Band Hero Hands-On Impressions

It's Guitar Hero with modern pop hits in Activision's upcoming spin-off.

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2009 will be a big year for Activision's Guitar Hero franchise, as the publisher is set to spin the franchise off into a pair of new titles bearing the Hero moniker. Later this month, it will release DJ Hero, a game that takes the familiar note-matching formula and adapts it for the hip hop and electronic scenes by way of a brand-new turntable controller. It'll quickly follow that up with Band Hero, a game that sticks far more closely to the Guitar Hero experience, but with an aesthetic and tracklist skewed toward a younger audience. We recently spent some hands-on time with a preview build of Band Hero to see what's in store when the game is released next month.

Taylor Swift appears in Band Hero.

We should start by calling a spade a spade. From a gameplay perspective, Band Hero is a nearly identical experience to Guitar Hero 5. With the same multi-instrument configuration and no noticeable changes to the way you play songs in the traditional modes, Band Hero is functionally the same as the most recent entry in the Guitar Hero series--mostly. We'll get to that one difference in a bit. But right off the bat, you'll notice an entirely different look, with the hard rock imagery of Guitar Hero replaced by bright blues and pinks in the menu screens, as well as venues that are more shopping malls than dingy clubs. There are also a few new characters added to the usual stable of GH rockers, such as the dapper, clean-cut Quincy Styles and the adorably pink-haired Midori.

When you scroll through the menus, you'll find the usual array of gameplay modes. There's a full band Career mode that lets you swap instruments and difficulty levels on the fly. There's a Studio mode that lets you record and share your own songs, as well as multiplayer modes that include the full suite of RockFest challenges from GH5. Then there's Party Play, the terrific addition to GH5 that let you jump in and out of songs on the fly, play any instrument combination, and change difficulties without starting over.

But when you hit the blue button from the main menu, you'll jump into a brand-new gameplay mode unique to Band Hero. This is where Band Hero deviates most from the established Guitar Hero gameplay formula. It's a karaoke mode called Sing-Along, and it's a bit different from the act of playing a song in Quickplay or Career as a vocalist. Rather than having the lyrics displayed in a small area at the top of the screen with the words coming in from right to left, the lyrics in Sing-Along are displayed in much larger text toward the bottom of the screen as the words change from white to blue to match the progression of the song. Those lyrics are all you see on the screen besides your band performing in the background. It's just like regular old karaoke; there's no scoring or failing out. It's just you singing the words on the screen with some action going on in the background.

And so does Adam Levine.

Then there's the tracklist. While the cheery look and the inclusion of a karaoke mode combine to add a bit of a unique feel to Band Hero, the songs are really what make the game different from its Guitar Hero forebears. There are a few songs in there that wouldn't feel out of place in a GH game, such as those by Cheap Trick, Pat Benetar, and Styx. But for the most part, these are modern Top 40 hits accompanied by classic sing-along hits. You'll find such artists as Hilary Duff, Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, and Robbie Williams, plus the infectious melodies of Jackson 5's "ABC" and The Village People's "YMCA." (You can find the most recent tracklist right here.)

There are also some features unique to the Wii and DS versions, but our experience was limited to the Xbox 360 version. You can expect to see more on those Nintendo versions as we get closer to Band Hero's November 3 release.

Discussion

94 comments
_CaptainHappy_
_CaptainHappy_

Taylor swift Maroon 5 Hillary Duff Jackson 5 Village People(are all bands/singers in this game i heard of for 5 min then they all lost popularity) seriously just get GH smash hits and get some good songs

Dynamo11
Dynamo11

You know I don't understand all the haters with this one. I mean Smash Hits fair enough it could've been DLC but can you see a Guitar Hero: Metallica, Guitar Hero 5 owner buying these songs to play? I don't think so, and so I think it is a good idea for it to be a brand new game!

Heshertonfist
Heshertonfist

This is quickly becoming the most worn out video game franchise I've ever heard of. The VERY first one came out 4 years ago and there are already 15+ GH games. Way to friggin' milk your cash cow Activision.

theGamerXx
theGamerXx

ok this game is made for sissies and girls. The reason play games like guitar hero is because their rock heads. The only reason they made this is because the douches who only listen to pop and brittany spears felt left out

Mausolus
Mausolus

Gosh I can't wait to buy this and sing along with Village People I think it will be really nice and very fun.

score89
score89

Lego Rb will crush band hero childish style

Endofme
Endofme

It's getting to much of the things now, DJ Hero, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Lego Rock band What will be next? Maybe Flute! :D

sambear4
sambear4

Not every one can sing very well. And pop music always keep a lot weight on singing. So will band hero become a karaok game?

Dragonm137
Dragonm137

I will consider it only if Kayne comes on stage as Taylor Swift is singing, pauses the game, and goes "ima let you finish, but GH:metallica is the best GH game of all time! OF ALL TIME!!!"

MERGATROYDER
MERGATROYDER

Who say's a single idea can't be done a million times and live strong? LMAO! I hope this titles fails. I'm tired of Activision being money hungry. Get some developers to produce new ideas.

greydeadstar
greydeadstar

What are they trying to do with GH. whats next? videoke hero? ****

Lord_of_Dark
Lord_of_Dark

I worked on the game myself, and It's going to be terrible. Just a reskinned version of GH5. Hope everyone DOESN'T buy this.

FF_fan2004
FF_fan2004

To the fiery pits of the Underworld, Band Hero should go. Make way for Metal Hero instead.

lukas1051
lukas1051

"Taylor Swift appears in Band Hero." Aren't screenshots supposed to help sell the game, not stop you buying it?

syedzaim
syedzaim

PLEASE PUT KANYE WEST. and make kanye and taylor sing together. :)))) I'mma let you finish but Guitar Hero Metallica, is the best Guitar Hero ever.

Col-Struckin
Col-Struckin

they put this before lego rock band?! What are they thinking?!

3rma
3rma

PLUS LOOK ITS FREAKIN E 10+ THEY HAVE DONE IT NOW

3rma
3rma

who the heck is gonna buy this Guitar Hero has lost it this along with DJ Hero will ruin the whole guitar hero idea

exiledJON
exiledJON

This game isn't meant for fans of GH its a game for kids, they just want more money. They need to make a true GH game.

Mexican_Diablo
Mexican_Diablo

band hero....taylor swift..... hahaha HELL NO!!!

Kid_Black_Star
Kid_Black_Star

What is Activision thinking this is very said what next this band hero crap is really really the most stupidest thing ever man when will they realize they need to make a Guitar Hero Slipknot Or Linkin Park hell maybe a Guns N' Roses Guitar Hero

-White_Knight-
-White_Knight-

pfft... "Band Hero"... Taylor Swift? ... - not buying any more GH games unless they come out with Led Zeppelin Hero.

luisfer17
luisfer17

Omfg the only game left is that they make a hana montana hero alike game...... =)

QWERTYCommander
QWERTYCommander

@Charization Aww man! I was about to make a Kanye West joke.

the-big-zed
the-big-zed

@jjlinder Lego Rock Band has 40 songs, so, you tell me, what's the difference? And while "Band Hero" is completely unnecessary and pointless, Lego Rock Band is perhaps even more ridicilous mind you.

jjlinder
jjlinder

this is why i hate activision. they milk you for money. see when rockband wants new songs they make dlc. this is awesome. when activision however wants to add new songs, well screw dlc lets put 44 songs on a disk and sell it at full damn price. god this makes me mad >=[

Payasoplas
Payasoplas

So it's gonna be like Guitar Hero for teenager girls?

the-big-zed
the-big-zed

Yeah, well, instead of wasting time with these cheap spin-offs, both Harmonix and Neversoft should take their time and try and come up with ways to reinnovate the now somewhat stagnating series. But of course the publishers say keep 'em coming since there's the money to be made.

falcOWNS
falcOWNS

wow band hero's songlist is lame >:( Hilary Duff? Taylor Swift? dude this is a rock game! not no Sing-it: Pop Edition i approve of abbnormal's Harmonica Hero!!

abbnormmal
abbnormmal

Harmonica Hero FTW!!! Its coming, just wait (Like Comic Book Hero movies, everybody gets one)

Charization
Charization

"I'm sorry Taylor, I'll let you finish and all, but Metallica has the best GH of all time!!" Only buying it cause of the new drums.

Charization
Charization

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

kirbypaket21
kirbypaket21

guitar hero van halen its the best game ever but this totally sucks !!!!

lilmichaelson
lilmichaelson

I'll let you get back to your preview in a moment, but rock band is one of the best music games in the world, just saying. I hope some of you get that.

Paul2005
Paul2005

lol taylor swift.. band hero is going to be horrible

rclift21
rclift21

my nieces and nephews will like it. the new drum set interests me more than the game

Megamanx266
Megamanx266

Why not just add those songs to GH5 DLC? I'm sure it'll be less expensive to do than make this cheap rip-off of your own game!

IzE-DraGoN
IzE-DraGoN

I'm waiting for Accordion Hero :)

Devildante1005
Devildante1005

I hate to see a good franchise turn into a fad. Maybe Jazz Flute Hero next?

Badmutha
Badmutha

No way in hell I'd buy this crap.