Probably a good thing, too, since apart from the bundling cynicism, and the questionable style-change, it's the track list that really makes me wince at Band Hero. In teaming Guitar Hero gameplay with this kind of music, Activision seems to have missed the point of rhythm-action games. They're supposed to make you feel superhuman, part of the music, a synaesthesic god creating fantastic lights and noises by interpreting patterns with lightning-fast fingers, all of which is impossible when the drum track you're playing along to is a synthesised beat from a godawful American pop song from 2005. I've spent more hours and money on dreadful music from the SingStore than anyone else in my acquaintance, except perhaps Ellie, and have a keen appreciation for guiltily enjoyable pop, but plastic guitars and the Village People is not a winning combination.
The problem is that everyone except the singer feels somewhat superfluous. The music has to match up to the nature of the gameplay in a successful rhythm game, and 80 per cent of Band Hero's track list is comprised of vocal-centric songs that don't translate well to dancing patterns of light and living-room showmanship. SingStar already exists to give us an outlet for singing along to embarrassing pop, and it has a much bigger, better selection of songs.
Whether you're capable of enjoying Band Hero comes down to why you play rhythm-action in the first place. If you play for the music or the challenge, there's nothing here for you. If, however, you play socially - as a family, with friends - with people who have little interest in the music and no talent for the plastic instruments, if the thought of breaking out the plastic axes to play Spice Girls doesn't bother you at all and if you've no access to the SingStore, then these are 70-odd tracks you might enjoy set in a rock-solid rhythm-action framework. It's certainly an awful lot better than the other attempts at pop rhythm games that have sprung up on the Wii, with their dreadful karaoke versions of the songs and useless controls and note-charting.
If you love Guitar Hero, on the other hand, the only reason to buy it would be for the improved instruments, and surely nobody has that much money and that little sense of consumer dignity in tandem. Band Hero is a technically solid product pitched at a demographic that does presumably exist - people who don't like Guitar Hero's music, but still want to play along - but it sets a dangerous precedent. Where Guitar Hero 5 hauled the series up to a quality plateau, adding a load of features that fans of the series can really appreciate, Band Hero is nothing more or less than a reskin. And even though it's a reskin of a superb game, the lack of concern for the credibility of the music and presentation can't help but cheapen it.
6 / 10