In addition to franchise standbys like Axel Steel and Judy Nails (who have gotten serious makeovers for their Band Hero appearances), you can choose to use the likenesses of a handful of real rock stars. You unlock many of these celebs just by playing through their songs successfully in Career mode. Once unlocked, these stars can join Guitar Hero characters and your user-created rockers onstage. Because you can use characters to fill multiple band roles, you could rock out with a veritable clone army of Taylor Swifts. Xbox 360 owners can add their avatars into the mix, making for some truly ridiculous situations. If you replace three of the members of No Doubt with avatars, you've got something that resembles Gwen Stefani hosting The Muppet Show. Regardless of whether you find these strange pairings hilarious or utterly stupid, Band Hero's visuals are slick and lively. Character animations are more fluid, and lip synching looks good, even on the avatars that are just cycling between a few different mouth icons. The crowds still look like a patterned mass of clones, but the lively performance camera angles ensure that they only seem odd at the beginning and end of your song.
6238838NoneBand Hero represents multiple decades of middle school slow dance songs.
Band Hero also features the much improved music studio from Guitar Hero 5. The overhauled interface makes it much easier to lay down tracks, and you can learn more about the different options simply by holding down the fret button you would use to select those tracks. It still requires a lot patience and skill to make a decent song, but the barrier of entry has been significantly lowered. If you're not at the composition stage yet, you can flex your music muscle in the new jam session mode, which allows you to choose a background loop and play over it to your heart's content. This feature makes it much easier to experiment with your not-actually-musical instrument, and noodling around with some cooperative friends can be fun.
There's a substantial setlist on the disc, though Band Hero's 65 licensed tracks don't seem like much when compared to Guitar Hero 5's 85 tracks. Players can download user-created tunes, as well as official downloadable content tracks, though not all of the tracks in the downloadable catalog are compatible with Band Hero. The game also censors lyrics more vigorously than Guitar Hero 5, which can lead to some odd and disappointing silences. Apparently, in order to earn an ESRB rating of E10+, the word "whiskey" was nipped out of Don McLean's "American Pie," so those "good old boys were drinking...and rye." (Spoiler alert, kiddos, rye is alcohol too!) Band Hero also charges you if you want to import songs from your other Guitar Hero games and will only transfer a limited number of songs. Paying to play songs you already own is a bummer, and you can't use your celebrity characters in imported songs.
Sing it, Suzie Avatar!
Aside from new celebrities, songs, and venues, Band Hero isn't that different from Guitar Hero 5. You can compete online in a number of different modes, and vocalists now have to use a controller to activate star power. Like Guitar Hero 5, Band Hero is a well put together, robust rhythm game, and Party Play mode is a great way to entice shy friends to join in the fun. There's a lot of good stuff here, unless, of course, you already own Guitar Hero 5, in which case it is little more than a full-price track pack. But if you're looking for more songs or interested to see what this plastic video game rock craze is all about, Band Hero is a great option. It may not blow the roof off, but it will definitely get your party rockin'.