I’ve spent about two hours or so this week playing Guitar Hero: Van Halen. Why? Because I’m an idiot who will play a game with zero production value for a pretty lousy review check. More on why that particular game sucks later. (It is awful. And I like(d) Van Halen.) The reason I bring it up here is that it’s such a perfect contrast as to what makes Beatles Rock Band such an incredibly wonderful game.
A year ago I wasn’t even a Beatles fan. I didn’t dislike the Beatles. I just never bothered to give their music the time of day. Even when I picked up a copy of Abbey Road over the summer I never quite got it. It wasn’t until Beatles Rock Band came out that I really started to hear their music for the first time and from that moment forward I’ve been hooked and, really, that’s the genius of a franchise like Rock Band.
It’s not just about air guitar-esque wish fulfillment, although the way the game makes you feel like you can play to tens of thousands of screaming fans will always be cool. It’s that it allows you to appreciate music on a different level. True, all those colored bars and plastic frets don’t do a damn thing to help you learn music, but damn if they don’t affect how you hear it and your understanding of how a song is put together. It’s an incredible experience and the way the visuals of the band tie it all together by letting you see how the Beatles evolved over their all-too-brief career not only makes this game shine in its own right but it also directs a big middle finger at Activision for their inability to do anything remotely as cool as this with their pedestrian (at best) band-themed Guitar Hero games.