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Guitar Hero 5

 

Guitar Hero 5

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Miscellaneous
 
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8.5
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9.5
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Author:

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft Entertainment

Features:

1-4 Players
2-8 Players Online
4MB to Game Save
HDTV 720p/1080i/1080p
In-Game Dolby Digital
Leaderboards

When Guitar Hero: World Tour burst onto the scene last year, many were impressed with the quality of the music equipment which now included a drum set and microphones. Fans of the franchise embraced the ability to play as if you were in a real live band. Not to mention many loved the lengthy set list and raved about all the abilities to customize your Guitar Hero experience. One year later, Guitar Hero 5 arrives on the scene and the development team at Neversoft has squarely set their sights on making the Guitar Hero experience even more enjoyable, and of course address some of the deficiencies from World Tour. Does the gang at Neversoft pull it off? Read on and find out.

Graphics

Overall Guitar Hero 5 (GH5) appears to have received a visual upgrade over last year’s game. Granted the look and feel stays true to the franchise as the art direction is consistent with other versions out there. That said, everything appears a bit more enhanced this time around. The character animations seem to have been improved as they appear more lifelike than ever before. The games colors are bright and the presentation of the game has a slick stylized look about it. The menus have been simplified giving it a cleaner and sharper look too. The stages and concert venues are also quite stunning. When you first fire up a song, fans of the franchise will notice that even the scrolling notes look cleaner and crisper in high definition. As I said, everything just appears a bit more enhanced this time around making for a game that is visually appealing and top notch.

If I was to pick the most visually appealing new addition to GH 5 it would have to be the fact the game now includes several musicians and the ability to play onstage with your Xbox LIVE Avatar. Yes, you can take your Avatar, dress him up like a rock star, and have him jam out onstage. It is very cool. Likewise the addition of several musicians who have been modeled through motion capture also makes for game which is fun to watch when it’s your buddies turn to pick up the axe. Some of the in-game artists included are: Johnny Cash, Carlos Santana, Shirley Manson, Kurt Cobain, and Matthew Bellamy. For fans of the franchise some of your favourite characters are also back including the likes of Axel Steel, Judy Nails, and Johnny Napalm.

Just like World Tour and Smash Hits for the Xbox 360, GH5 is a vibrant game and everything is certainly over-the-top as we have become accustomed to in the franchise. I haven't played the new Beatles: Rock Band yet, however GH5 emerges as the best looking simulated guitar games to date.

Sound

As far as the audio is concerned, Guitar Hero 5 scores high marks and is arguably the best set list we have seen to date. For starters, the game features an outstanding and diverse set list featuring some great hits. GH5 contains 85 songs by 83 separate artists right out the box which is simply outstanding. When other music or rhythm based games do not even have half the amount of songs, it remains truly impressive the sheer size of the set list and the amount of replay value alone that all the songs bring. Another great aspect is unlike previous versions of the Guitar Hero series, where players must work through a career mode to unlock all the songs in the game, all songs in GH5 are unlocked and available to play in any mode from the start.

I should also mention all the songs are master tracks as well, which should be expected in today’s interactive music market. Gone are the days of listening to some cover band play your favourite tunes. Overall the developers did a nice job picking some of my most memorable and enjoyable tunes from present and past.

For those wondering what songs they get to play I thought it would be prudent to make a list of the songs available from Guitar Hero 5:

3 Doors Down - "Kryptonite"
Arctic Monkeys - "Brianstorm"
Blink-182 - "The Rock Show"
Dire Straits - "Sultans Of Swing"
Jimmy Eat World - "Bleed American"
Johnny Cash - "Ring Of Fire"
Megadeth - "Sweating Bullets"
Mötley Crüe - "Looks That Kill"
Muse - "Plug In Baby"
Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Queen & David Bowie - "Under Pressure"
Stevie Wonder - "Superstition"
The Killers - "All The Pretty Faces"
The Raconteurs - "Steady As She Goes"
TV On The Radio - "Wolf Like Me"
A Perfect Circle - "Judith"
AFI - "Medicate"
Attack! Attack! UK - "You And Me"
Band Of Horses - "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands"
Beastie Boys - "Gratitude"
Beck - "Gamma Ray"
Billy Idol - "Dancing With Myself"
Billy Squier - "Lonely Is The Night"
Blur - "Song 2"
Bob Dylan - "All Along The Watchtower"
Bon Jovi - "You Give Love A Bad Name"
Brand New - "Sowing Season (Yeah)"
The Bronx - "Six Days A Week"
Bush - "Comedown"
Children Of Bodom - "Done With Everything, Die For Nothing"
Coldplay - "In My Place"
Darker My Love - "Blue Day"
Darkest Hour - "Demon(s)"
David Bowie - "Fame"
Deep Purple - "Woman From Tokyo ('99 Remix)"
The Derek Trucks Band - "Younk Funk"
The Duke Spirit - "Send A Little Love Token"
Duran Duran - "Hungry Like The Wolf"
Eagles Of Death Metal - "Wannabe In L.A."
Elliott Smith - "L.A."
Elton John - "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)"
Face To Face - "Disconnected"
Garbage - "Only Happy When It Rains"
Gorillaz - "Feel Good Inc."
Gov't Mule - "Streamline Woman"
Grand Funk Railroad - "We're An American Band"
Iggy Pop - "Lust For Life (Live)"
Iron Maiden - "2 Minutes To Midnight"
Jeff Beck - "Scatterbrain (Live)"
John Mellencamp - "Hurts So Good"
Kaiser Chiefs - "Never Miss A Beat"
King Crimson - "21st Century Schizoid Man"
Kings Of Leon - "Sex On Fire"
Kiss - "Shout It Out Loud"
Love and Rockets - "Mirror People"
My Morning Jacket - "One Big Holiday"
Nirvana - "Lithium (Live)"
No Doubt - "Ex-Girlfriend"
Peter Frampton - "Do You Feel Like We Do? (Live)"
The Police - "So Lonely"
Public Enemy Featuring Zakk Wylde - "Bring the Noise 20XX"
Queens Of The Stone Age - "Make It Wit Chu"
Rammstein - "Du Hast"
The Rolling Stones - "Sympathy For The Devil"
Rose Hill Drive - "Sneak Out"
Rush - "The Spirit Of Radio (Live)"
Santana - "No One To Depend On (Live)"
Scars On Broadway - "They Say"
Screaming Trees - "Nearly Lost You"
Smashing Pumpkins - "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
Sonic Youth - "Incinerate"
Spacehog - "In The Meantime"
Sublime - "What I Got"
Sunny Day Real Estate - "Seven"
T. Rex - "20th Century Boy"
The Sword - "Maiden, Mother & Crone"
Thin Lizzy - "Jailbreak"
Thrice - "Deadbolt"
Tom Petty - "Runnin' Down A Dream"
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - "American Girl"
Vampire Weekend - "A-Punk"
Weezer - "Why Bother?"
The White Stripes - "Blue Orchid"
Wild Cherry - "Play That Funky Music"
Wolfmother - "Back Round"

As you can see it is a pretty good set list to the point that it is almost overwhelming. Playing through each of the songs in career mode takes a long-ass time, but it certainly is an enjoyable ride. The overall sound is fantastic as well. You hear every little note in 5.1 surround sound and I noted how all the tunes just filled my media room. All in all everyone should be happy with the whole audio package offered in GH5, from the available music tracks to the crowds and the special effects (e.g. pyrotechnics on stage); it is all worth the price of admission.

Gameplay

Guitar Hero 5 is the fifth main entry into the Guitar Hero series. Granted we have several expansion games like Smash Hits, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and Guitar Hero: Metallica just to name a few; however fans of the series have come to expect significant changes to the overall gameplay experience when the true sequels arrive. At the end of the day, the core gameplay in GH5 remains unchanged from the other games in the franchise. Those familiar with any Guitar Hero game will be able to pick it up and not miss a beat. Yet there are many new features which really enhance the overall experience this time around. Before I get ahead of myself, let me just provide a quick recap of what the Guitar Hero game is all about for the few that are actually still living under a rock. For those veterans of the franchise you can skip the next paragraph.

Guitar Hero 5 is a rhythm based game where you hit falling notes that are represented on-screen as coloured discs. When playing with the guitar you must hold down the corresponding coloured fret button(s) in time with the coloured discs while strumming to beat. As you manage to hit successive notes you increase your bonus multiplier and rack up the score. Similarly with the drums, as the on-screen coloured disks drop you need to bang on the corresponding coloured drum or cymbal with your drum sticks or push the foot pedal for the kick drum. The microphone works similar to other rhythm based games, such as SingStar and Rock Band, as it uses a system which gauges your pitch. The pitch level required is displayed via horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Your pitch is compared to the pitch of the artist(s) singing the song and the better your singing abilities (e.g. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score. Everything that I just described is the essence of Guitar Hero in a nutshell.

As I mentioned earlier, GH5 comes with a variety of new features. First off, and one of the more important was that is new to the franchise, is the Party Play mode. Anyone who has played Rock Band or Guitar Hero: World Tour will probably relate to my experiences of setting up a band with my own friends. Setting up a song, all the instruments, settings, and so on, can be a royal pain in the ass. Far too often something is not set up right and people start bitching and the whole song has to come to a grinding halt. Well in Party Play mode you can dive right into the game without any fuss. By simply pressing the yellow button on any controller you, or any other persion, will immediately start playing along. Players can drop in/out at any point in any song without disrupting any others. Players can also change personal settings such as difficulty level on the fly without interrupting the jam session. It makes for a seamless experience and it comes in handy when you are playing with that one guy who always likes to tinker with his settings. Party Mode can randomly shuffle through the entire set list or you can create a specific set list to play. The Party Mode’s only downside is you cannot play online in this mode as it is truly intended for in-house parties. All in all, the new Party Mode is a welcome addition and is truly dummy proof.

The quickplay mode is back again this year but is has also received some enhancements as well. Most notably, every song in the game is now available for quickplay from the moment you first fire up the game. No longer do you have to play through the career mode to unlock various songs. This is simply a fantastic feature for gamers such as myself who simply do not have the time to play through an entire career mode, given how many games come out for review during the holiday season. In quickplay you can build a playlist of as many songs as you want and rock away.

Another new addition to the game is the Competitive Mode. This mode allows up to four players locally and eight players online to engage in head-to-head competition. A number of new play modes have been added to the multiplayer mix with GH5 including RockFest, which allows you to fight it out in a Battle Royale that includes all six non-team play modes. Within RockFest Mode players can choose from various head-to-head gameplay types including:

- Momentum: Songs get more difficult or easier on the fly depending on player performance.

- Perfectionist: Rewards players with the highest percentage at the end of each song section.

- Elimination: Players are eliminated throughout a song based on their performance in each segment and the last man standing wins!

- Do-or-Die: Missing any three notes for a song section temporarily knocks players out of the game and keeps them from scoring.

- Streakers: Players are awarded points for each note streak in multiples of 10.

- Pro Face Off: Head-to-head battle where players all play the same song on the same difficulty with the same instrument.

I spent the bulk of my time with GH5 in the career mode and overall there are no major improvements or enhancements here. Once again, you can go at solo or with a buddy. Yes, you can go through career mode online with a friend as well. You can customize your experience in a number of ways. Everything from picking your band name to playing with your Xbox LIVE Avatar, GH5’s career mode is incredibly deep and quite an enjoyable experience. It is also much more relaxing this time around as the duel challenges are gone and replaced with a tier based system where it’s all about how many stars you rack up that allows you to move forward in the set list. The career mode is just as challenging as ever though. By the time you hit the third venue you will notice the difficulty increases a great deal. The star meter is back and everything we have come to enjoy about the game is also back too. To mix things up a bit the career mode also has challenges where you can earn additional stars for performing a variety of objectives. Some include maintaining a 4x multiplier for an extended period of time to the amount of time you can whammy bar throughout a song. There are also specific challenges for the drummer and vocalists roles.

As I mentioned in the visuals section, the career mode is where you will unlock some of the legendary musicians such as Johnny Cash, Carlos Santana, and Kurt Cobain. I love this new aspect to the game and only wished they could have done so for more artists. Watching Shirley Manson strut around stage is a treat and just brings the songs to life all the more.

In addition to the career mode, GH5 also includes the Music Studio which is much more user friendly then that in World Tour. Just like last year you can create your own hits in the Music Studio, share them online with GHTunes, and watch your created character shred or drum to your soon-to-be breakout hit. Make no question about it, it is still designed for the true GH junkie, however the interface is much simpler to navigate. Overall this area is a slick mode as the ability to express your musical creativity gives the game a tremendous amount of replay value.

The set list of fabulous and I was thrilled to play some songs I have not heard in years. You can also go online again and download any of the tracks available on the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. I don’t have an accurate count but there are easily over 200 songs available to download. The ability to import your songs from GH: World Tour is also available, but you can only import 35 of the 80-plus tracks. Not to mention it also costs you 280 Microsoft points. So for those looking to import the songs and trade in your copy of World Tour you will sadly be disappointed.


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