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Blinded by The Beatles
Editorial by 
Editor
February 03, 2011, 00:11:24
 
This was originally written in early 2010 as a parody of Daemon Hatfield's editorial on New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Blinded by The Beatles

By now 2009 has been put on the shelf and attentions have turned to 2010. But there is a lingering injustice I am having trouble letting go of. When it comes to the question of what was last year's best music game, gamers seem to have settled on The Beatles: Rock Band, a title I find to be derivative and dull. It's the perfect example of how lazy Harmonix has become: just take some forty-year old songs and create note charts, add the multiplayer technology of 2003, and call it a day. Despite the lack of effort on Harmonix's part, the game received great reviews, sold millions of copies, and won several Music Game of the Year awards.

While the music genre isn't gaming's feature presentation as it was back in 2008, there were still a number of quality music games released this year to contend with The Beatles: Rock Band. BIT.TRIP BEAT, BIT.TRIP CORE AND BIT.TRIP VOID were all a good time. But I submit that the best music game of 2009 was one that received less attention than all of these titles (except maybe BIT.TRIP CORE): Invisible Handlebar’s Audio Surf. While The Beatles: Rock Band brought relatively nothing new to the table, Audio Surf was brilliant and original.


Audio Surf blows The Beatles: Rock Band away.


In a side-by-side comparison, I don't see how the two even compare. Audio Surf is more imaginative, technically more impressive, and a much better value than Harmonix's tired game. Consider the evidence:

Exhibit A: Audio Surf is more original
Invisible Handlebar delivered a hilarious new videogame hero brimming with fumes. The Beatles: Rock Band offers a couple original features like three-part harmony or the songs that turn into other songs, but with the exception of being able to play as a furry, there are really no major new features. It should have been called “Listen to old men sing about walruses while pretending to play guitar.” Audio Surf also has a much more interesting premise: a rocket is traveling down a path paved with notes, rendering you unable to stop the madness of hitting these rectangles- rectangles that add up and form three in a row-patterns, might I add. The premise of The Beatles: Rock Band? Playing in a band again.

Exhibit B: Audio Surf does Rockets
The Beatles: Rock Band's one selling point? Four-player co-op -- only the company couldn't be bothered to get better character models. Watching The Beatles be goofy? Big deal, the television could do that with the VCR peripheral released in 1990. Harmonix is a colossal, international corporation with thousands of employees, decades of experience making games, and, most importantly, the money to do whatever the hell it wants. So how is it that Harmonix can't figure out rockets but a small indie developer – with fewer people, less experience, and much less money -- can?

Exhibit C: Audio Surf offers more content for a fraction of the price
The Beatles: Rock Band includes 45 songs. Audio Surf has over 100,000. So even though the downloadable title offers more gaming and more features, at $10 it only costs one sixth as much as the $60 NEXT GEN game. Audio Surf is easily the better value. And since it doesn't tap into even the NEXT GEN CONSOLE’S AMAZING capabilities in terms of graphics or technical ability, The Beatles: Rock Band is way overpriced.

So how did the lesser game win? Well, for starters it has the word "Beatles" in the title. The Beatles are the ultimate band, right? In a year when a Beatles game is in the running, how could any other title conceivably win? People don't even try to conceal this bias. On sites like IGN you'll find readers leaving comments such as "Its ringo starr!? Ringo starr should win anything hes in." I didn't make that quote up, that's a real reader comment.

I know a lot of gamers played Audio Surf and loved it, but it doesn't offer the brand recognition or conjure the years of great gaming memories that the word "Beatles" does. The Beatles: Rock Band makes a lot of gamers feel nostalgic as they remember all the good times they've spent listening to the music. But it's stuck in the past while we're supposed to be moving forward. Harmonix's mascots are so beloved, so entrenched in our hippie minds that even though they and their company are pale shadows of their former selves they still hog the spotlight – to the detriment of more innovative, more impressive, and more deserving games.

This is an XBLA game, right? Wait, you're telling me this is a $60 retail game? Huh?!


And there's also the fact that instead of putting money towards developing exciting new games, Harmonix spends that cash marketing the holy hell out of its good-but-not-great lineup. Last fall you couldn't turn on the TV, go to the mall, or fire up the internet without seeing ads for The Beatles: Rock Band. That's the kind of reach a tiny developer like Invisible Handlebar can only dream of. I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of consumers who have made The Beatles: Rock Band such a success have never even heard of Audio Surf.

Of course, I'm not saying The Beatles: Rock Band is a terrible game. Far from it. Its mediocrity doesn't keep it from being fun. But every game is supposed to be fun, so you don't earn extra credit for that. You need to do something special to achieve greatness; go beyond the call of duty. The Beatles: Rock Band plays it very safe.

I have already written about how lazy Harmonix has become, which is a fairly recent development. The reason a lackluster game like The Beatles: Rock Band still gets a pass from gamers is because for many, many years, The Beatles made the absolute best music around. There were Beatles songs and then there was everything else. The arrival of a new album was a monumental occasion that often revolutionized the entire industry. Compare that to the Beatles of today, two guys that have been phoning it in ever since they realized they don’t have to make the best music – they only have to make the cheapest, simplest music. The "expanded audience" that has made the Beatles so successful doesn't care about what made The White Album, Abbey Road, and more recently, Let It Be…Naked incredible. They're perfectly content just singing about clubs, so why should The Beatles provide anything more? I'd like to think The Beatles selling people short. My five-year old nephew has a record player now and I know he'd be psyched if we could play Abbey Road together even though he lives in Kansas and I'm in San Francisco.

So if you haven't figured it out by now, I think The Beatles: Rock Band is a half-assed effort from a company that previously set a standard of excellence. Guitar Hero 2 was pretty amazing, right? That's the level of quality we should be demanding from Harmonix. The Beatles: Rock Band is a harmless little game that reminds people of simpler times and is definitely fun, but it is not the best music game of the year. That honor belongs to Audio Surf. The lumbering colossus is letting sharper, scrappier little studios make the great games – The Beatles are just coasting on fumes.

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Posted: 02/03/11, 00:11:24  - Edited by 
 on: 03/22/11, 03:25:41    
 
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T'was Beatles Rock Band that finally got me into the whole Guitar Hero/Rock Band thing. Love me some Beatles.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 00:35:39
So... you're completely ignoring Rock Band 3 in this article, right? Since we didn't know of it's existence at the time you wrote it that is.

Lego Rock Band was actually more fun for me than The Beatles (though I still loved the music), and I think Green Day was more of a half-assed effort.

But Rock Band 3 still proves that they can put a ton of effort behind a game.

EDIT: Also, I agree with AudioSurf being the music game of the year for 2009.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 00:45:58  - Edited by 
 on: 02/03/11, 00:46:49
I remember this blog, because I initially thought it was anti-Beatles. I still have to get Audiosurf. I love games that use music as a level-generation mechanic. More games should do that.

I also feel that Harmonix has been kind of coasting for a while. FreQuency and Amplitude were the shit. Really full-featured, visionary games. Then they started going the 'play along with the master tracks!' route. Not as interesting to me, but I like the concept of Rock Band 3, and they say that they're going to try to bring improvisation into it. Let's see.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 00:58:13
The Beatles are overrated. YEAH I SAID IT.

Well, maybe not. I'm just not that into them.

I still don't get why people get excited about these music games that focus on one artist. My favorite music is not all by one artist. I like a good mix. I can't think of a single artist who has enough music I go gaga over that I'd prefer that to a mix. Mind you, the type of mix I envision will never happen in one of these popular games. But then, none of my favorite artists would ever get their own game either.

What I do find funny about this game is that a lot of people wouldn't admit that it's just another Rock Band game, with The Beatles. If that is your thing, cool. But why were people pretending like it was some completely different thing? Whenever I would bring up how Guitar Hero already did these artist specific Guitar Hero games, people would be all BUT THAT'S DIFFERENT!!!! How? I'm sorry, love The Beatles all you want, but don't pretend they make a Rock Band game into something else.

So, where was I? Oh yeah, these music games. I'm already bored of them. The only thing that could really get me interested again (and I think it would sell a ton, it seems weird that it hasn't happened) is if someone made one that was all popular video game tunes. Maybe even some remixes (like Stemage/etc.) I'd be all over that.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:20:28
Ummm, online leaderboards? They're present in The Beatles: Rock Band. Even on the Wii version.

@Zero

All of Guitar Hero's [insert artist here] games were half centered on one artist. The rest were random bands that either inspired said band or were inspired by said band. The Beatles was the first artist-centered game to purely focus on the music of The Beatles.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:21:32  - Edited by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:24:20
ludist210 said:
Ummm, online leaderboards? They're present in The Beatles: Rock Band. Even on the Wii version.

BUT THEY'RE NOT IN HD

Nah but I should probably edit that part out.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:32:49  - Edited by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:35:10
ludist210 said:
All of Guitar Hero's [insert artist here] games were half centered on one artist. The rest were random bands that either inspired said band or were inspired by said band. The Beatles was the first artist-centered game to purely focus on the music of The Beatles.

So it is better by having less variety? Either way that doesn't really make it something different than a new Rock Band game... starring The Beatles.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:46:40
Zero said:
ludist210 said:
All of Guitar Hero's [insert artist here] games were half centered on one artist. The rest were random bands that either inspired said band or were inspired by said band. The Beatles was the first artist-centered game to purely focus on the music of The Beatles.

So it is better by having less variety? Either way that doesn't really make it something different than a new Rock Band game... starring The Beatles.

It's more of a Beatles game using Rock Band as an interface than a Rock Band game with The Beatles in it.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:52:56
@Zero

I guess it depends what you're looking for. If I would have bought Guitar Hero: Metallica, I would have wanted it to be Metallica and only them. As the game was, it was Metallica and 21 other artists, some which I really didn't care for (most notably Motorhead and Slayer). With TB:RB, I know what I'm getting: The Beatles. And because I like The Beatles, I know I'll like all of the music.

@Secret_Tunnel

That's a good way to put it.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:54:11  - Edited by 
 on: 02/03/11, 01:54:45
Oh man, my face almost melted into my skull, and then out of my nose with my brain. I didn't completely read everything, but I'm writing this as I read. I've already read some comments, and now I have to hate little pieces of some people (shame on you Zero! YOU'RE overrated!!). Its a shame I wasn't around, because I would've cross-examined you into the ground! Typical IGN rag; "troll" your way into submission!

@Secret_Tunnel

Exhibit A
Ok. The Beatles are, quite simply, The Beatles. I don't know if you're familiar with this group, but they're kind of the biggest thing ever? Their music catalog is one of the most guarded things in the history of the universe, and just recently Apple (APPLE) got the rights to their songs for iPods (or whatever)....AFTER Harmonix did it. For the first time you're hearing Beatles music from something that isn't the radio or a Beatles CD/DVD.

You mentioned the three-part harmonies, and then moved onto something else. Haha, what? Have you actually done the three part harmonies? Do you know what its like to sing with other people and have to hit the notes. I'm one of the few people I know who LIKE to sing backup. I actually sing backup on Beatles songs in the car, in the shower, so now getting to do it in a game among peers is freakin' awesome. Who the heck sings backups? EVERYONE does now! In order to chart everything, Harmonix had to go to the Abbey Road studios and dissect each song by instrument and track. The end result? Beatles: Rock Band.

--Anand is right! This article IS Anti-Beatles! "Old men sing about walruses!" I believe I walrus is referenced in two songs (I Am The Walrus / Glass Onion), and thats it. For those keeping score, thats as many songs as "clowns" are referenced (You've Got To Hide Your Love Away / I'm A Loser). It should've been "old men sing about clowns!" No.

Let me dig away at Audiosurf a little bit. How exactly is this fresh and exciting? It looks EXACTLY like F-Zero, and the stage is randomized based on the music. Uhhh big deal? F-Zero stinks anyways. And on the topic of "avoiding the rectangles," I guarantee you its much more challenging to hit all of them...like on a Rock Band guitar chart. What else do you do besides move left and right? Do you SING? Oh, you don't? Hmm..

Exhibit B:
We've already stated that the main selling point is The Beatles themselves, and in addition to that brand new harmonies. The game IS 4-player co-op, adjustable to 6 or 7 if you're letting other people sing and thats it. Audiosurf? "Hey, watch me over my shoulder as I play. Just stand there." As already stated by Mr. Ludist, there are most definitely online leaderboards for Beatles: Rock Band, established since Day 1 of release.

Exhibit C:
You're quoting "geniuses" on IGN about Ringo as a means to further your argument? Man, are you working hard..
Lets talk about the Beatles playlist. Some of the biggest songs the face of the Earth has ever had the honor of being soaked with. Audiosurf..100,000 songs by...who? The song from Portal? Daft Punk? Dude, I know you're NOT comparing Daft Punk to the Beatles.. Speaking of the Beatles, I've noticed that there are no Beatles songs available, at least not to the naked eye (and nothing by Boston either. Are there ANY established bands on here?). So, basically the best music library on record by an artist/group against piddly "acts" and diddies from videogames. Hmm..tough one.


We're also in an era where people don't want the biggest and the best anymore, but feel sorry for the "little guy" and feel the need to push them to glory (and excitedly gloat how they got on at the ground floor). IGN is the source of many "buy this to support 3rd parties!" garbage. If a game is good, it gets bought. It has nothing to do with marketing. In the internet age, you don't even need commercials anymore. Word of mouth does wonders..and its FREE. I don't even recall seeing a commercial for the Wii. I'm 100% serious. Here I am, years later, on a Nintendo-specific message board talking about awesome Beatles Rock Band (for the Wii), and I didn't even see a TV ad for the system [before I bought it]. And they were STILL sold out. Don't claim a lack of advertising budget as the reason for Audiosurf's shortcomings.

I've played Guitar Hero III, and I enjoy Rock Band 2 more than it. Beatles: Rock Band gave us what Rock Band 2 did and more. Without the ability to create yourself (why would you need to?), we got great songs, new Harmonies, and Beatles music. Its more of an experience than a game, and the "dreamscapes" hammer that home.

In closing, I don't even know how you can claim Audiosurf to be a better game, other than the fact that you've got some beef with The Beatles (even though you say "The Beatles made the best music around," and you're still surprised why their stuff is so popular), or you're trying to get a rise out of someone. Moving left and right on a slope (I should go home and play Slalom for the NES) avoiding something while some dime store music plays under it vs. "being" a Beatle, and seeing them phase to phase in different costumes and venues.


No contest, brother.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:11:31
@Mr_Mustache

You can use any music that you own (MP3s) in Audiosurf to generate the levels.

Good rant though, but don't dis F-Zero! Come on, mang.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:17:11
Zero said:
The Beatles are overrated.
This.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:21:08
@Paleo_Orca

You come on! I bought F-Zero from Toys R Us all the way back in 1992.

I took it home, hated it; my friends mom worked at a videostore. We re-shrinkwrapped it, and I took it back.
I exchanged it for Mega Man X. Best upgrade possible.

To date (besides a Faxanadu rental), F-Zero is the only game I've ever returned / taken back.

@WrathOfSamus777

..and my list of "who to give a piledriver to" grows...


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:21:15  - Edited by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:26:34
@Mr_Mustache

cough




Shoulda read the italicized stuff closer.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:29:44
Secret_Tunnel said:
It's more of a Beatles game using Rock Band as an interface than a Rock Band game with The Beatles in it.

That's the kind of silly distinction people used when they acted like this wasn't milking the Rock Band franchise. What does that even mean? It's a Rock Band game... with Beatles songs. What about it isn't playing notes as they come down the screen to music IE a Rock Band game first and foremost?

If they were going to design a Beatles game from the bottom up I'm sure it would have a lot more to it than going through menus to pick music to then hit buttons to as it comes down a screen. The Beatles probably have a more interesting history that could lend to something bigger than this.

Probably.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:31:05
I don't think that screenshot of the game indicates it looking "bad" enough to be an XBLA game. I think it looks fine for what they were going for. I'm not a Beatles fan at all, but I don't have a problem with this game.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:32:05
@Secret_Tunnel

*siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh*

Daemon Hetfield is my mortal enemy (he doesn't know it). Will he ever stop haunting me!?
An unnecessary battle. A spoof on one of his awful entries.




--I spent like 15 minutes on that thing!!


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:34:30
Zero said:
Secret_Tunnel said:
It's more of a Beatles game using Rock Band as an interface than a Rock Band game with The Beatles in it.

That's the kind of silly distinction people used when they acted like this wasn't milking the Rock Band franchise. What does that even mean? It's a Rock Band game... with Beatles songs. What about it isn't playing notes as they come down the screen to music IE a Rock Band game first and foremost?

Well yeah. And Guitar Hero: Aerosmith is a Guitar Hero game with Aerosmith songs. Thing is, GH:A is a reskinned GH3 with different songs that just happen to be from the same band, and several that aren't from the same band. It also has a couple of different playable characters and a few cutscenes. Other than that, it's the same venues, same menus, same pretty much everything. That's all from memory, and by memory I mean the memory of reading what other people said about the game.

Beatles: Rock Band is completely focused on The Beatles. Every single post-touring song has it's own unique scenery, there are a ton of unlockable videos, pictures and stories from The Beatles' history and they supported it with three downloadable albums, one of which had a medley of a ton of Abbey Road songs.

So while it is a Rock Band game with Beatles songs, it's still a step above other "Music game with Band A songs in it" games.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 02:41:52
Well I never played those Aerosmith games and such, but the point is more that whenever the idea of milking a franchise came up people would say Guitar Hero, and then I would say Rock Band is too, and people would be like NU UH, BEATLES ROCK BAND IS A TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING THAN NORMAL ROCK BAND SO IT DOESN'T COUNT AS MILKING.

But, actually, it's just a Rock Band game starring the Beatles. It's cool that they made all new assets for it, sure... but that doesn't mean it's not just another Rock Band game.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 03:09:25
If someone likes Rock Band and The Beatles, they'll love it. If they like Rock Band but not The Beatles, they should skip it. If they like The Beatles but not Rock Band, they should give it a shot.


Posted by 
 on: 02/03/11, 04:08:57
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