Guitar Hero 5

Following on the success of its preceding title, Guitar Hero World Tour, Activision brings gamers Guitar Hero 5. Building on the popularity of playing in a four-person band experience, GH5 opens up opportunities not just to play a new, if somewhat eclectic, playlist, it also gives players the freedom to play lead and bass guitar, drums, and vocals in whatever combination they want. If your little brother won’t give up lead guitar, have a band with two leads. Or two basses. Whatever!

The game is available as a standalone title, allowing players to use existing compatible instrument controllers, and as a bundle that provides these controllers. The new GH5 guitar sports an all-new faceplate and rebuilt neck slider for a completely new guitar experience. New features were added to make the game more accessible and simple to use, including drop-in/drop-out play and the afore-mentioned ability to add to your gameplay experience and play with up to 4 guitars or compose a band of any combination of available instruments. There’s also a Rockfest competitive mode consisting of several various scoring mechanisms, and both song-specific and general challenges to unlock new avatars, clothing, and other extras in the game. It’s definitely a more social experience, allowing players of different skill levels, both locally and online, the ability to play cooperatively and competitively against each other.

While playing in a band, you’ll have to earn your own Star Power now that it’s tracked separately for each player and no longer shared by the band (thank you Rock Band). A new play mode called “Band Moments” requires all members of the band to play sections of a song successfully to gain prizes. The Band Revival meter appears when a player fails out of the song, requiring the other band members to up their game together in order to bring the failed player back into the game. So if you suck, you can be saved. But only if your bandmates don’t also suck. A nice plus: GH5 incorporates any World Tour downloadable content that you may have into the various play modes.

Guitar Hero 5’s track list contains 85 songs by 83 separate artists Like previous Guitar Hero games, you can actually play as one of several musicians like Kurt Cobain, Johnny Cash, Carlos Santana, Shirley Manson, and Matthew Bellamy. The game continues to support the user-created music studio introduced in World Tour through GHTunes. Thousands of downloadable content for the game are also available. You can also import songs straight into GH5 from GH World Tour and GH Smash Hits. Most downloadable content from World Tour is forward-compatible with Guitar Hero 5.

The most appreciated improvements is the accessibility of the game. Where previous games required players to go through menus and customizations before rocking out, GH5 has a Party Mode that allows players to immediately jump in. I almost felt like I missed a step, because it was too easy. The career and competitive multiplayer modes were also improved and simplified. However, the game’s track list seemed pretty random, from No Doubt, Kings of Leon to Bob Dylan. And while I would never use Kurt Cobain to sing a Gwen Stefani song, I was told it was an option. As always, the best thing about playing any GH title for this reviewer is getting my ears (and eyes) opened to songs to which I may not normally pay attention. While my neighbors probably figured out I’m a big fan of Kings of Leon in my quest to reach “Sex on Fire” drum perfection, I had a real blast learning The Raconteurs “Steady As She Goes.” The playlist is quite broad in genre, where “a little of everything” is the best way to describe it. While most may question how Stevie Wonder and Kiss can co-exist on a playlist, I’m one of those players who actually likes that they do. The improvements to the note charts, the ease of play and the new features make this an exciting new toy for even the hardcore living room rock legends, but if you’ve waited to jump in and this is your intro to the Guitar Hero world, it’s a great welcome and definitely worth the wait.