Guitar Hero 5 surpasses predecessors
Andrew Seroff | Monday, September 28, 2009
First, we had “Guitar Hero,” the against-all-odds success story that brought silly plastic guitars into living rooms nationwide, in Game of the Year style. Along came “Rock Band,” which brought the rest of the fake plastic rock instruments into the fake plastic tour bus. The latest installment of a cover band’s virtual trip to the top is “Guitar Hero 5,” the long-overdue title that finally leaves little to be desired.
As with all of the rock band rhythm games, “Guitar Hero 5” has Career Mode, where you start a band and progress from the dive bars of the country to sold-out amphitheaters full of cheering fans. Unlike its counterpart “Rock Band” (and “Rock Band 2”), bands don’t earn money and fans at their performances, instead unlocking the next songs and stages, as well as customizable content for the characters and their instruments.
One of the huge improvements of this installment is the character management system. The options for your character are endless – unlike previous editions, where you got your pick between various stereotypical rocker avatars, almost every single aspect of your person is customizable. All aspects of the face can be changed, from eye color to nostril size. You can make a flawless glam star or a horrendous sewer-lurker. Once you’ve settled on a face, you go on to body features, clothes, silly accessories, instruments (fully customizable guitars, bases, drum sets, and microphones) and even logos for your character as well as your band. While it’s great to have control over all the details, you can easily get carried away and end up spending your time playing dress-up.
Another valuable addition to the game play is the challenges feature, which is an in-song task to accomplish, resulting in a reward of extra content. These challenges are generally for one instrument, having to do with the particular nuance of the song. For example, in tremolo-filled “In My Place” by Coldplay, the challenge is for the guitarist to use the controller’s tremolo feature as much as possible throughout, as opposed to “Fame” by David Bowie, which is a challenge for the vocalist to “nail the descending Fames at the end of the song.” This gives the already-challenging game more depth and another aspect to play for.
An example of the game finding its audience is the new Party Mode. While this mode might’ve been more valuable several years ago when the game was at its peak in popularity, it still is an excellent renovation. When activated, the mode picks a song on the soundtrack at random, and players can jump in and out at will, without interrupting other musicians. In addition to streamlining the game for a better party atmosphere, players can switch the song, the difficulty level and their instrument (guitar to bass and vice versa) all within one menu, without any repetitive character and venue selection screens.
The cooperative play is the most important facet of the title, but what happens when the lead guitarist calls out the bassist for botching the bridge of “All Along the Watchtowers?” Fake instruments or not, this kind of conflict can only be settled through a rock-off. “Guitar Hero 5” has six different modes where players can battle online or offline to settle the score once and for all. Each mode has a different set of rules, including your standard face-off (highest score wins), the more challenging momentum (where the better a player does, the higher the difficulty rises), and the dramatic elimination (the lowest player is dropped after every 30 seconds, until only one is left).
The latest installment of the revolutionary Guitar Hero franchise is a winner. It finally feels like a smooth, satisfying experience, complete with excellent graphics, easily navigable menus and clear playability, while adding so many great features, like a song creator, and an in-game downloadable content store. The soundtrack is massive and touches on all corners of popular music, so even the pickiest of music connoisseurs should find plenty of music to their approval. If you’re thinking about getting back into the genre, and aren’t the biggest Beatles fan, this is the game for you.