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Band Hero Review

By Jeff Buckland, 12/2/2009

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If you feel like you just haven't gotten enough Guitar Hero this year, Activision has got you covered. After half a dozen games on multiple platforms, they've now branched the Hero franchise into three paths - the new ones are DJ Hero, which involves a pretty new style of gameplay with an entirely new controller, and Band Hero.

What I find so odd about Band Hero is that it does almost nothing different over the Guitar Hero games. Aside from some new real-life musicians playing parts in-game, the soundtrack is pretty much the only thing different. This time, the track list is a little more family-oriented, garnering an ESRB rating of E10+ rather than the Teen rating of pretty much every other music game ever made.

But those two ratings aren't exactly far apart; the music itself stays away from the more heavy examples in the metal and punk genres, but even songs like "American Pie" still have words like "whiskey" censored. I would understand the desire to have a family-friendly music game if everything else was rated M, but the censorship was already pretty heavy. As far as Activision's idea that getting the whole family in on this one will be easier, I'm not so sure - I can't imagine a lot of teenage sons finding themselves too excited about playing Taylor Swift or Hilary Duff songs.

Then there are the 80s songs like Culture Club's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" and Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine" - these are simply not endearing for many people at all anymore, and while there are some 80s winners on here like Styx' "Mr. Roboto" and Devo's "Whip It", I don't suspect that Band Hero will be any more family-friendly than Guitar Hero or Rock Band.

At the very least, the best features that made Guitar Hero 5 so much fun - Party Play mode and the ability to have multiple people on the same type of instrument - are here as well. I welcome the addition of more tracks in Party Play mode no matter how they become available, and while I've got a rather large list of available tracks to play in Rock Band, it is very nice being able to have two singers for a fairly wide range of songs.

Just about all of the features that you're now expecting from a modern day GH release - song creation, online play, cooperative and versus modes - are all here, and I do have to admit that while I'm not much of a Taylor Swift fan, her appearance in Band Hero works better than I expected. I also still really appreciate that certain songs come with unique animations for the singers - a song like "Y.M.C.A." just wouldn't be the same without it.

Frankly, Band Hero could have easily been called Guitar Hero 5 Part 2 and no one would have cared. It's pretty much the same game with only a few visual differences and new cosmetic elements, and while Activision's most prolific franchise is only getting more and more in our faces with every passing year, I still don't see much of an end in sight for music games. Unfortunately, it also seems less and less like Activision is willing to reinvent the wheel, leaving their competitors, Harmonix (creators of Rock Band), to innovate and copying only their ideas that work. At some point that's going to come back and bite Activision in the ass, but it's certainly not happening yet.

Overall: 78%



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