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Band Hero

 

Band Hero

ESRB: Everyone 10+
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Miscellaneous
 
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Author:

Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision

Features

Players: 1-4
Co-op: 2-4
5MB to Game Save

Overshadowed by the recent releases of DJ Hero and Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero arrives on the scene with little hoopla. Some gamers might have been looking forward to this latest music game, but I have to be honest, Band Hero was nowhere near on my fall/winter release radar. Advertised as a standalone Guitar Hero game aimed at families, tweens, teens, and the casual gamer; Band Hero certainly accomplishes what it sets out to do. Band Hero allows you to play with all the Guitar Hero instruments and 'rock out' or rather 'pop out' to some of your favorite artists like Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and the All-American Rejects (to name a few). Yet, does Band Hero offer up anything other than a softer set list aimed at a different target audience? In short, the answer is no, yet, at the end of the day, those who are not so fond of heavy electric guitar songs may actually enjoy Activision’s latest Guitar Hero game.

Graphics

Visually, Band Hero for the Xbox 360 is right on par with Guitar Hero 5 (GH5) which was released a couple of months ago. In fact, I really didn't notice much of a difference as it certainly does not appear Band Hero received any visual upgrades. If anything my main criticism would be the game does not offer enough unique qualities to make it stand out in its own. Band Hero still very much looks and feels like a Guitar Hero game. For that reason alone, I would have to say I am a tad disappointed with the games visuals. Don't get me wrong, the character animations look good, the colors are bright, and the presentation of the game has a slick stylized look about it. Finally, the stages and new concert venues also look very good while the scrolling notes along the highway look just as good as ever. That being said, if you expected a truly original visual experience, Band Hero will disappoint you.

Sound

As far as the audio is concerned, Band Hero scores decent marks but it is not the best setlist we have seen to date. Out of the box, Band Hero features 65-tracks featuring 'Top-40 pop hits' spanning over several decades. At first glance, 65-tracks seems like a fairly large track list, but compared to GH5's 85-tracks, Band Hero falls a little short. As for the songs themselves, I really have to question the song selection as it does seem to lack some focus. In my view, Band Hero would have been better served to stick with modern pop tunes and stayed away from some of the oldies. Playing American Pie or ABC just seems a little odd after a couple of Pink or Taylor Swift tunes. On one hand, parents will enjoy some of the oldies but the tweens and teens will inevitably want to skip those tunes. I should also mention some of the songs are censored which can be an annoyance at times. My question is why include the songs at all if some of the lyrics had to be screened out? One of the redeeming qualities of the games songs is unlike previous versions
of the Guitar Hero series, in Band Hero all the songs are unlocked and available to play from the start.

Like the last few Guitar Hero games before it, the songs in Band Hero are master tracks as well, which is expected in today's interactive music market. Gone are the days of listening to some cover band play your favourite tunes. For those wondering what songs they get to play I thought it would be pertinent to make a list of the songs available from Band Hero:

3 Doors Down - When I'm Gone
The Airborne Toxic Event - Gasoline
The All-American Rejects - Dirty Little Secret
Alphabeat - Fascination
Aly & AJ - Like Whoa
Angels & Airwaves - The Adventure
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals - Steal My Kisses
Big Country - In A Big Country
The Bravery - Believe
Carl Douglas - Kung Fu Fighting
Cheap Trick - I Want You To Want Me (Live)
Cold War Kids - Hang Me Up To Dry
Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Counting Crows - Angels Of The Silences
Culture Club - Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?
Dashboard Confessional - Hands Down
David Bowie - Let's Dance
Devo - Whip It
Don McLean - American Pie
Duffy - Warwick Avenue
Duran Duran - Rio
Evanescence - Bring Me To Life
Everclear - Santa Monica
Fall Out Boy - Sugar, We're Going Down
Filter - Take A Picture
Finger Eleven - Paralyzer
The Go-Go's - Our Lips Are Sealed
Hilary Duff - So Yesterday
Hinder - Lips of An Angel
Jackson 5 - ABC
Janet Jackson - Black Cat
Jesse McCartney - Beautiful Soul
Joan Jett - Bad Reputation
Joss Stone - You Had Me
Katrina And The Waves - Walking On Sunshine
The Kooks - Naive
KT Tunstall - Black Horse & The Cherry Tree
The Last Goodnight - Pictures Of You
Lily Allen - Take What You Take
Maroon 5 - She Will Be Loved
Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Impression That I Get
N.E.R.D. - Rockstar
Nelly Furtado - Turn Off The Light
No Doubt - Don't Speak
No Doubt - Just A Girl
OK Go - A Million Ways
Papa Roach - Lifeline
Parachute - Back Again
Pat Benetar - Love is A Battlefield
Poison - Every Rose Has It Thorns
Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue - Kids
The Rolling Stones - Honky Tonk Woman
Roy Orbison - Oh, Pretty Woman
Santigold - L.E.S. Aristes
Snow Patrol - Take Back The City
Spice Girls - Wannabe
Styx - Mr. Roboto
Taylor Swift - Picture To Burn
Taylor Swift - Love Story
Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me
Tonic - If You Could Only See
The Turtles - Happy Together
Village People - YMCA
Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue

As you can see it is a pretty good set list with some exceptions depending on your taste. It is certainly not my favourite setlist to date: however my daughter and her friends loved playing some of those tunes listed above.

The overall sound quality is good as well. You hear every little note in 5.1 surround sound and I noted how all the tunes just filled my media room. All in all anyone who has done a bit of research and actually enjoys many of the tunes on the setlist before picking up the game should be happy with the whole audio package offered in Band Hero.

Gameplay

While Band Hero is advertised as a stand-alone Guitar Hero game and does not necessarily fall into the expansion category like Smash Hits or Guitar Hero: Metallica; it does try to tap into that casual gamer market that nearly every major publisher attempts to conquer. So to that end, Band Hero does exactly what it set out to do. The only problem is fans of the franchise who have come to expect significant changes each time a new entry into the series lands in stores will sadly be disappointed. At the end of the day, Band Hero is simply a re-skinned version of Guitar Hero 5. Before I get ahead of myself, let me just provide a quick recap of what the Guitar Hero game is all about for the few that are actually still living under a rock. For those veterans of the franchise you can skip the next paragraph.

Band Hero is a rhythm based game where you hit falling notes that are represented on-screen as coloured discs. When playing with the guitar you must hold down the corresponding coloured fret button(s) in time with the coloured discs while strumming to beat. As you manage to hit successive notes you increase your bonus multiplier and rack up the score. Similarly with the drums, as the on-screen coloured disks drop you need to bang on the corresponding coloured drum or cymbal with your drum sticks or push the foot pedal for the kick drum. The microphone works similar to other rhythm based games, such as SingStar and Rock Band, as it uses a system which gauges your pitch. The pitch level required is displayed via horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Your pitch is compared to the pitch of the artist(s) singing the song and the better your singing abilities (e.g. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score. Everything that I just described is the essence of Band Hero in a nutshell.

The party play mode is arguably the best feature of the game. This mode is geared for families and friends to play the game together. The ability to play together with no hassle is fantastic and for those of you who played this mode in GH5 it returns in Band Hero. Anyone who has played Rock Band or Guitar Hero: World Tour will probably relate to my experiences of setting up a band with my own friends. Setting up a song, all the instruments, settings, and so on, can be a royal pain in the ass. Far too often something is not set up right, people start complaining, and the whole song has to come to a grinding halt. Well in Party Play mode you can dive right into the game without any fuss. By simply pressing the yellow button on any controller you, or any other person, can immediately start playing along. Players can drop in/out at any point in any song without disrupting any others. Players can also change personal settings such as difficulty level on the fly without interrupting the jam session. It makes for a seamless experience and it comes in handy when you are playing with that one guy who always likes to tinker with his settings. Party Mode can randomly shuffle through the entire setlist or you can create a specific setlist to play. The Party Mode's only downside is you cannot play online in this mode as it is truly intended for in-house parties. All in all, the Party Mode is perfect for Band Hero and gives families an easy way to jump into a song and play like a band.

I spent the bulk of my time in Band Hero’s career mode and overall there are no major improvements or enhancements here. Once again, you can go at solo or with a buddy. Yes, you can go through career mode online with a friend as well. You can customize your experience in a number of ways. Everything from picking your band name to playing with your Xbox LIVE Avatar, Band Hero has it all. On the downside however it is a short career mode and lacks some depth. You play various venues and trudge your way through mini setlists; however the whole experience does feel a tad shallow. By the time I hit the third act, I was bored and wished I could have gone through a career mode that actually had some progression. In other words, I would have enjoyed trying to make it big with an aspiring boy band playing bigger and bigger venues. Again, I think the developers missed the mark and they could have made a career mode with an enjoyable storyline making the Band Hero experience a truly unique one.

The quickplay mode is also included in Band Hero and every song in the game is now available for quickplay from the moment you first fire up the game. No longer do you have to play through the career mode to unlock various songs. This is simply a fantastic feature for gamers such as myself who simply do not have the time to play through an entire career mode, given how many games come out for review during the holiday season. In quickplay you can build a playlist of as many songs as you want and rock away.

Another addition to the game is the Competitive Mode. This mode allows up to four players locally or eight players online to engage in head-to-head competition. A number of new play modes have been added to the multiplayer mix with Band Hero including RockFest, which allows you to fight it out in a Battle Royale that includes all six non-team play modes. Within RockFest Mode players can choose from various head-to-head gameplay types including:

- Momentum: Songs get more difficult or easier on the fly depending on player performance.

- Perfectionist: Rewards players with the highest percentage at the end of each song section.

- Elimination: Players are eliminated throughout a song based on their performance in each segment and the last man standing wins!

- Do-or-Die: Missing any three notes for a song section temporarily knocks players out of the game and keeps them from scoring.

- Streakers: Players are awarded points for each note streak in multiples of 10.

- Pro Face Off: Head-to-head battle where players all play the same song on the same difficulty with the same instrument.

Band Hero also includes the Music Studio which has left me scratching my head as clearly the studio is geared towards the veteran GH gamers. I can't really see the casual gamer getting too involved with the studio given the complexities of it. You can also go online again and download any of the tracks available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. I don't have an accurate count but there are easily over 200 songs available to download. The ability to import your songs from GH: World Tour and GH5 is also available, but you can only import a certain amount of available songs which is a bummer. Not to mention it also costs you some Microsoft points. So for those looking to import the songs and trade in your copy of GH5 you will sadly be disappointed.


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