Band Hero Review
Now, naturally, we know what 90% of people do when they click on these reviews, they look at the score first and some choose to read the review. So if you're the 10% that reads, well, allow me to make something clear, despite a fairly nice score, I actually don't like Band Hero very much. As is always the case with me and these games, I love them because of their very rock heavy soundtracks. Band Hero is the very opposite of that. You see, this game is aimed at a different kind of gamer...the type who enjoys listening to the top 40 samplings of your local hit station. The songs that would make the rounds of MTV's former Total Request Live. The kind of songs that, well...teenage girls listen to. And quite frankly, it isn't my style. But I've actually not weighed down the score of Band Hero because I don't like the soundtrack, I can't do that because this is all subjective.
I've refrained from giving Band Hero a score as high as the other games, because it offers very little in terms of a proper experience. For starters, unlike the massive libraries of the past Guitar Hero games totaling as many as 85 songs, Band Hero features 65. And yet the price remains a full $60. Moreover, because this is an all new franchise for Activision, many of you may have been expecting a different approach with numerous refinements and some new features. But instead, what you get here is a Guitar Hero 5 expansion pack, essentially. Yes, the menus have been tweaked around, the appearances of your rockstars have been toned down to look less aggressive, and the overall theme of the game is very...glimmery, glittery, and bright.
But that doesn't change the fact that the career mode is pulled straight out of Guitar Hero 5, with virtually no differences made. So here I am, singing a Taylor Swift song, and not knowing a damn thing about it, but my concern is not that I'm singing a Taylor Swift song, but rather, that Band Hero has presented practically nothing new to the table. But it gets a bit worse. You see, for Band Hero they've developed a new drumset, and it features a number of mechanical and physical enhancements to make for a better playing experience. Unfortunately, this drumset is temporarily exclusive for the Wii version, and PS3 and Xbox 360 owners won't be finding a new drumset in their bundles until next year. Instead, what they will find in their Band Hero bundles is the old Guitar Hero 5 drumset. What? I don't know. It makes no sense to me, either.
Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't looking for a change in the formula, just a few noticeable enhancements and tweaks would've sufficed. Just about the only two new features I saw were a karaoke mode, where you aren't scored and simply sing along. And the other being bonuses challenge per song, allowing you to earn more stars per track if you accomplish certain tasks. It's nothing special or great, though I figured I'd still mention it. But this lack of freshness is not a deal-breaking issue, as the current Guitar Hero setup is still a solid one. And if you're into this kind of music, you will surely enjoy the game considerably, because, again, the fundamentals are still very good. You get the same eight-player online gameplay, the full band experience (though I'm pretty sure the double bass is useless here), the ability to import Guitar Hero 5 and World Tour songs (but at a price), in addition to being able to export the Band Hero songs into GH5. In addition to the career, quickplay, and competitive modes, you still the GH Studio, the Music Store, Rockstar Creator, and Training mode.
The visuals, as I had mentioned, are less metal, and more glitz and glamour. Glittery and bright colors surround the menus, as they do the stage on which you play on. Your characters are also less aggressive looking in design, and instead toned down to the fit the theme of the game. Character details are pretty good, as you'll instantly recognize the likes of Taylor Swift, Adam Levine, and numerous others, when you get a chance to unlock and play as them. Unfortunately, the crowds are still as repetitive as ever before, and there really isn't a whole lot more to see in Band Hero as far as changes go. But it's alright for what it is -- it gets the job done.
Of course, as is always the case with these games, you're buying them for the soundtrack. The light rock and pop hits here are brought to you by the likes of Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Lily Allen, Spice Girls, The All-American Rejects, Duran Duran, Fall Out Boy, Jesse McCartney, Hinder, Jackson 5, No Doubt, Aly & AJ, Yellowcard, Hilary Duff, Filter, Joss Stone, 3 Doors Down, and, well, you get the point. There are a number of classic rock and oldies hits here too, but it's the stuff that's been played to death for the past 30 years, such as Jackson 5's "ABC", Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman", Village People's "Y.M.C.A, and so forth. Beyond the whole subjective matter of 'this soundtrack is good or bad', I can say this much: we've played a number of these songs before in other games. It's time for something more fresh.
All in all, Band Hero brings very little to the table, offering only a small number of minute features that add virtually nothing to the overall experience of the game. The bottomline is a very simple one that boils down to the soundtrack of the game. If you happen to like this genre of tunes, then you'll like Band Hero a lot. But if you're a seasoned Guitar Hero fan who, for whatever reason, also happens to like the soundtrack here, don't expect anything but an expansion pack. And avoid getting the full bundle, as it comes packaged with dated hardware.
11/7/2009 Arnold Katayev