A Pop Sensation

When you sell an initial combined one million plus units between your last three titles including Beatles: Rock Band, Guitar Hero 5, and DJ Hero, it absolutely makes sense that Activision would continue its onslaught of the music videogame industry and kick out yet another rendition for the Guitar Hero library entitled "Band Hero."

Now there’s been a lot of talk round the Web about the game lately and it’s not all been good so we may as well spill the beans right out here on the table now. The question that keeps popping up so frequently these days in regards to Band Hero is that "Does this game truly continue to push the envelope for the series or is it simply and quite literally Guitar Hero 5 wrapped in a pretty little rainbow jewel case?"

Now I’m not a gossipin’ man so you ain’t heard it from me"But if I was a gossipin’ man I would darn sure agree that a lot of things do indeed look familiar here.

The evidence clearly speaks for itself. Band Hero sports a number of cool modes including "Competitive" mode where you can sound off head to head against your friends in a variety of musical duels, "Quick Play" mode which allows fast access to stage time and an extensive menu of songs to choose from, "Rockstar Creator" mode where players can customize their personal avatars from head to toe to suit their own distinct styles, and "Career" mode where players can take their avatars on tour and unlock new places to play and new songs for the title list.

The "Party Play" feature is absolutely sweet allowing players to instantly insert themselves into a random jam session from the start up menu with the option to join in, drop out, or switch personal options at any time without fear of failing the song or interrupting the flow of music and losing that spontaneous experience. Add to that the ability to customize your band with any multiple of vocalists, bassists, drummers, or guitarists as well as download, share, or even create your own music via the innovative GH Studio and Tunes first introduced in "World Tour" and this games looking like it’s got a lot going for it. The only problem now is that if you happen to own a copy of Guitar Hero 5"I haven’t told you anything new yet.

Yeah, that’s right, Band Hero ultimately has all the bells and whistles of Guitar Hero 5 with the exception of an all-new "Sing-a-long" mode which truthfully leaves a little for the wanting. Now, when this kind of thing goes down, especially when you’re a well respected developer/publisher of the game industry, you’ve got to know you’re going to receive significant drama from the gaming masses. I honestly don’t understand the marketing strategy here releasing Guitar Hero 5 which proved it self to be very innovative at the time, then shocking the music world with DJ Hero which literally reached a new plateau for the music genre of games and then sort of revisiting familiar ground all over again with Band Hero.

To quote Randy Jackson from the show "American Idol": "Hmm, I’m not really feeling that one Dawg. Not you’re best performance."

So to the guys and gals down at Activision I wish you good luck with putting out all those flames circulating around the Web. And please don’t take this little ranting of mine too personally. After all, what’s one more log on the fire right?

Let’s move on. So now with all the facts laid out, the even bigger question is does this game deliver enough bang for its buck? Surprisingly, I would go out on a limb and say that the answer is yes depending on your perspective. I say yes because while over the last couple years no one can deny that the Guitar Hero series has given Rock music an even stronger respective stance in the music world, you’ve gotta be real: We’ve been rocked out. Thank goodness, for the Beatles changing up the rock mojo a bit and then DJ hero coming behind and putting R&B into mix. And now we have Band Hero to really help round out and represent all genres of music for the series with its Pop Music style of game play.

Band Hero ships with more than 65 tracks from the hottest new bands and classic artists, including Maroon 5, Taylor Smith, Jesse McCartney, The Go-Go’s, No Doubt, The Bravery, EvanEscense, Tonic, Nelly, Janet Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and even the Jackson 5 to name a few. There’s a really good diversity of song selection here and once you’ve acquainted yourself with all of it you’re really going to warm up to this one. I’d even go as far as to say that the song list in Band Hero rivals if not bests that of Guitar Hero 5. But, hey, that’s just my perspective.

Even more so there is actually some seriously challenging game play here in terms of skill even for the expert level player. No matter what instrument you choose to go with you’re going to find more than a few memorably difficult songs out there sure to really put you to the test. If you’ve got a fetish for difficulty Band Hero may surprise you in more ways than one.

The bottom line is that while Band Hero certainly seems like a Guitar Hero 5 clone, it doesn’t mean you should totally write this one off either. Clone or no clone the game is still super solid all around and has a pretty strong play selection to help back it up. The challenge level of the game is respectable even for the most advanced player which makes both single and multiplayer modes of the game a blast. If you’re a serious fanatic of the series and a sponge for all genres of music then I would suggest adding this title to the rest of your Guitar Hero library.

Despite a mixed bag of first impressions, Band Hero has what it takes to stand in the spotlight. Check it out for yourself.

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