The Little Plastic Guitar Controller that Could
There is no denying the cultural impact that Guitar Hero has had over the last few years. The little music game that featured a plastic guitar controller and that no one thought would catch on has become one of the most successful franchises in gaming ever. Activision, seeing a chance to exploit the market to its fullest, is releasing no less than six titles over the course of 2009. Some might call that over-saturation; Activision seems to think it is just what the doctor ordered.
This all brings us to Guitar Hero 5, the fourth Guitar Hero release of the year and the official sequel to last year's Guitar Hero: World Tour. Like last year's iteration, Guitar Hero 5 retains the full band motif that was made popular by original Guitar Hero developer Harmonix and their smash hit series, Rock Band. But whereas Guitar Hero: World Tour seemed like it was trying to emulate a lot of what made Rock Band so successful, Guitar Hero 5 forges its own path and it is a better game for it.
Guitar Hero 101
Before we get started on the changes that developer Neversoft has implemented in Guitar Hero 5, letís review the basic gameplay for anyone who may have been living in a cave for the last four years. At its core, Guitar Hero is a virtual rock star simulator. The goal of the player is to play the notes of a song, in the form of five gems that stream down the screen parallel to each other. By playing the notes correctly, the virtual crowd will be more enthusiastic but missing notes will cause them to become hostile and you will ultimately be kicked off the stage.
Of course a band is not a band with just a guitar or bass player, and with last year's game drums and vocals were introduced. The drums play pretty much exactly like the guitar and bass, with the addition of a kick pedal that adds an extra note that players have to worry about. Vocals on the other hand are entirely different and play very much like going to a karaoke bar, except that the game will kick you off the stage if you can't sing in tune. Players will play through a virtual career by playing different gigs with increasing levels of difficulty.
It is all pretty much the same in Guitar Hero 5, which some might say is Activision just milking the cow dry. To be fair, it is a formula that works quite well and Neversoft generally adds enough new features to spice things up for long time players. They have streamlined the career mode and it no longer plays like Rock Band-lite. It all evokes a distinctive Guitar Hero feel and seems decidedly old school in its approach as it has more in common with the career structure of the first few Guitar Hero games than it does with Rock Band or World Tour.
Career challenges add a new hook to the tried and true gameplay. Party Play and new multiplayer modes add a new way for players to enjoy the game together.
Eclectic setlist may not be for everyone.