Guitar Hero 5

GamesCom 2009: Guitar Hero 5 Hands On Preview - Plug In Baby

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There is probably not a lot more to be said about the Guitar Hero series of games that has not already been said (or assumed, exaggerated and argued about) before. Here we are on the fifth ‘official’ version of the series, though with the amount of add-ons that have flooded the market in recent times, who knows what the actual number may be. Suffice it to say the franchise has more spin offs than Happy Days did.

The basics of the game remain the same, and probably always will, after all if it is not broke then why fix it? So the unique aspects of the newest title are all about subtly improving and adding to what is already a fairly well known title. Obviously the track list has been around for some time now and includes 85 tracks straight off the bat. With such a diverse list of artists, and a number of them being motion captured and/or recreated in digital form (wooo, Johnny Cash), it seems that the game has enough musical diversity to appeal to everyone. Activision were also keen to recognise that not everyone likes to play every instrument – so now you can have a band made up of four guitars, four drums and four microphones (should your wallet allow such a thing) or any combination in between. It means that every player can perform with the instrument they are best at rather than being stuck doing something they hate. Of course, there are the new gameplay features as well; band moments, Expert + on the drums and vocal star power; but again, nothing game changing.
What is interesting though is the fact that Activision have already announced DLC for the game before it even launches – with the five song set of Rolling Stones tracks due to put in an appearance. It is also worth noting that while you can use your old World Tour DLC with this game, the same will not be true in reverse. So if you own World Tour you will not have access to any of the DLC available for GH5.

After a decent hands on with the game it is apparent that nothing has really changed in terms of the core gameplay. Instead the main changes are making the user interface as simplified as possible and getting rid of the need to go through a bunch of menus in order to get a song going. Now you can start a song, play career mode, do in game challenges for each song or even search for online band members all from the same screen. It makes getting into the action extremely easy and you can make all the choices you need with the minimum of fuss.

The main additions come in the form of Party Play and a number of new game modes. Party Play sees the game constantly play through the entire song list with up to four players able to pick up an instrument at any time and get into a song, then you can put your axe down when you have had enough and the game will revert to playing the songs once again. Obviously this mode does exactly what it says on the tin and is ideal to have on in the background during a party, so any likely musicians can pick up the game and have a go at any point. You can change your difficulty mid song, use avatars and generally have a blast without having to do much more than press a button.

Of more interest to competitive players will be the various other game modes, which include five newcomers, all of which revolve around the player with the highest score being determined the winner:

  • Momentum: All players start at Medium difficulty and can then move up and down depending on how well you are doing. Hit twenty consecutive notes and you go up one difficulty, but miss three in a row and you will drop down.
  • Streakers: Players pick up points for hitting consecutive runs of notes, and the longer you keep the run going then the more points you will earn.
  • Perfectionist: Players are scored on the percentage of notes they hit within each specific song section. With the best percentage getting the most points.
  • Do or Die: A tough one for those of lesser skill, as if you miss three notes then you are forced to wait until the next section to rejoin the song. Obviously distracting/jostling your friends is totally legal.
  • Elimination: As simple as it sounds. The lowest scoring player is eliminated every so often until there is only one person standing.

You can also play through a number of modes by selecting Rockfest which will mix and match a bunch of modes and songs to keep you entertained too.

The other upgrades relate to the Music Studio feature which has been refined to make it a lot easier to use for those who - like me - know nothing about music creation. Now the menus are all nice and explanatory with a number of helpful hints along the way to help you craft your ideal piece of music. You can create songs that are up to ten minutes in length using any number of the 400+ pre-set rhythms and thirteen scales. Of course you are always free to create your own rhythms and scales from scratch too, so you can get the exact song you were looking for. It really does seem possible to create any kind of song you like, such is the freedom of control you have.

Guitar Hero 5 may not have the selling power of the upcoming The Beatles: Rock Band, but it does have enough solid additions to make it a decent addition for any fan. The real question is what exactly can Activision do next? The PR response; with Microsoft and Sony both working on motion technology there is still plenty of opportunities for innovation right around the corner.  Does that mean we will be seeing Dance Hero, or maybe Guitar Hero with backing dancers, or even fully detectable finger mapping that means we can play the game as if we had a real guitar? Activision wouldn’t comment any further and it was clearly just speculation on their part rather than a set strategy, but the possibilities are endless, not to mention slightly worrying. Guard your wallets.

Guitar Hero 5 is available September 1st in North America and September 11th in the UK. All other regions are currently without a concrete release date.


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Game Info


US September 01, 2009
Europe September 11, 2009

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