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Band Hero

Pop Music Gets Its Own Hero

Band Hero could have easily (and more clearly) been titled Guitar Hero: Pop. Perhaps Activision felt that another Guitar Hero release in such close proximity to so many others would feel exploitative, or maybe someone decided that the new pop flavor demanded its own branding. Any which way, this is a re-skinning of Guitar Hero 5 filled with Top 40 hits instead of hard rock. Given that, the game does an excellent job of highlighting these popular super-hits.

I’m always hesitant to get into judgment calls about the music choices in a music game – my personal tastes aside, this is a diverse mix of fun pop songs culled from several decades. You know already whether you want to sing along with Taylor Swift, bang the drums to a Maroon 5 tune, or strum along with KT Tunstall. But as familiar and catchy as these songs are, they frequently feature repetitive and simplistic note charts. Endless chorus repeats, single-phrase bass lines, and sing-along friendly vocal parts rarely correlate with complex and interesting gameplay. Then again, it’s hard to fault Neversoft for being faithful to the source material.

Guitar Hero 5’s bonus objectives make a return, giving experienced players something extra to achieve in a given song. The jump-in-jump-out party play option is even more valuable to this installment, so I was glad to see it included. Plus, a sing-along karaoke mode is a great way to leverage what many will like about the game. Band Hero’s robust 65 song setlist is also bolstered by the ability to export and import tunes to and from the other recent Guitar Hero games.

It’s hard to take Band Hero out of the context of its recent music game brethren. Band Hero is the least innovative of the bunch, but that certainly doesn’t make it bad. For players who found previous releases too hard-edged for their tastes, Band Hero is exactly what they’ve been waiting for.

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