Let’s get this out of the way first, shall we? I’ve never owned a Guitar Hero game and I’ve never played one for more than a few minutes at GameStop or in demo form on a home console. I’m more of a fan of that other popular rhythm game that shall not be mentioned in this review. In fact, I think some things Activision does with their Guitar Hero franchise are kind of slimy, but I don’t hate them or anything. I’m not that type of gamer.
All that being said, I quite enjoyed my time playing through the career of Band Hero – being my first real experience with a Guitar Hero type game. Not having played GH5, I understand Band Hero is built in the same manner, with not much being different besides the visual feel and the music itself catering more toward the pop genres than rock and metal. In fact, I probably like the tracks in Band Hero more overall than I would the tracks available in GH5 or any of the previous games, so possibly that added to my enjoyment.
I was impressed by the rocker customization options, especially being able to adjust minute features of your character, my only issue really was with the fact that some adjustments don’t seem to do much. Take the height options, for example. From the low end to the high end it looks like there’s only an inch or two difference and you have to watch closely on-screen as you make the changes to see them. Overall though, very nice customization options.
When I finally jumped into Career mode, I was amazed by the venues available and the graphic presentation of everything. It was so “in your face” and over the top that you actually felt like you were there performing and you could feel the heat of the fireworks and the sound of the bass vibrating through your body. I’m a guitar fan – both lead and bass – and the animations my character made throughout the course of playing songs were smooth and eye-grabbing.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I was more of a fan of these pop variation genres than I am of rock and metal – I adore Taylor Swift and like a lot of No Doubt and Maroon 5’s stuff, as well. I thought the guys at Neversoft did an outstanding job with the motion capture of all these performers, especially Taylor Swift and Gwen Stefani. There are little behind the scenes videos on the game disc that you can watch from each of the mo-cap sessions and in one of them one of the Neversoft guys says about Taylor Swift that you will be able to get closer to her in Band Hero than you ever could at an actual concert, but that seeing those performances in the game will make you feel like you’re actually there watching her live. He wasn’t kidding. All the mo-cap performances are very well done and make you feel like you’re actually there. I’ve seen many live performances from both Taylor Swift and No Doubt, and I can say that you would recognize them anywhere just by watching their likenesses in the game. Their mannerisms, movements, wardrobe and facial expressions are all there.
While you can breeze through the Career mode pretty easily by skipping a bunch of stuff and just sneaking by, the real depth of the game is in playing each song and attempting the challenges. I really like that game play, but I feel that there should be one challenge for each instrument for each song, instead of one challenge total for each song. Guitar fans are best off, as they can easily swap between lead or bass guitar for challenges of both types. It isn’t that easy to switch to playing drums or vocals, let alone getting another band member for the band challenges. This isn’t even to mention if you aren’t good at other instruments. I tried a vocal challenge on a song that I thought I could handle and failed miserably on easy difficulty. It would have been nice if there was a lead or bass guitar challenge for that same song if I’m not good at the vocals.
Okay, I lied about not mentioning Rock Band in this review – but this won’t be a bad thing necessarily. This being my first real experience with one of Activision’s “Hero” franchise games, I found the difficulty of the “medium” setting much more aggressive than in Rock Band. The second venue in I was having difficulty on some songs – not to the point of failing out like my vocals, though. Later on the difficulty is uneven – in the a single venue you go from insanely tough “medium” difficulty songs to incredibly easy. (Yes, laugh it up, I’m a medium difficulty guy. Live with it.) While the higher difficulty curve isn’t a bad thing, I find the uneven difficulty rather jarring at times, and that is all Band Hero – it has nothing to do with the Rock Band comparison.
Overall, I enjoyed the entire presentation of Band Hero, even if it was a tad bit “girly” in it’s color scheme, possibly a bit too “sparkly” for me. The “over the top” presentation was a nice change from what I have been used to in other similar games. I found the Career mode much more enjoyable and structured than similar features in those other titles, where you typically are thrown into the big world and left to flounder on your own, not quite sure of which direction to go. If you’re a fan of the music genres presented in Band Hero, as well as rhythm games in general, it’s definitely worth it. Remember, you can import some Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero 5 tracks into it, as well, if that’s a route you may be interested in. I enjoyed it quite a bit, even if I wasn’t crazy about the difficulty curve. Your mileage may vary, of course. And remember, YOU ROCK! (Ok, that was lame, I’ll shut up now.)
- Title: Band Hero
- Developer: Neversoft
- Publisher: Activision
- MSRP: $59.99 (game only), $199.99 (entire band kit + game)
- Release Date: November 3, 2009
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was purchased by DualShockers, Inc. for reviewing purposes.