Guitar Hero 5 (GH5) is the latest iteration from publisher Activision and developer Neversoft, for Playstation 3, Playstation 2, XBOX 360 and Nintendo Wii. Since the music genre boomed in popularity from Guitar Hero 3 and Rock Band, gamers have been inundated with a slew of add-ons, downloadable content (DLC) and sequels with many more music games in the pipeline. Is Guitar Hero 5 the next rising star or is it doomed to be the warm-up act amongst DJ Hero and Band Hero?
The core game play remains true to the existing band formula introduced to us by Guitar Hero World Tour. A typical band will consist of four musicians, your lead singer, lead guitar, bass guitar and drummer. GH5 only is sold as a solo game or bundled with a guitar this time round so make sure you keep your instruments from GHWT or Rock Band.
In addition to the standard Career and Quickplay modes (which thankfully has all songs unlocked by default) there is a new mode called Party Play which allows up to four local players to drop in and play any instrument at any difficulty level without points or fear of failing. Party play occurs immediately upon loading the game so you can load up the game and let it go in Party mode. This mode essentially combines the ‘no fail’ cheat and random playlist functionality (though you can drop in, edit the play list and drop out).
The single player career mode is more of a throwback to Guitar Hero 3 than World Tour; your song list is broken into different “venues”, with each successive venue reflecting your growing fame. Thankfully unlike Guitar Hero 3, you do not need to pass all songs in a particular venue to progress onwards, it works similarly to Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band’s method where you earn ‘stars’ to move to bigger and better places. The new twist is that each song has a challenge for a specific instrument. This adds an extra depth since some challenges, such as using the whammy bar for 30+ seconds, forces you use the whammy bar when previous games you could’ve just ignored it completely. Completing challenges also unlock bonus items such as extra costumes, venues and other cosmetic items but the most important thing is you earn bonus stars which are used to unlock the next venue. The better you do at a challenge, the more stars you earn.
One notable change this time around is that Career mode is no longer separated by Solo instrument and Band mode! Thus if you have been playing solo and a friend drops over, you don’t need to restart as a band in order to play together! Hooray!
Guitar Hero 5 remains true to the original arcade-y feeling of older Guitar Hero series which I think will be a good niche, since World Tour could never simulate the whole band career aspect as well as the Rock Band series could.
The PS3 version lacks avatar support that the XBOX360 has so you will have to make do with the rock star creator. There are a lot of options to change and you can seriously sink some time in. Finally you can even unlock famous rocker avatars as you grind through the Career mode though it is a gimmick in reality, since being or Kurt Cobain, Matthew Bellamy won’t help you hit those notes.
The track list is more focused on the various rock genres this time round so it is much more cohesive and it is apparent that Neversoft has tried to give challenging songs to each instrument. The newer modern songs should be a sure fire hit though the older rock songs may fall on deaf ears. When creating your play lists in Quickplay or multiplayer modes you are able to see how difficult it is for each instrument. There are also expert+ drum songs in the mix for those with the second pedal attachment. Note charting is about on par with World Tour and is still fairly lenient in terms of timing. Neversoft still needs to work on their vocal highway; you really need to know the song because the pitch guide does not help you guess the pitch intervals at all.
Multiplayer wise there are new Competitive modes such as: Pro Face-Off, Momentum, Streakers, Do or Die, Elimination, Perfectionist and Rock Fest. These game modes can also be played band vs. band (Team mode). Rock Fest is a mix of all the modes, a song list is created then two game modes from the above list are voted on. The various multiplayer modes are fun and don’t detract playing the song unlike previous games where landing star power phrases sabotaged your opponent. Finding people to play with online was a bit difficult, with the matchmaking often coming up with 0-1 other players. It is very easy to enter the multiplayer modes this time round, you no longer need to go through various menus and settings to set up a band, just hit the orange button and the match making process will start.
Finally there is a new GH Mix 2.0 and GH Jam as well as downloading tunes that other users have generated. Creating a new song using GH Mix 2.0 provides a lot of options but I figure for most players, GH Tunes is what we will be using more often. You are able to browse through GH Tunes but having to select a song and download it before you can preview what it actually sounds like is cumbersome plus there is a character limit for the title so it is hard to tell if you’ll like the song or not.
Graphically Guitar Hero 5 just looks like Guitar Hero World Tour with slightly better rock models and less robotic movements (anyone remember the awful drummers in past games?) The menus have all been streamlined and jumping into multiplayer is much easier than having to navigate through the online menus of Guitar Hero World Tour. The crowd still looks extremely weird, if you looked closely you’d think there were four unique crowd models then cloned to fill a venue. The venues have some nice details, the camera angles moves as if you are at a concert but at the heart of it, you’ll be too busy staring at your note highway to really care.
Guitar Hero 5 is in 5.1 Dolby Digital but strangely it sounds like as whole, the sound volume is turned down when you start the game so you need to push your volume up (then down once you exit the game). There is a sound mixer to amplify all the sound streams but it does defeat the purpose if you pump them up to max across the board.
Doing the sums, 85 songs for $89.95 comes to about $1.05 per song which is much better value than the price of Guitar Hero DLC. Also you can import a select number (no you don’t get to choose) of songs from Guitar Hero World Tour and Guitar Hero Greatest Hits which brings it up past the 100 mark. Guitar Hero 5 is a much slicker and more refined version of Guitar Hero World Tour and those who enjoyed that will certainly enjoy Guitar Hero 5. The extra modes such as GH Tunes and GH Mix 2.0 provide an interesting diversion but for the casual gamer crowd that this seems geared towards, its potential is probably going to be untapped. The party play modes will make it easier to have Guitar Hero going in the background and is much more accessible to those who haven’t played before. The track list is varied but if “Rock” or any sub-genres of rock is not in your musical vocabulary, be prepared for a lot of blank looks, especially from the vocalists.
The evolution of the band concept introduced by Guitar Hero World Tour has been refined to fit the Guitar Hero formula more successfully than its predecessor. The ability to import some of the GHWT and GH Greatest Hits songs is a boon and the party play makes the game more accessible and the better integration of online multiplayer is a plus. If you are a fan of these music games then Guitar Hero 5 is a worthy addition to your collection and the most refined Guitar Hero game to date. Overall, Guitar Hero 5 sticks to what it does best, better note charting than Rock Band 2 and minor game play additions that enhance the experience but at the heart of it, it’s another Guitar Hero game. The song selection is the make or break of any music game and though Guitar Hero 5 has a few notable songs such as Kings of Leon, Muse and Coldplay, some of the older songs are not that great. With so many Guitar Hero games released this year you might be looking for a new music game play experience so wait for DJ Hero.
AAG Score: 8.0/10
+ Guitar Hero provides a challenging but enjoyable note chart for all instruments.
+ Party play helps new players in a non competitive environment, saving the hassle of entering ‘no fail’ cheats.
+ All the songs are unlocked in Quickplay, allowing players to enjoy playing the game straight away.
- Online multiplayer experience a bit barren, difficult to match-make a full band.
- DLC is expensive per track compared to Rock Band songs
- Easy to get lost amongst the flood of DJ Hero, Band Hero and three Guitar Hero expansions.
Reviewed and Written By Danny Yee