|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Neversoft Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision / Red Octane||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 1, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4 (8 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
The import functionality is particularly significant, even though it too is severely limited, because the song variety isn't ideal. This is perhaps my biggest gripe with the game. Sure, the game sports 85 original songs reproduced in crystal clear fidelity, but there aren't a whole lot of classic crowd-pleasers thrown in for old-timers. Outside of notable exceptions from Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, the music selection is geared toward modern music (Muse, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, The White Stripes, etc.). While these songs are an absolute blast to play through, they aren't so great for getting the entire party rocking. On the other hand, there is a lot of music for old farts to discover, and the addition of quality, master recordings of live performances (I'm thinking specifically of Rush's Spirit of the Radio) tend to smooth out the qualms a curmudgeon might have.
Career mode is essentially the same as what you've always had in Guitar Hero. However, this time around does include the Bonus Challenges that helped bolster Guitar Hero - On Tour: Modern Hits for DS. These side objectives have players meeting specific goals (Ex.: Utilize the whammy bar for 30, 60, or 80 seconds on held notes). Successfully completing these challenges will net you rewards such as instrument skins and outfits.
Outside of the standard Career mode, the local and online competitive multiplayer options really offer a lot of engaging, diverse gameplay for more serious virtual musicians. RockFest gives players six modes of play with which to mix things up. Momentum constantly changes difficulty for individual players depending on how well they're executing. Perfectionist divides songs up into sections and rewards the player with the highest percentage at the end of the segment. Elimination drops the player with the lowest percentage out of the mix after each section, crowning the last man standing the champion. Do-or-Die penalizes players if they miss just three notes in a segment by temporarily freezing them, not allowing them to accrue points. As the name implies, Streakers gives exponential point bonuses to those players that put long note streaks together. Finally, Pro Face Off is the most straightforward of the bunch, as it is a head-to-head battle where all players play at the same difficulty with the same instrument to see who's the baddest. These multiplayer modes are all very well implemented and perfectly suited to improving the skill set of hardcore players.
On the graphics front, the visuals are the best they've ever been; though, that's not saying a whole lot. Still, the characters are livelier than ever and the environments are varied and engaging. Animations are particularly good now, and singers' lips synch up nicely with the songs. Controls are also much improved over previous versions. Note tracks are expertly laid out to mimic the songs, and the menu organization is very user-friendly. If you haven't gotten a guitar controller in a while, you may want to check out the new peripheral. The guitars are very realistic-looking, are of much higher quality construction, and the slider bar functionality is even tighter.
Certainly, Guitar Hero 5 is the best title in the franchise's illustrious history. Furthermore, it is undeniably the best music game ever made, as it synthesizes the best of the genre into one neat package. The only question is, is this the reawakening of a phenomenon, or just a beautiful swan song? I guess only time will tell.
CCC Editor / News Director