The Guitar Hero franchise took a big leap last year with World Tour, incorporating vocals and drums and making a bid for Rock Band's multiplayer music game crown. While World Tour was a great debut, Guitar Hero 5 is a more refined, more accessible game that better fulfills the promise of a full band experience with the Guitar Hero name. A number of enhancements make the game more enjoyable across the board, and the new Party Play mode sets the standard for relaxed, social gameplay in the genre. The freestyle jam mode provides a fun creative outlet, and folks interested in recording their creations will have a much easier time thanks to the significantly improved music studio interface. While none of Guitar Hero 5's improvements are groundbreaking, they all contribute to this very entertaining, very well put-together package that is sure to please both aspiring and established Guitar Heroes.
6216614NoneYou know you're in trouble when Lars Umlaut is the only band member who looks like he belongs on stage.
The most significant new feature in Guitar Hero 5 is Party Play mode. When you start up the game, you see a brief intro animation, and then the game starts up a random song and a video of Guitar Hero characters performing. You can press the start button to call up the main menu, or you can press the yellow button to jump right into the song being performed. Your note highway appears, and after selecting a few options, you're playing the Guitar Hero you know and love. Up to four players can join this way, using whatever combination of instruments they want. Two vocalists, a drummer, and a bass player? Yes. Four guitarists? By all means. You can't fail in this mode, and changing difficulty, skipping the song, and dropping out are all easily accomplished through a little menu that only obscures your own note highway. The result is a casual play environment that is accessible, welcoming, and delightfully low key. You can jump in and out as you like, rotating in other players or just taking a break. The music keeps playing, and you can tailor your experience on the fly without any abrupt pauses or song restarts. It's a great way to entice shy friends to join in the fun, and it makes firing up Guitar Hero 5 at a party a more informal prospect. A way to exclude certain songs from the random play rotation would have been welcome, but you can temporarily interrupt a song to create a set list and then jump right back into the music. Party Play strips away anything that might impede your enjoyment of the game, and as a result, Guitar Hero 5 shines as an example of how to make music games accessible and fun for a wide range of players.
If you prefer more deliberate and finite sets, then Quickplay is a great place to go. Here you can construct a set list and play with up to four players, again using whatever instrument combinations you see fit. Quickplay also makes accommodations for more casual players, allowing only those playing on hard or expert difficulty to fail out. Previously, you could save failed bandmates only by using the star power you earned by nailing glowing notes. You can still use this method, but Guitar Hero 5 gives you another option. When a bandmate fails, a crowd meter pops up. If the rest of the band plays well enough for long enough, the failed bandmate is revived and the band keeps on rocking. There is no limit to how many times you can revive a bandmate, though it does seem to get harder as the fails pile up. The crowd meter makes your band less dependent on star power opportunities that may or may not appear in time and also means you don't necessarily have to save your star power for a flagging fellow rocker. Quickplay is also a good place to make a bid for a spot on the extensive leaderboards. There are high-score categories for each song, each instrument, and each difficulty, so score-seekers of all levels can participate.
Xbox 360 Avatars make strange band fellows.
If earning rewards for your skills is your thing, Career mode once again provides a place where you progress through different venues, playing songs and unlocking new gigs. In Guitar Hero 5, you earn up to five stars for each performance, and the more stars you collect, the more gigs you unlock. This mode will feel very familiar to Guitar Hero veterans, but there's one new element that helps keep it from going stale. Each song has a bonus challenge associated with it that allows you to earn up to eight stars per song instead of the usual five. These three-tiered challenges (one extra star per tier) can be either instrument specific (whammy for a certain amount of time as the guitarist) or band-wide (maintain a 4x multiplier for a certain amount of time). This variety encourages you to mix up the instruments you use or to play with a few friends, and there's a handy onscreen meter that tracks your progress throughout the song. Some of these challenges will be easy for confident players, while others are so difficult that only experts will have a shot. Earning a few extra stars is nice, but completing challenges can also earn you bonus unlockables, including new outfits, sponsored equipment sets, cheats, and new playable characters.