to drum up interest in an unexpected Beatles' game? Isn't the band's versatility the reason it remains so indispensable?

I guess that's my frustration with the game. It took an awful lot of trouble and attention and money to produce a game that seems like it basically already existed. As I write this, I realize that if Husker Du was the subject of a new Rock Band game I would raise an eyebrow. But I think I'd rather they got back together and recorded new music than press buttons to songs I already know by heart.