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Guitar Hero 5

 

Guitar Hero 5

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Miscellaneous
 
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Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions

When Guitar Hero: World Tour for the Wii burst onto the scene last year, many Wii gamers embraced the ability to play as if they were in a real live band. With drums, a mic and the staple GH Guitar, World Tour made for a perfect party game and sales figures certainly reflected the popularity of such. One year later, Guitar Hero 5 arrives on the scene and the development team at Vicarious Visions has squarely set their sights on making the Guitar Hero experience on the Wii even more enjoyable, and of course address some of the deficiencies from World Tour. Well after some extended play time with Activision’s latest instalment, I must say Guitar Hero 6 is going to have a tough act to follow as Guitar Hero 5 for the Wii is the best we have seen from the series to date.

Graphics

Overall Guitar Hero 5 (GH5) appears to have received a visual upgrade over last year's game. Granted, it comes as no surprise the Wii version is the weakest of all the 'next-gen' versions out there. This is to be expected given some of the limitations of the hardware. When you compare the Xbox 360 version of the game to the Wii there is a significant difference. That being said, GH5 for the Wii is a very decent looking game as everything appears a bit more enhanced this time around. For starters, 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. 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 personal Mii. Yes, you can take your Mii, 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.

Overall, GH5 is a vibrant game and everything is certainly over-the-top as we have become accustomed to in the franchise. Bottomline, GH5 emerges as the best looking simulated guitar game on the Wii to date.

Sound

As with the games visuals, the limitations of the Wii's hardware holds the game back from being stellar in the audio department. For starters, the Wii version of GH5 suffers from a lack of Dolby Digital support. For those who exclusively own a Wii, the sound will not bother you, but for those multi-console owners or home theatre buffs the sound will undoubtedly disappoint as the game just does not sound as good as it does in 5.1 surround sound.

The music content on the other hand is great and set list is fantastic. 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. Not to mention you can also download tracks online, making for an impressive library of tunes for your GH game. Another great aspect is that 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 in 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 an improvement over last year’s game as the audio sounds crisper. All in all Wii gamers 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 and some new features which are exclusive to the Wii game. In many ways, the Wii GH5 owner is getting more bang for the buck as not only do you get all the new features from the other two next generation consoles, but the exclusive Wii modes allows gamers to interact with their music and friends like never before.

For starters, in Mii Freestyle Mode you can rock-out any way you want with your custom Mii’s. It is truly a unique experience that allows you to feel as if you are ‘in the game’, or rather on stage jamming away. In this mode players can jam with the Guitar Hero controllers and create their own note tracks utilizing multiple music genres or simply rock out using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to “air drum.” The new Mii Freestyle Stage Manager allows DS players in the audience to get in on the action by controlling lightshows, and changing cameras. I never had much of an opportunity to give this aspect of the game of a spin with my DS but it is a cool feature nonetheless.

With this in mind, GH5 for the Wii really does a nice job incorporating the DS into the game. For instance, Nintendo DS fans can experience the life of a band roadie in the Roadie Battle mode. Up to two DS players can connect with two Guitar Hero Wii guitar players for a head to head battle. It works rather simple; while the guitar players jam out on stage, the DS players navigate their virtual roadie from one side of the stage to the other trying to mess up the opponent’s equipment while repairing any damage to their own. This feature can make for some fabulous times and brings Nintendo gamers together in more ways than one.

One of the more important new features 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, people start complaining, and the whole song has to come to a grinding halt. In Party Play mode you can dive right into the game without any fuss. You or any other person in the room can simply 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 Mii, 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. This 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 Wii 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 some coin. So for those looking to import all the songs and trade in your copy of World Tour you will sadly be disappointed.


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