It seems a bit strange writing a ‘game’ review on a ‘game’ that by all means isn’t a game at all. Made by Rockstar and Timbaland, Beaterator is a music making tool in the same vein as Propellerheads’ Reason, Apple’s Logic and even Garageband.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this on a console though. About a decade ago we had Codemaster’s MTV Music Generator and Ubisoft’s Moderngroove: Ministry of Sound Edition and several others of varying levels of usefulness. But this type of software has progressed a long way since those early, restrictive beginnings and Rockstar has developed a great portable electronic 8-track recording studio that proved to be a whole lot better than I expected.
The more you play with and come to understand what Beaterator has to offer, the more impressive it becomes. But it does take a lot of perseverance as the deeper you get, the more involved and technical it becomes. Anyone with any music composition software experience and a basic knowledge of timeline and the 8-track layering process should pick up the basics pretty swiftly. For newcomers, Timbaland – albeit a comic-styled caricature of him, will talk you through the interface.
The core Beaterator interface is a simple X, Y axis. The X axis represents time and is divided up into bars, and again into 16th beats. The Y axis has 8 rows (which is where the term 8-track comes in), or layers on which you can assign various instruments and loops. Initially you will choose from the ready made selection of loops (of which there are thousands) and start layering them up in the 8 assigned slots. Everything is in the same key and the software matches the bpm (although you can easily change it) so a lot of the technical thinking is taken out of the equation if you want it to be. Even a complete newbie should have no trouble cobbling some kind of track together – but with a little practice you’ll want to delve deeper into what Beaterator has to offer. I know from experience that it only takes one successful song to get addicted and you’ll want to make many more.
While the stock loops are plentiful and will no doubt suit almost every need, if you wish to add your own flavour to your song then Beaterator has a fairly standard Midi Editor which allows you to tinker with your own tunes on a few octaves of a keyboard. Set the instruments, choose the notes and even set the length and volume of each note, then save it as a loop before importing it into your song. You can also import separate .wav files from external sources off your Memory Stick and slot them into your compositions as well as record your own voice samples and bring them in too. I recommend searching around for acapella versions of songs and mixing them up with some dirty basslines and alternate beats.
If you really want to get technical then every sample in the library can also be altered to add reverb, phase, delay and even reversed using the waveform editor. Basically Beaterator has no equal on any console and it can perform tasks that very expensive, professional software can do on the PC or Mac. It’s simple enough for the uninitiated to pick up and understand, yet technical and extremely versatile for the experienced music mixer.
But perhaps the best feature of Beaterator is the ability to export your compositions as .wav files so you can take them to your computer and convert them to mp3 or whatever then share them with family and friends. This feature does become unavailable however if you have non-Beaterator samples in your track, to avoid any copyright issues. You can also upload your songs directly to the Rockstar Social Club to share them with others.
All in all, Beaterator is a powerful piece of music creation software that’s both fun, addictive, great value for money and unparalleled on any gaming platform. I would be very keen to see an upsized version of it for the PS3 in the near future though.