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Band Hero - PS3 - Review

Band Hero's premise is spelled out right on the box with the tagline, "65 songs by the biggest pop artists." That message couldn't be any clearer. This isn't Guitar Hero, the rock-heavy music series everybody knows. It isn't anything like DJ Hero, the newest kid in town. Rather, Band Hero is a song-specific spin-off of the last two Guitar Hero games: World Tour and Guitar Hero 5. The result of this venture is a game that plays exactly the same but sounds entirely different.

 

Sugar, We’re Going Down

If you’ve listened to mainstream radio or watched MTV in the last few years, you have no doubt heard the oddly titled Fall Out Boy hit, “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” Catchy, somewhat memorable and definitely acceptable to a wide variety of listeners, the song made its way onto pop radio – despite not really being a pop song. The same can be said for “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence, “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 (close, but not quite a pop band), “Lips of an Angel” by Hinder, and a few others. So while this is the pop-dedicated addition to the Hero series, it is not strictly for pop-obsessed music fans.

What if, however, you are a pop-loving gamer that has been waiting for Guitar Hero to trade its edginess for a little bit of Taylor Swift, Lily Allen and Nelly Furtado? Maybe you’re “Just a Girl” waiting for No Doubt to come on stage and rock out virtually. If that’s the case, Band Hero is certainly the game for you. From “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls to “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People, this jam-packed disc has something for everyone. There are modern hits like “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, and older tunes like “Rio” by Duran Duran. If that’s not enough, the game goes back even further to bring you songs like “ABC” by the Jackson 5. Cheap Trick, whose peppy hit, “I Want You to Want Me,” previously appeared in Sony’s successful SingStar series, has sidestepped the dangers of rehashing music game content by bringing a live version of the song to Band Hero.

 

The Game You Wanted. The Game You Got.

Fully aware that the Hero format is nowhere near its breaking point, Activision has no intention of fixing it – at least not this year. Thus, if you were hoping to buy Guitar Hero 5 to play the series’ natural progression, and pick up Band Hero for an entirely different take on music gaming, you’re going to be disappointed by this latest offering.

Despite the new (perhaps unnecessary) name, Band Hero – unlike DJ Hero – isn’t really a different franchise within the Hero line of music games. What you know is what you get: the same great content the series has been delivering from day one plus solid visuals and full instrument support (guitar, drums and microphone). The character models – which consist of polygonal versions of instantly recognizable stars like Taylor Swift – are pretty amusing. For those who want to jump in and out of a multiplayer game at any time, Band Hero has a mode to satisfy that need. The game also includes a familiar music-making feature, as well as a karaoke-style mode that’s perfect for singing your favorite pop tracks.

Though the song choices may be vastly different from the mostly rock-infused Guitar Hero titles, the gameplay functions haven’t changed. You still need to have nimble fingers and a good ear (or really sharp eyes) to hit every note as the multi-colored icons scroll across the screen. Once again, Activision has taught us that some songs are more fun in a video game than they are anywhere else. “Dirty Little Secret” was never my favorite All-American Rejects track. Their earlier, quirkier tunes were much better. But did that make its inclusion in Band Hero any less fun? Nope. In fact, this might be the most I’ve enjoyed the song.

 

Which, come to think of it, could be a very good experiment going forward: when good bands start to go bad, stick ‘em in a Hero game to see if they can squeeze any enjoyment out of their souring sounds. If they can, both gamers – and the struggling bands – win. If not, at least we’ll know the bands in question are truly dead.

Gameplay: 8.0
An entertaining pop-based version of Guitar Hero. If you love this music, you'll love this game.

Graphics: 8.0
Though you probably haven't seen these artists in virtual form before, you know exactly what to expect from Band Hero's graphics. Luckily, despite being overly familiar, they still look good.

Sound: 8.2
Once again, Band Hero delivers high-quality audio recordings of a wide range of songs.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium
There's enough of a challenge within Band Hero to keep its core audience from getting bored, but it might feel like a pushover to Guitar Hero masters.

Concept: 6.9
Band Hero is Guitar Hero with different songs.

Multiplayer: 8.5
A great mainstream-friendly music game with tons of mainstream tunes.

Overall: 8.3
If looked at as a music expansion disc (one that can be played entirely on its own), Band Hero is a solid deal. Just don’t think of it as an opportunity to expand on the Guitar Hero franchise with something fresh – that, it does not do.

Great

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