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Xbox 360 Review: Guitar Hero 5

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We have come a long way in music/rhythm games, and it is no longer about the solo guitar experience. Although World Tour took the first steps at making Guitar Hero a full band party game, Guitar Hero 5 is the first to nail it – with the ability to jump in and out of games, and even create bands with any mix of the four available instruments.

But no matter how many features, and Guitar Hero 5 has features, it will likely come down to track selection as the determining factor in purchasing any music game that involves plastic instruments. This is where I believe this game falters, as a large portion of the music is new, within the last year and a half, with many artists never before heard in a rhythm game before.

I am all for discovering new music, but when I buy a Rock Band or Guitar Hero game, I prefer to at least know the majority of the artists in the track list. Guitar Hero 5 has some standout selections, making it hard to pass up, but I am left feeling like this game has even more "filler" than World Tour and Guitar Hero Aerosmith had.

Beyond your taste in music, this game packs much more to do than its predecessors. Thankfully every song is unlocked from the start, not making you hit Career mode right off the bat to get everything in the game. Career mode adds instrument specific challenges to each song, and with 85 to choose from, you are looking at quite a lot of added play.

As stated above, the biggest new feature is the party play, with creative modes to play, and an ease of use that has not been matched. It is painless to jump in or drop out of playing with friends. And if four people want to play guitar together, now they can.

Along with a slight graphical upgrade since World Tour, the HUD has also been reworked to be simpler, and easier to understand.

With the focus on playing as a band come band-specific changes to scoring, too. Star Power will now be distributed to other band members if your meter is full, and if all four members hit ever note in a specific stretch, a Band Moment multiplayer skyrockets the score. They have also added the ability to bring back members who have failed out, similar to Rock Band, though this time it takes the entire band to make it happen.

Everything is here from World Tour, including GHTunes, with even more options if you wish to create your own songs. Rock Star Creator and other modes return, with even more competitive game types this time around. Online play has been simplified and streamlined, just like band play. There is no Xbox Live Mode, you just go into Competitive, add other local players (if any) and then start matchmaking over Live from there. RockFest is the new game mode, and it offers a number of different rules to keep things interesting, a great addition for online play.

Guitar Hero 5 lets you import songs from Word Tour and Smash Hits, but the import is not wholesale. Many songs on Smash Hits will not import, for example, bringing the cost of doing so into question. All the DLC, including Death Magnetic, released before World Tour, will work in Guitar Hero 5 after a free compatibility update. Rock Band still leads the way in both the amount of music available for purchase, and ability to move your library forward to the next game in the series.

There is no doubt that Guitar Hero 5 packs star power, though seeing Kurt Cobain singing other music is a little creepy. Other artists who lend their likeness include Johnny Cash and Carlos Santana. You can even rock out as your Xbox 360 avatar if you wish.

Offering more options and more gamplay than previous games in the franchise is nice, even commendable, but the track list is going to be lost on a lot of people. Highlights include "Under Pressure" by Queen and David Bowie, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Lithium" by Nirvana, and "American Girl" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. However everyone has their own taste in music, and Guitar Hero 5 tries to paint with a very wide brush. Just don't be shocked at how much music you may never had heard before.

Guitar Hero 5 deserves credit for the new interface for jumping into the game, including the ability to change modes on the fly, add players, and jump online in one seamless interface. These features alone, regardless of the music included, make this a solid party game and a big leap for the series.

Guitar Hero 5 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Lyrics, Mild Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: PS2, PS3, Nintendo Wii, and PC.

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About Ken Edwards

  • My issue with GH5 wasn’t the Cobain thing, nor was it the amount of filler songs. It just still didn’t feel right to play. Side by side against Rock Band, the same songs were charted oddly, and it just felt off. The wide timing window took away from the feeling of playing the song, as I could be 1/2 second late in my strums or snare hits and still ‘hit’ the note. Just not a very polished game. DJ Hero on the other hand…

  • Guitar Hero has always put notes in their gem charts that were not there to “enhance” gameplay. That has not changed in GH5, that is for sure. And I have also noticed that a lot with songs when played side by side with the Rock Band versions.

  • As far as I’m concerned I’m *only* interested in the music I already know. I could less about some unknown track.