Band Hero - 360 - Preview
Although only a few years old, the Guitar Hero franchise has been one of the most powerful forces in gaming, sparking a rhythm-based revolution and cluttering many a living room with plastic instruments. With the most recent entry to the franchise, Guitar Hero 5, selling like gangbusters, it would seem that fans aren't letting up on the series. However, there are some people who haven't been able to embrace the franchise, due to unfamiliarity or just distaste with the songs on offer. And to be sure, the franchises track list isn't for everyone; some people just aren't that big into rock music, or simply don't want to play a song that they are unfamiliar with. For them, Activision seems to have their answer in Band Hero.
Band Hero is less of a spin-off than an actual game entry to the GH franchise, offering players the gameplay enhancements from Guitar Hero 5 with a soundtrack focused on pop music from across a variety of genres like country, rap, power pop, and so on. Activision sent over a preview build of the game so we could take a look at what the game had to offer potential buyers.
If you're unfamiliar with the rhythm game mechanics set forth by the GH series, here's a brief rundown: you must use your instrument-based controller to hit the proper notes as they appear at the bottom of the note highway on the screen, corresponding with the music. You can play solo, or you can get a group of friends together to play other instruments or sing along with you.
Band Hero uses the same gameplay engine as Guitar Hero 5, meaning that the band mechanic is exactly the same as the one featured in the latter. You'll be able to use any combination of four instruments as in Guitar Hero 5, doing four-way sing-along, four drummers, two guitarists and two drummers, etc. Additionally, the no-fail Play Now feature from GH5 is present in Band Hero, meaning that players will be able to drop-in or drop-out at any point of the song, and change instruments or difficulty on the fly.
The area where Band Hero distinguishes itself the most is the track list. Whereas the Guitar Hero franchise has always focused more on Guitar-heavy rock tracks, Band Hero features mostly pop music. You'll find a majority of popular tunes from the past several decades on the track list, including "ABC" by the Jackson 5, "She Will Be Loved" by Maroon 5, "Mr. Roboto" by Styx, and "Picture to Burn" by Taylor Swift. The soundtrack won't really present much of a challenge to expert Guitar Hero players, but that doesn't seem to be the point of the game; this title is meant to get players who perhaps haven't felt much of a connection to the series' past offerings and want to sing, strum, or drum away to some pop songs that they'd be familiar with.
Graphically, Band Hero offers up a different look from previous games in the series. The whole aesthetic features a more pastel-ish look, featuring a neon pink and blue theme that seems to contrast Guitar Hero 5's more solid look. The aesthetic seems to be trying to appeal to the girl gamer set, and doesn't look bad at all. The other graphical enhancements made to the engine in Guitar Hero 5 are still present here, featuring nice looking character models and environments.
While most hardcore Guitar Hero fans might balk at a soundtrack that features Hilary Duff and Janet Jackson, Band Hero still has a lot to offer to fans of the franchise who enjoy pop music, or newcomers looking for an accessible entry point to the franchise. Look for it next month.