The Guitar Hero franchise has been a forerunner in the virtual music genre since 2005, but there's no denying that the series has lost some of its lustre over the years. Can Guitar Hero 5 revive things?
Activision has over-saturated the store shelves with sequels and releases, leaving both fans and critics feeling a little jaded. We've seen this phenomenon before with proven properties such as EA's Madden series, where a yearly release cycle and a dearth of notable improvements water down what was once an extraordinary gaming experience and it seemed as though Guitar Hero was headed down that lucrative yet unfulfilling road.
Thankfully, NeverSoft has picked up the slack with the seminal series' latest installation, and proven that the beloved hard-rocking franchise still has quite a bit of life left in it.
Guitar Hero 5: Welcome To The Party, Pal
Guitar Hero 5's core gameplay is in essence the same as you remember it: same note highway, same frets, same chords, and same Star Power. The note charts have benefited from some interesting tweaks like an extended sustains which allow players to leap from chord to chord on a moment's notice a bit easier, but it's really more or less the same experience that you've rocked out to in the last four installments. That's not a bad thing, of course: Guitar Hero is still as easy to pick up and play as it's ever been, especially thanks to a few interesting new gameplay mechanics such as Party Play.
I found Party Play to be a very simple yet cool improvement to the basic Guitar Hero formula. Selecting Party Play randomises the game's setlist, and allows any player to jump in or out of a song at any time. It's very handy for when one of your band mates has to suddenly take off in the middle of a show, or if they show up late to the party.
Players can switch difficulty setting as well as instruments on the fly, and now that one or more player can play the same instrument, you can even have four guitarists or four drummers, if you're so inclined. While Party Play may seem like a small addition, it's a fun option that works well for more spontaneous players.
GH Tunes from World Tour is also back in full effect, with a slightly streamlined interface for players to create their own jams in GH Mix. I really appreciated the wealth of new features, such as the ability to place your own Star Power segments in specific moments in the song, as well, as the possible length of creations (up to 10 minutes long!) The customisable loops, effects and backing tracks are also a very nice touch, and really adds to what is already a rich experience.
Speaking of customisation, players are urged to pick and choose the rock star experience that best suits their musical tastes. With 85 incredibly diverse new tracks featuring classic oldies like the Rolling Stones and Queen to more contemporary bands such as Gorillaz and White Stripes, it's almost guaranteed that you'll find something for everyone in Guitar Hero 5's diverse track list. I also loved the presence of some unexpected acts such as Elton John and Stevie Wonder. The option to load songs from previous Guitar Hero installments also adds to Guitar Hero 5's staying power and if you add in user-generated content found in GH Tunes, you're not likely to run out of tunes anytime soon.
Guitar Hero's Rock Star Creator is back in full force, and there's no denying that it looks fantastic. Guitar Hero 5 is undoubtedly the best looking of the series, with incredibly colorful characters met with equally impressive venues. While plenty of Guitar Hero favourites have returned (Clive Winston, Casey Lynch, Judy Nails), there's no denying that the charm and personality found in earlier Guitar Hero installations is somewhat absent.
Guitar Hero 5 relies largely on celebrity appearances to maintain its rocker cred, and while the amount of customisation is truly staggering, now that the plastic instrument revolution is somewhat played out (no pun intended) you just don't really get the same amount of intimacy, appeal or innovation found in the first two Guitar Heroes. Well, that, and virtual Kurt Cobain is just a strange concept through and through.
Guitar Hero 5: A Musical Battlefield
All in all, there's no denying that Guitar Hero 5 is an incredibly solid title with plenty to see, do and most importantly, rock out to. Brandishing some stellar new Competitive play concepts (Do or Die, Momentum) not to mention some incredibly creative new stages to play on, Guitar Hero 5 stays true to its franchise roots and rocks just about as hard as anyone could expect it to. With its astounding variety and tried-and-true formula, it's truly hard to find fault with Guitar Hero 5 without resorting to nitpicking.
NEXT: our expert verdict >>