Band Hero Drum Set Hands-On
Check out the newly redesigned drums from Activision and Red Octane.
September 29, 2009 - Back in July, Red Octane raised eyebrows when they posted pictures of a new unidentified drum peripheral on the official Guitar Hero Store blog. Bearing several physical variations from the Guitar Hero World Tour drum set and leaked just before the release of Guitar Hero 5, many suspected that the leaked peripheral would be released as a bundled kit for the new title, but as we've learned now Activision is saving the new design to launch with their latest "Hero" franchise – Band Hero. When the game launches this November, the drum kit will be available as part of the Band Hero Super Bundle for the Nintendo Wii and will remain exclusive to the Wii until Xbox 360 and PlayStation variations are released later this year. In the meantime, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 Band Hero Super Bundles will include the Guitar Hero World Tour drum set. Activision was kind enough to invite us to check out the freshly redesigned kit to find out how the design fares.
With the new drum kit, Activision and Red Octane sought to cut down the bulk in both packaged and bundled form from the Guitar Hero World Tour design. With a smaller frame that breaks down into more parts, the Band Hero design takes up less floorspace and comes in a significantly smaller box. Due to the size and weight reduction of most of the parts, assembly is a lot less of a hassle. Those who used the World Tour drum kit will notice that the supporting crossbar between the legs has been removed, giving users a little extra leg room. Instead, Activision dropped the crossbar to the bottom, giving users a fixed location to place the redesigned kick pedal. The new kickpedal features three cutaways for gripping onto the crossbar. If you're one of those who likes to place the pedal off to the side, don't fret, Activision has added a little extra length to the kick pedal wire so you have plenty of room for expansion. Similarly, double bass pedal fans will be happy to note that they have also added a second port to the rear panel of the frame for dual bass pedal connections instead of requiring players to use a splitter.
Another handy revision to the design is the reorganization of the controls from the top portion of the frame to the front, bringing the necessary control buttons closer to the player. The way the Wiimote connects to the drums has also been revised, going from a built-in cutaway accessed by a removable panel to a completely detachable control pod. With the detachable Wiimote pod, users no longer have to battle with the entire frame of the drum set in order to attach the controller, instead they have to battle with a small, lightweight plastic box. We wouldn't go as far as to say that the process of connecting a Wiimote is easy now, but it isn't quite as cumbersome as it once was. Users will still find themselves struggling to make the connector and wrist strap fit within the confines of the controller cutaway, but at least you can do it without a fear of tipping over the entire drum set in frustration. Unfortunately the Wiimote pod design still lacks a passthrough for the wriststrap, but hey, small victories, right?
As for the drum pads themselves, Activision and Red Octane have taken a new approach to how the panels are mounted to the frame, opting for an elevated rather than recessed design. You'll also notice in the pictures that the cymbals have changed shape, going from triangle-type pads to a more conventional circular shape. Ultimately, the amount of forward surface area of the cymbals is essentially the same, so the new design has little effect on how the game is played. We also noticed that the cymbal's mounting posts remain fixed and unextendable, which is a bit of a letdown, especially considering that Activision has also removed the ability to angle the cymbals up or down. Performance wise, we didn't notice too much of a difference from the previous drum kit, but we're told that the sensitivity problems previously associated with the drum peripheral have been resolved by a built-in sensitivity tuner. Finally, a nice little feature of the Band Hero drum kit is the built-in stick holder. For quick access and improved storage, Activision has dropped a cutaway into the right panel of the base for stick storage.
From what we've seen thus far, we're pretty satisfied with the new design tweaks made by Activision and Red Octane. We're curious to see how the kit fares during extended evaluation, but that'll have to wait for a full review closer to the product's launch this November. In the meantime, stay locked in to IGN.com for continued coverage of Band Hero.