Beaterator PreviewBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Sep 03, 2009
Let’s get something out of the way up front: whatever you do, don’t call Rockstar Leeds’ Beaterator for PlayStation Portable (and, as recently announced, iPhone and iPod Touch) a game. Not only is it a mischaracterization, it also undersells the vision and potential this title embodies. For as Rockstar says, with Beaterator, “You’re not pretending to make music – you are making music.”
I recently had a chance to sit down with Rockstar to check out its new music g…I mean, music maker, and I have to say, it’s one of the more impressive pieces of technology that I’ve seen in a while. Beaterator comes packed with all of the sounds, tools and capabilities you need to create, edit and share your own music, all from the palms of your hands.
Since Beaterator contains a compact version of nearly everything you’d find in a high-quality music editing suite, it can seem a bit intimidating at first. Fortunately, Rockstar has made sure it can be enjoyed and understood by users of all skill levels. The help section alone contains encyclopedic detailing of everything you could possibly ever want to know about music, sound mixing and editing, and there are tutorial videos for every section.
And just in case you were wondering, legendary producer Timbaland didn’t just lend his name to the project. He worked with Rockstar every step of the way and even contributed over 1,300 custom beats, loops and sounds from his own personal vault. And if that wasn’t enough, Rockstar threw in 1,800 of its own sounds and loops, so you’ll seldom be wanting for means to make your next digital masterpiece. Beaterator also includes templates for every genre of song that suggest sounds that fit within that genre. You don’t have to use those sounds, but it’s a good jump-off point, and provides a good understanding of what types of elements go into making a particular style of track.
If you’d prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, you can also use the PSP-3000’s built-in microphone to record your own sounds (vocals, instruments, etc.) and you can even upload sound files from your computer onto the PSP, and edit and mix them to your liking. You can also offload anything you create in Beaterator onto your computer in the form of .WAV files.
Features-wise, there are three main modes: Live Play, Studio and Song Crafter. Live Play lets anyone instantly start mixing loops and making music. You have eight tracks to work with, each one containing four loops. Selecting loops and sounds is as simple as a few button clinks, and as a result, you can listen to your own custom-made song in just a matter of seconds.
Studio mode kicks things up a bit as it lets you edit tracks created in Live Play. And actually, it’s quite similar to Live Play, but all the tracks and sounds are much more manageable and maneuverable, and they all appear as tabs on a single cross-bar of sorts, making it much easier to visualize what’s going on with your song. Here, you can also tweak pretty much every aspect of your creation from the tempo to the sound channels to the volume of individual tracks.
Then there’s Song Crafter, the creative core of Beaterator. This mode, which lays out your song in spreadsheet format, lets you edit and tweak your creations even further thanks to the ability to cut, paste and delete any loop or loops in your song. It also lets you create your own loops, sounds and even entire songs from scratch. There is a staggering array of musical instruments available to you as well (pianos, basses, drums, flutes, etc.), all of which can be used to create custom tracks that can then be edited and tweaked on the fly. That might sound impressive, but it’s even more so when you start to see your song take shape before your eyes.
It was actually during Rockstar’s demonstration of Song Crafter mode that I realized just how deep Beaterator’s potential truly is; not only as a piece of entertainment, but as a vehicle for artistic expression. Even as someone who knows the bare minimum in terms of music composition and digital sound editing, I have to say that what Rockstar has managed to pull off with this title is mighty impressive. Beaterator will be available in stores on September 29, so be sure to check back soon for our full review.