Review: Guitar Hero 5

GuitarHero5.jpg Some games almost seem pointless to review. I know I probably shouldn’t say that as a reviewer, but it’s true. Take Guitar Hero 5: I could rant and rave about how the series lost its mojo when Harmonix left to start up Rock Band – playing a Guitar Hero game now gives you that same “something’s missing” feeling you get when playing a Call of Duty game not developed by Infinity Ward – and how the franchise has been milked to death, but in the end it probably won’t matter. Guitar Hero is a huge brand name with an established fanbase ready to feed on the next installment like a hungry puppy on a fresh bowl of Puppy Chow.

And I’m perfectly fine with that. I would certainly never argue that Guitar Hero is a bad or overrated franchise, because it’s not. It’s a great franchise, and even with the bloom having been off its rose for some time now it’s still as fun to jam away at now as it was when the first game rocked the music game scene four years ago.

But there comes a time when enough is enough, and for me that time has long since passed for Guitar Hero. I feel funny saying that with Guitar Hero 5, too, because of all the recent installments this one has the most new content to show for it. Problem is, none of the new content has any monumental impact on how the game is played, which takes me back to my original point here.

So what’s new in Guitar Hero 5? Well, the starring feature addition is the new Party Play mode. Upon boot-up, a song begins to play in the background at the main menu, and at the quick press of a button you can jump into that song at any time and instantly begin playing with the instrument and difficulty setting of your choice, continuing on through other songs in succession for as long as you like. You can also jump in and out of the song without penalties, and at any time up to three other local players can join you for relaxed band play sessions. What’s also cool in Guitar Hero 5 is how your band can play with any combination of instruments. If you want to have two drummers and two bassists or maybe four vocalists and no instruments, you absolutely can. There are no restrictions!

What else is new? Well, the graphics and presentation have been enhanced nicely, and the music creation studio introduced in World Tour has been improved with more samples and more accessible editing tools. A new RockFest multiplayer mode has been thrown in as well, allowing up to four players locally or eight players online to shred against each other in six competitive play variants, such as the Elimination mode in which players are eliminated one by one based on performance until one player is left standing, and the Do-or-Die mode in which missing three notes drops you out of the song for a short time while everyone else plays on and builds up their scores. Then there are the new Career mode challenges which provide different instrument-specific goals, such as scoring a certain amount of points with Star Power or hitting a specified number of tap notes, you can try for during certain performances to earn bonus stars and unlockable goodies like character/guitar customization gear and new playable characters.

Then of course there are all the new songs, which you perform the same as any other Guitar Hero game – note sequences flow down the screen and you play them on your instrument controller of choice with the proper timing and hand dexterity in order to rack up points and keep the song playing through to the end.

Guitar Hero 5 gives you a whopping 85 new on-disc master tracks to rock out to (complete track listing here), with 83 different artists represented in those songs making for the most diverse song lineup in the series to date. When you can jump from Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” to Rammstein’s “Du Hast” to The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” to the Beastie Boys’ “Gratitude” to David Bowie’s “Fame” in one session, you know you have a diverse song selection on your hands!

But when it comes down to it, I find it hard to justify throwing down $60 for some new songs and a few neat, though ultimately insignificant, gameplay/content upgrades. Obviously, if you’ve yet to jump on the Guitar Hero bandwagon, Guitar Hero 5 is without question the best game to start with. But if you’re all set with a previous Guitar Hero game I don’t see the need to rush out for the upgrade.

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Pros:
+ Party Play mode provides relaxed play and instant accessibility
+ Fun to mix and match instrument combinations
+ Diverse song roster
+ Same fun Guitar Hero gameplay

Cons:
– None of the new features are must-have upgrades
– Franchise is definitely getting stale

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PS3, also available on PS2, Wii and Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Release Date: 9/1/09
Genre: Music/Rhythm
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4 local, 2-8 online
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!