During a teleconference being held by Apple Corps, Ltd and MTV this morning, the two companies, along with Harmonix, announced an exclusive partnership to create a brand new video game featuring the music of the Beatles. This seems to be a new game that will allow friends and families to experience the music of the band in an all new way.I've got a lot to say about music games, most of which I've probably already said a million times before. I've been playing music since I was about 3; my parents were both musicians and I can't really remember not playing music. (My parents were classical musicians, though, and so they had a pretty big influence over the music I listened to when I grew up; they weren't very keen on rock music. One thing we could all agree on, however, was The Beatles, and how awesome they were.)
Other than a brief mention of Rock Band during the teleconference, so far no mention has been made of the band's songs coming to Rock Band or Rock Band 2. In fact, Harmonix's Alex Rigopolis stated during the call that this is not a Rock Band expansion pack, but an all-new game title built from the ground up.
The game will be a journey that will take you through the entire Beatles catalog, from the first album to the last. There will be an interactive music performance involved using music controller peripherals, but they stress that the game is not a Rock Band title. Visual exploration of the Beatles will be a big part of the game, though they were not prepared to discuss more on that at this time.
Anyway. My point is that, as an actual musician, the Guitar Hero / Rock Band games don't necessarily appeal to me; I already have real guitars, and my personal aesthetic when it comes to music is not on shredding ability but songcraft and arrangement. What I liked about Guitar Hero 2 (my first dabbling in this genre) was the song selection, and specifically how they deconstructed the guitar parts so you could really get inside the part and see how it interacted with the song as a whole. And on the flipside, my biggest frustration with Guitar Hero 3 (well, one of many) was that I would fail songs (on Medium difficulty) that I could actually play, on a real guitar; the emphasis was on shredding, not on feeling like you were part of a band. (The other big frustration were the boss battles, which were totally fucking ridiculous. If I were actually on a stage and engaged in a real guitar duel, and my opponent came over and detuned my guitar while I was playing, or futzed around with my amp, I would punch my opponent in the face and then take their guitar and break it over their head.)
I've never played Rock Band 1 or 2, mostly because (a) I don't really feel like I need to, and (b) they're expensive and I don't necessarily have the real estate in my apartment to house them. But I've certainly wanted to play them; the RB games have a far better selection of songs than the post-Harmonix Guitar Hero games do, in my opinion, and from my perspective, song selection is pretty much the most important issue in this genre.
Which is why a Harmonix-produced Beatles game is so fascinating to me. I know the Beatles catalog pretty much inside and out - well, certainly for everything from Rubber Soul onwards - and none of those songs are terribly difficult to play; George was not a shredder, and Ringo was, well, Ringo. So the appeal of playing a Beatles-themed music game can't be about racking up zillions of points; instead, the appeal is that almost everybody has an intrinsic knowledge of at least a few Beatles songs, and that being able to play them - being able to get inside of them, subconsciously absorbing how the songs are constructed and arranged - is an experience that, until now, not many people have ever really thought about besides music nerds.
My biggest question, then, is what they're going to do about the keyboards and crazy sounds. Once the Beatles started smoking pot, going to India, and hanging out with Bob Dylan, everything changed, and I mean everything; they stopped writing catchy pop songs and instead starting breaking down boundaries that nobody had even conceived before. How are you going to play "Hey Jude" or "Let it Be" without a piano? Better yet, how are you going to play "A Day in the Life" without an orchestra? Or "I Am the Walrus" without inhaling a sheet of LSD? Will there be a George Martin mini-game, where you have to build all sorts of crazy shit in order to capture the sounds that John Lennon wants to be able to hear when you're trying to play "Tomorrow Never Knows"?