Reviewed: November 3, 2009
Released: November 3, 2009
Did you hear they just announced Bagpipe Hero for next spring? Just kidding, but there does seem to be a preponderance of games coming out with ďheroĒ in the name lately. My fingers were still aching from playing and writing about DJ Hero and along comes Band Hero with more guitars, drums, and microphones. Iím fairly sure my game room now has more guitars than an Eddie Van Halen garage sale and more drum kits than Neil Peartís basement.
So what exactly is Band Hero and why should you care? Start by taking the extremely solid foundation of Guitar Hero 5 and then replacing the hard rock and metal infused soundtrack with something more pop-related and family-friendly and you essentially have Band Hero. Not that Guitar Hero 5 was offensive, but some of the songs did warrant a Teen rating and lots of parents donít want their kids turning into metal-heads before they're 12, so Band Hero fills a fairly obvious niche Ė actually a gap when you factor in the mass appeal that Band Hero is going to have for girls.
Itís no secret that Taylor Swift is being used to promote Band Hero (she has three songs featured in this game as well as a stunning CG likeness and motion-capture work), but this is the first game in the history of the Hero franchise to feature an abundance of female artists like Joan Jett, KT Tunstall, Spice Girls, The Go-Goís, Hilary Duff, Aly and AJ, Janet Jackson, Pan Benatar, and Evanescence. Girls are going to love this game and the song selection, which is why the main screen now prominently features a new Sing Along mode which is essentially a traditional karaoke mode with CG video and lyrics.
But donít worry guys. There are plenty of songs for us too, but you might want to have one or two girls on speed dial when it comes times to build your band. Youíll need to be swapping the gender of your lead vocalist about every other song. And even if you donít sing there are still the great guitar and drum tracks that the Hero franchise is known for, only the note streams have been greatly improved so now, more than ever, you really feel like you are playing these songs.
And what a great selection of songs. There are more than 20 new songs being added to many of your favorites from past Guitar Hero games along with the ability to import tracks (for a small fee) from Guitar Hero 5, World Tour and Smash Hits. Any tracks you may have already downloaded for World Tour are automatically added to Band Hero. You can also export your Band Hero songs into Guitar Hero 5 if you would rather play them in that game. Sadly, with all this exchange between E10+ and Teen titles certain songs are either unable to be ported around or even worse, songs in GH5 were edited in anticipation of being brought into Band Hero.
Here is the full track list that includes new and rehashed music from the past:
While musical taste is purely subjective, I do want to comment that I loved each and every song included with this game...even the handful I hadn't heard of. It's very rare when I can't find one song that annoys me, especially with this many to choose from, but ever track was solid gold, which made it really hard when it came time to pick and choose for my wildcard challenges in each set.
Band Hero mirrors the design of Guitar Hero 5 with a Quick Start feature that lets you dive right into whatever song is randomly chosen when you launch the game. Going into the menu you have all the standard options for setting up your rocker, which includes using your avatar on the Xbox 360, creating a band, naming the band, creating a logo, etc. and then jumping into the lengthy career mode or maybe just sparking up a fun round of Party Play where anyone can drop in or out and play any instrument they want in any combination.
Band Hero includes all the great local and online multiplayer modes of the past and enhances the competitive experience with the new RockFest mode for four players locally or up to eight online. RockFest includes addicting multiplayer games like:
Band Hero uses the same star and challenge system as Guitar Hero 5. As you play a song a progress meter builds up. When it fills you get a star. You can get up to five stars if you do really well and if you donít miss a note you can get a bonus sixth star. Stars are used to mark your progress through the game and unlock new venues. Each song also has a specific Challenge associated to it. Some require two or more players to complete while others are instrument specific. Each Challenge comes with three tiers of success, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond.
Your guitarist might need to whammy for 15/30/40 seconds or your drummer might need to hit his snare 322 times on a specific song or your bassist might need to up-strum 500 notes. These challenges not only offer a great incentive to replay the various songs in the career mode, but usually earning a Gold record will unlock a nifty prize in the customization store.
Other smaller changes include new individual Star Power meters. No longer do you have to share the blue juice with your band mates, but if you do fill your meter and continue to earn more Star Power it will spill over to the other players. You also have Band Moments where notes catch on fire and everyone in the band needs to nail those notes for special bonuses.
GHStudio has been carried over from the Guitar Hero franchise. This feature-rich tool set allows you to create your own music or download music that others have created. Even though this is the redesigned studio that is easier to use it is still probably way beyond the capabilities of the casual family gamers Band Hero is targeting, but itís nice to have it here in case someone in the house is curious about making their own music and sharing it online with others.
Just when you think these music games canít look any better they go and prove me wrong. While technically no better than Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero has a fresh look with lots of pastel blue, purple, and pinkish red, almost a neon quality that gives the interface and menu screens a Miami South Beach atmosphere. Itís very soothing. Many of your favorite rockers from Guitar Hero have made the trip to this new game and they have been given minor wardrobe adjustments to take the edge off, making them more pop stars than rock stars. You can choose an existing musician or build your own, and from there customization is limited only by your imagination and ability to unlock more items.
Sadly, you cannot appreciate the splendor of this game while playing it, but if you have the chance to watch others play you can experience the realistic camera movements and concert-style TV footage that showcases guitar and drum solos, vocalists, and flashy lights and pyrotechnics. This is MTV-quality stuff here with pre and post concert camera whips and panoramic glides across the crowd. Featured performers have been modeled with expert attention to detail and Taylor Swift is nearly photorealistic as she strums her guitar and sings into the mic.
The sound quality is excellent and you still have that cool mixing board where you can toggle the Dolby Digital and fine-tune every audio element of the game, so if your singer sucks or you want the fans to scream louder you can adjust accordingly. The audio immersion is unrivaled by any other music game, and it sounds like you are on that stage, hearing the music and the screaming fans who will even participate during certain Star Power moments.
I have to admit I had low expectations about Band Hero, especially in this saturated music genre, but Neversoft and Activision have built on the successful design of Guitar Hero 5 and given it a fresh new look and replaced all that aggressive rock and pounding metal with fun and energetic pop music and the smooth sounds of classic rock from the past three decades that will certainly appeal to younger gamers and their parents. Band Hero is going to bring families together unlike any other game, and this is one title that should be at the top of your holiday shopping listÖassuming you can wait that long to play it.