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VGT Visits Harmonix

Harmonix reminds me why I always give them my money
I don't know how it happened. I was hopping along, minding my own business, when the Video Game Talk editor messages me out of the blue and asks if I would like to go to Harmonix to play around with the new Abbey Road and Queen DLC. How could I say no? It's not every day that a man gets such an invitation. And being the music fanatic that I am, the answer was never really in doubt.

I arrived early at the MTV building in Santa Monica on a beautiful sunny day. Just perfect for staying inside and playing video games. On the 4th floor I met with Alex Navarro, Harmonix's publicist. They already had the game set up, as I could see The Beatles Rock Band song selection screen on the television. In addition, they had two microphones, a Rickenbacker, a Hofner, and The Beatles drum kit. With regular Rock Band songs, I tend to play the guitar. But with The Beatles, I love to sing. So I grabbed a mic and couldn't wait to get down to it.

We began with "Maxwell's Silver Hammer," one of the slighter songs from Abbey Road. Still, it's fun, and did include its own original video (which, Alex explained, was actually created using existing art files on the game disc, which were included with the idea of DLC in mind). Now, let me pause here and mention that Abbey Road isn't just my favorite Beatles album, but easily one of my favorite albums of all time. It's a desert island disc and, in my opinion, one of the greatest albums ever recorded. So when Alex suggested we check out the "Medley" (the second side of the album plays out as one long song), I will admit to getting a little misty-eyed.

The medley properly begins with "You Never Give Me Your Money," although we did play "Because" first. Although there is no drum part on the song, Alex explained that drummers will not have to log off for it, they can simply sit it out. Playing the Medley is, if you'll forgive my hyperbole, akin to a religious experience for a Beatles super-fan such as myself. Truth be told, I don't think of those songs as individual pieces, I think of them as one unit. So to go from "Mean Mr. Mustard" to "Polythene Pam" to "She Came In Through The Bathroom Window" wasn't just cool; it felt right. There were no breaks of any kind, the transitions are just as you hear them on the record. I can't wait to grab some friends and play it at home. Alex did remind us that you can only get the medley by downloading the full album. The individual album tracks cannot be strung together.

After that, we switched discs, did some quick calibrations, and jumped into the Queen DLC. Queen is one of those bands whose career cannot be summed up in only 10 songs, but for a first offering, the tracks here are great. Vocal workouts like "Somebody To Love" sit next to killer rockers like "One Vision." We tried out "Tie Your Mother Down," which was a hell of a vocal workout. And then we ended the visit with one of my favorite Queen songs (hell, one of my favorite songs in general): "I Want To Break Free." After the bright, vivid colors of Beatles Rock Band it was a bit of a shock to switch back to Rock Band 2's darker color scheme, and I would have loved to get an animated Freddie Mercury dancing around on the stage with a virtual Brian May rocking out behind him, but shy of that, the first Queen pack totally rocks.

I did have a chance to ask a few questions. I asked about the chance of running songs together in the upcoming Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band DLC. Alex said that if it makes sense to do so, they will, such as how they combined "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" and "With A Little Help From My Friends," which gives me hope we'll see a "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (Reprise)/A Day In The Life" combo song. I asked about further Beatles DLC after Rubber Soul in December. Alex said that making Beatles Rock Band DLC is much more time consuming and expensive than regular Rock Band DLC, due to Harmonix having to send people to England, and getting Giles Martin involved, and all the parties to sign off on it. The best way to show we want more Beatles DLC is to buy as much of these announced downloads as we can. As for future Queen DLC, well, Alex hinted it could happen with a wry smile.

And so ends my first visit to Harmonix. I had a great time, got to play some great music, and can't wait till Tuesday to get my hands on it all myself. And so should you!

The Abbey Road DLC includes:

  • Come Together
  • Something
  • Maxwell's Silver Hammer
  • Oh! Darling
  • Octopus's Garden
  • I Want You (She's So Heavy)
  • Here Comes The Sun
  • Because
  • You Never Give Me Your Money
  • Sun King
  • Mean Mr. Mustard
  • Polythene Pam
  • She Came In Through The Bathroom Window
  • Golden Slumbers
  • Carry That Weight
  • The End
  • Her Majesty
Abbey Road will be available on October 20 at a price of $16.98 (1360 Marketplace Points), with individual tracks for $1.99 (160 Marketplace Points).

Queen's Track Pack Includes:

  • Another One Bites the Dust
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  • One Vision
  • Fat Bottomed Girls
  • I Want It All
  • I Want to Break Free
  • Killer Queen
  • Somebody to Love
  • Tie Your Mother Down
  • Under Pressure
Queen's Track Pack will also be available on October 20 at a price of $15.99 (1260 Marketplace Points), with individual tracks for $1.99 (160 Marketplace Points).