Beaterator isn't your typical Rockstar game.
For years now, the iconic developers have thrilled gamers with big-budget releases, and have cemented themselves as perhaps one of the most capable - if not controversial - developers in the industry. Which is why, at the outset, it's a little confusing to see why they've bothered to dedicate resource to what is essentially an Adobe Flash music mixing tool that first featured on their website in 2005.
The reason is, of course, that Rockstar loves music. All you have to do is spend some time playing the Grand Theft Auto series and you'll see just what a profoundly important mechanism music is for conveying tension, drama and suspense. Rockstar are so committed to the music in their games that it frequently occupies the majority of the game data files, and some games even have their own official soundtrack released as an album. That's dedication.
With Beaterator, Rockstar have essentially supplied you with your own set of tools to create whatever kind of music you can imagine. On top of that, Beaterator contains a large number of previously sampled loops from multi-platinum producer and entertainer Timbaland, meaning that when your talent runs out, you'll have one of the best in the business propping you up.
Beaterator will be released to the PlayStation Network, as well as UMD for PSP. There will also be iPhone and iPod Touch versions, however our demonstration by Rockstar consisted of just the PSP version. The basic control method involves four options for each of the four inputs you can use on-screen at any one time, such as drums, synch, sine, lead, organ etc. These inputs can then be mastered in the studio by isolating up to eight channels and tweaking the position of the loops, along with duration and even fade effects. Loops can be edited on the fly - you can drop new beats in wherever and whenever you want, and these can be either from an enormous list of predefined loops, or from your own collection through the memory stick or wifi.
Rockstar were quick to point out that it's not just about hip-hop either; you can choose from templates as diverse as House, Pop, Breakbeat and UK Garage, and through simplified access to menu controls (along with a kind of virtual piano keyboard) you can make practically any kind of sound you like.
What makes Beaterator really stand out is the level of complexity inherent in the mixing software. Virtually every single aspect of whatever piece of music you want to construct can be modified, even down to isolating individual notes from loops and altering their pitch and volume. What is even more impressive is that thanks to the comprehensive tutorial videos, even a relative novice can stitch together something solid within half an hour or so.
It's difficult to really describe what Rockstar have created here, as it's not a game so much as an interactive music platform. If you haven't already, take a look at Timbaland having a play with Beaterator in the video footage below - it'll be available in New Zealand around October 2nd, so if music mixing is your thing, you'll definitely want to take a look.
Our thanks to Rockstar for the Beaterator demonstration.