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Critical Reception: Activision/Neversoft's  Guitar Hero 5

Critical Reception: Activision/Neversoft's Guitar Hero 5

September 2, 2009 | By Danny Cowan

September 2, 2009 | By Danny Cowan
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More: Console/PC, Columns



This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Guitar Hero 5, a band simulation franchise sequel that reviews describe as "the best Guitar Hero game in recent memory." Guitar Hero 5 currently earns a score of 89 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

IGN's Erik Brudvig gives Guitar Hero 5 a rating of 8.9 out of 10. "It shouldn't come as any surprise that Guitar Hero 5 doesn't stray much from the same tried-and-true gameplay formula that has been the focus of over a dozen games in the past few years alone," he writes. "The notes still come scrolling down the screen and the would-be rock stars around the world sill click those plastic guitars, bang the drums, and do their best to stay on key and in rhythm."

"Guitar, bass, drums and vocals are the four parts that make up the band," Brudvig continues. "So what makes this one different from the other handful of Guitar Hero games that have come out over the last year? Quite a bit actually."

Brudvig praises Guitar Hero 5's Party Play mode as a necessary innovation for multiplayer gameplay. "Everyone who has thrown a party with Rock Band or Guitar Hero World Tour has at least one memory of new players having trouble logging in, choosing instruments, and making sure they've selected the right difficulty for their skill level," he says. "We've all been there and it isn't any fun."

"Party Play does away with this in a most agreeable way," Brudvig asserts. "As soon as you turn Guitar Hero 5 on, the game simply starts playing through your library of tunes. It acts like a jukebox of sorts. If any song catches your ear, all you have to do is pick up an instrument and hit a button to start playing. You can change difficulties, drop in or out, add other players, or even skip to another song without the music ever stopping."

The result is an upgraded experience that stands out among the many previous Guitar Hero games. "There have been a lot of Guitar Hero games over the past few years," Brudvig concludes. "But if you're going to grab one, Guitar Hero 5 is a good choice. The accessibility, streamlined presentation, solid note charts, and welcome gameplay improvements make this the best Guitar Hero game in recent memory."

At Gaming Trend, Mike Escobar rates Guitar Hero 5 at 91 out of 100. "2009 has been quite a year in the Guitar Hero universe," he begins. "Starting with Guitar Hero: Metallica in March, we also had the chance to see Guitar Hero: Smash Hits in June, Guitar Hero 5 arrives in September, and looking down the road just a bit we should have Guitar Hero: Van Halen in December."

Escobar finds that Guitar Hero 5's gameplay and interface tweaks make for a worthwhile purchase, however. "What really makes Guitar Hero 5 stand out from previous titles in this series are all the little touches; things that gamers have been asking for that have finally been implemented in the game," he writes.

"For example, we are finally able to see individual difficulty ratings for each instrument in the song," Escobar elaborates. "This makes choosing the right difficulty for each player much easier, making the game far more enjoyable. There's nothing worse than jumping into one of your favorite songs and getting booed off stage because you didn't realize how hard it was to play."

Escobar continues: "Another cool change is the ability to decide on your band configuration. Let's say you have enough room (and enough money) to own four drum sets, and everyone wants to give Kings of Leon's Sex on Fire a try on drums. Instead of taking turns (sharing is for wimps) just plug in all four drum controllers and have everyone flail away all at once! As long as you have the controllers available for it, you can literally have any group make up you want."

Escobar is disappointed with other changes, but otherwise recommends the title as a whole. "When looked at individually, the changes present in Guitar Hero 5 really aren't enough to justify the cost of a full game," he admits. "When taken collectively though, almost all the minor annoyances that we were able to ignore in previous titles have been addressed and the new competitive modes make an already great multiplayer game even better."

GameDaily's Robert Workman scores Guitar Hero 5 at 9 out of 10. "Five years running and, somehow, Activision pulled off the unthinkable," he writes. "Guitar Hero 5 feels just fresh as it did when the series debuted on the PlayStation 2."

Workman feels that Guitar Hero 5 adds enough new features to make the experience compelling, even for longtime series fans. "This time around, you don't have to wait for your turn for the drum set or guitar," he explains. "Four players can jam using the same instruments; go ahead and create a drum line. The game also features drop-in/drop-out play, so you don't need to wait for the current song to end."

The music creation mode introduced in Guitar Hero World Tour has also seen an upgrade. "Activision and Neversoft improved music creation with GHStudio 2.0," Workman says. "Here, you have access to a new interface in the GH Studio and GH Mix 2.0 rooms. If you prefer something more hands-on, there's also a Jam mode, where you instantly jump into a performance using a variety of styles. There's even a 'chip tunes' (retro) option for old-school Nintendo fans, complete with dancing sprite characters."

Workman praises Guitar Hero 5's character creation mode, inclusion of real-life rock stars, and Avatar support for Xbox 360 owners. He also describes its soundtrack as refreshingly varied.

"One minute, you're ripping through Stevie Wonder's 'Superstitious' and Bob Dylan's 'All Along the Watchtower', and the next, you're rocking through Jimmy Eat World's 'Bleed American' and Kings of Leon's 'Sex On Fire,'" he recalls. "There are a couple of questionable songs (we didn't need 'Kryptonite'), but overall, it's outstanding."

"Although Guitar Hero 5 plays exactly like its predecessors," Workman notes in conclusion, "Activision more than made up for that with improved options, a stellar cast of characters, a top-notch set list and wonderful creation tools. It's hard to imagine how much longer this show will last, but as long as it's this entertaining, we'll keep waving our lighters."


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