- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

Here’s an look at a video game event for the music lover in the family.

The Beatles: Rock Band (from Harmonix, MTV Games and Electronic Arts, reviewed for Xbox 360, $59.99) A defining moment for the musical video-game genre arrives Wednesday as faux musicians can become the Fab Four in this incredible tribute to the legendary group.

If old rockers haven’t experienced the joys of Rock Band, they will be forced to try it now for the chance to tackle a whopping 45 songs from the catalog of the lads from Liverpool.

For those unfamiliar with the game’s premise: Players wield microphones and controllers shaped like musical instruments to complete popular songs by tapping buttons, hitting drumheads and singing in rhythm, matching colored icons and bars streaming across the television screen.

Up to six giddy players can take part in the Beatles action, in the same room or online, spread across the band’s career and ending at the 1969 rooftop concert at their Apple headquarters.

Now, playing with the instruments provides a level of excitement, and conquering Paul McCartney’s wicked bass parts certainly is energizing, but it’s the singing that really maxes out the fun factor here.

I was surprised just how ingrained these songs were in my noggin. Thanks to my ability easily to remember the words and melody lines, my band racked up points as we ripped through “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Eight Days a Week” performed at legendary locales including the Cavern Club, Ed Sullivan Theater and Shea Stadium.

Hard-core fans will love the tune selection, especially diving into the slightly obscure with tracks such as “Hey Bulldog,” “Dig a Pony” and Ringo’s “I Wanna Be Your Man.”

The pinnacle of warbling is an option for three vocalists to attempt to replicate the Beatles’ amazing harmonies. Getting a trio to belt out “Paperback Writer” or “Drive My Car” makes for one intense challenge.

Add in gorgeous animated scenes during the action (capturing the band mates’ signature clothing and looks throughout the group’s career), photo montages and sound bites from the fellows, including never-before-heard studio-session chatter, and the game is worth owning for even the non-gaming Beatles lover.

Additionally, proficient players accumulate 104 classic photographs from the group and eventually unlock more rare audio and video moments, such as the dripping-with-nostalgia 1963 Christmas greeting to their fans.

With help from an easy setting (players never fail a song) and vocal and drum practice modes, the accessible game enables parent, child and the hip grandparent to “Come Together” as they celebrate one of the most influential bands in rock ‘n’ roll history.

The good news is that anyone already actively playing a version of Rock Band or Guitar Hero World Tour already has the instruments needed to play this game.

Beatles fanatics looking to completely embrace the experience, however, will need to drop about $500. They’ll need to buy a Limited Edition Premium Bundle ($249) containing the game, microphone, mic stand and controller replicas of Paul McCartney’s Hofner Violin bass, and Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drum set.

Replicas of John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325 guitar and George Harrison’s Gretsch Duo Jet guitar also are available ($99 each).

Finally, even more songs for interaction will be released in the coming months, including the full albums of “Abbey Road,” “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and “Rubber Soul” (starting at $16.98). Individual songs from each album also will be available ($1.99 each).

Don’t forget, “All You Need is Love” ($1.99) also arrives as a download Wednesday for the Xbox 360 version of the game, with all proceeds benefiting Doctors Without Borders.

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