GC '09: Hands on with Beaterator PSP

Handheld hip-hop has landed...

GC '09: Hands on with Beaterator PSP
| Beaterator

Rockstar doesn’t make music games and Timbaland just plain doesn’t make games, so the pairing of gaming’s most controversial development studio with contemporary music’s most ubiquitous producer is an odd one.

But based on our hands on session with Beaterator at GamesCom last week, it does justice to both parties.

The game is split into three distinct sections. There’s Live Play, Studio Sessions and The Song Crafter. The Live Play element is the everyman, jump in and start making some noise section, where even the most musically braindead can shuffle a generous library of loops around in 8 different sound banks.

The loops, all of which were recorded by Timbaland for the game, are simple and continuous and you can layer some rudimentary effects on top.

Sat in the centre of the screen in Live Play mode is a deliberately crude retro-style Timbaland avatar, who gets busy on various bits of equipment in time to your creation. It’s about as far an abstraction from a real studio setting as gaming can afford, and as such it’s inviting, accessible and fun.

The next section of the game, Studio Sessions, is much more involved, allowing you to stack more loops and make use of a deeper layer of effects such as tempo, reverb, echo, flanger and plenty of others. This is where the interface gets gamey, too, ditching the Timbaland avatar in favour of granting more screen real-estate to the businesslike layout of your sound banks and loop patterns.

At first glance it looks complicated, but the clever inclusion of a very familiar XMB-style interface for selecting loops makes familiarisation a slick and painless process and we were up and running with some fairly complex compositions in no time (thanks in part to the guidance of one of Rockstar’s booth technicians).

The most involved section of the game is the Song Crafter. Here you can put together full songs with more loops, you can create your own loops and you can even record your own samples in MIDI or WAV format and then upload them for use in the game. Best of all, you can then export your creation, again in MIDI or WAV format, and upload it to the Rockstar Social Club, where it will be available to download for other members.

During our chat with Rockstar at the event, we also discovered that there will be new loops released regularly in what Rockstar is calling Producer Packs, either via the Playstation Store or the Rockstar Social Club. There are also regular competitions planned, where gamers will be given the opportunity to remix songs from famous artists, with the winning entry claiming a prize.

It makes for a robust music making package all round and though we didn’t get to try out many of the more involved features, it was clear in our demo, in the right hands, Beaterator is capable of producing some very professional results.

It’s unclear at this stage where the game will be positioned in the PSP’s line-up. It’s not a boxed retail product, but the licenses attached are way to high-profile for this to fall into the cheaper PSP Minis category (we're assuming).

More interesting still, is that Beaterator is more an application than a game. There's no competitive element, and though the basic Live Play section is definitely playful Beaterator’s main course is contained in the much more complicated Studio Session and Song Crafter modes.

Is this another step for the PSP towards replicating the iPhone’s repertoire of non-gaming applications? If it is, it outstrips anything we’ve come across on the App Store in the same category and certainly holds true to Sony’s high bar approach to developing a portfolio of digital content.

We’ll be getting down to some audio heaven (Read: 'cat screeching sonic terrorism') with Beaterator soon so look out for a review in the coming weeks.