Pop Goes the Hero
October 14, 2009 – Band Hero – the name most thought Activision would use for World Tour and Guitar Hero 5 – is a spinoff from the main franchise that looks to capitalize on the success of music from the pop charts. By presenting itself in more casual-friendly pinks and electric blues, bringing together a compilation of chart-topping hits, and adding the karaoke-style Sing-Along mode, the next outing in the storied music IP should be the perfect addition to round out any Guitar Hero fanatic’s collection.
After going hands-on with Band Hero, it became immediately apparent that the game is more or less a repackaged Guitar Hero 5. That’s no knock – the Guitar Hero 5 template in terms of organization and play modes is essentially the Holy Grail of music gaming. As such, GH5’s drop-in drop-out Party Play setting is in full effect. You can play competitively online or at home in the RockFest mode. You can create your own songs through GH Studio. And you can bring together any instrument combination you wish (four guitars, two drums and two guitars, etc.). What’s more, if you’re a Wii owner, you can expect all the same great console-specific extras that came with GH5, i.e. Mii Freestyle, connectivity between Wii and DS, and if you own Band Hero for both Wii and DS you’ll unlock additional content.
Utilizing the Guitar Hero 5 structure as its base, Band Hero re-skins the game to make it pop music-friendly. At first glance, the pink and blue color scheme and bright lights may turn off the franchise’s core following. Even the classic avatars of the series have gotten a thick coat of polish – they look like they could have been pulled directly out of Gossip Girl or The O.C. Nevertheless, the teenybopper finish is only skin deep, there is an awful lot of quality content that everyone will enjoy. Moreover, every song from GH: World Tour can be brought over to Band Hero to further expand its appeal.
Besides, you should never judge a book by its cover. Band Hero has a lot more in common with its Guitar Hero roots than with SingStar. Players will still be able to choose from a multitude of difficulty settings (from Easy to Expert) that are bound to challenge all but the most talented virtual virtuosos. The development teams have lavished over the note tracks with as much attention to detail as you would expect from the mainline Guitar Hero series, and many of the songs have a rather steep level of difficulty.
Of course, in order to fully capture the casual crowd and get girls over to your house to party, Activision, Vicarious Visions, Neversoft, and Budcat have put together a set list of pop songs spanning the decades and various genres that are bound to have everyone in your living room singing along. While the hands-on code we played only had 26 tracks to play (a handful of which were in-house GHTunes songs), all of them were extremely well-known crowd-pleasers. Also, the final retail release will feature a total of 65 tracks, including artists such as Taylor Swift, No Doubt, Lily Allen, The All-American Rejects, Jackson 5, Maroon 5, Jesse McCartney, Go-Go’s, The Turtles, The Mighty Bosstones, and Janet Jackson.
The most unique portion of this newest entry is the inclusion of the karaoke-like Sing-Along mode. Rather than worrying about scores or hitting notes precisely, partygoers simply sing along as you would in your favorite sushi lounge. Up to four players can join in on any song from the entire collection, instantly making this one of the most compelling singing-centric party titles on the market.
While Band Hero may not offer a whole lot of innovation over Guitar Hero 5, it is set to be a great alternative to it. Its convincing set list, tailored to pop music enthusiasts, will undoubtedly find a massive audience this holiday season. Even if you’re not into the top 40, there’s a heck of a lot more good music included in this game besides bubblegum rock. Band Hero should be a great way to get friends of every stripe over to your house to kick back and have a good time. Stay tuned to CheatCC for our full written review when it releases this November.