Monday, September 7, 2009

Guitar Hero 5 Comes Alive!

It's a new year and the game brought plastic guitars to homes, bars and frat houses everywhere is back with a new edition to the series. With a new game, Activision brings forth new list of songs as well as new features, all or none of which you may care about. Does this game live up to the title Guitar Hero or does it fall short of the bar as did last year's Guitar Hero World Tour?
Guitar Hero 5 is everything that Guitar Hero World Tour should have and interesting. GHWT was Activision's first attempt at making a band game and while it wasn't a complete failure, it lacked the heart and overall fun that Rock Band brought to the genre. There were a lot of confusing choices for the set list ("On The Road Again" being one of them), playing as a band really meant working together as a band which in itself meant nobody could fail, all of your individual starpower went into the group's starpower and all of the money you earn counts as the band's money (I had to hear about that when I bought a $8000 gorilla mask for my character). These things, along with paying to unlock gigs, were annoying and detracted from the enjoyment of the game.

With GH5, these annoyances are a thing of the past and instead, you get much more interesting features such as challenges for each song. Now every song has a challenge for you to beat to unlock items such as extra clothing for on-disc characters and created characters, hidden characters and new instruments. One would think that this might be annoying but it gives the game more of a challenge toward completion as well as adds longevity, well, until the sixth game comes out. In fact, some of the harder challenges are as fun as they are frustrating and getting the reward for them makes it worth the struggle.

Along with the challenges, another new feature is the ability to play more than one of the same instrument. This doesn't really add much to the game other than taking away the argument of who is playing guitar or drums. Since, I usually play bass or sing, there isn't much competition for my spot but if there was a question of who is on bass, then it could be up to four people. This feature is supplemented by the fact that anyone can jump in and out of the game in Party Play mode which now eliminates the need to start from the title screen to rock out not that this is a problem either due to the simplicity of the game's menu.

The true gem of the game is reserved for the Wii version. Exclusive to the Wii is Roadie Mode. This mode will cause rifts between friends but also now have a reason to blame your head to head battle loss on someone else. Using a 1-2 Wii guitars and 1-2 DS's, the person controlling the DS serves the function of a roadie. You fix amps and guitars, check levels and whatever you need to do so that your guitarist does not lose the battle. Along with this, your other function is to completely sabotage the opposition. You perform all of these task on the DS by tuning guitar pegs and dragging amps. It's a really cool Wii exclusive that all Guitar Hero fans have to check out and then blame their friends for not overloading the opponent's amp is a speedy manner.

The biggest complaint of the game so far has been that the tracklist is too wide and that there are songs people will not like or never play. That is the case with any of these games. These games are like albums, you're rarely, if ever, going to like every song included. Ths list, however, is a huge step from the last game and used more band friendly songs instead of mainly focusing on guitar or including as many questionable selections ("Antisocial" and "On The Road Again," I'm looking in your direction). Instead, you get a sensible set of music from hits of the 70-90's such as future "One Hit Wonder Or One Hit Blunder" inductee, Spacehog, some classic rock a la Peter Frampton and a lot of modern tracks from Band Of Horses and My Morning Jacket. In addition to the on-disc tracks, downloadable content from GHWT as well as selected songs from that game and Guitar Hero: Smash Hits can imported into the game with a code and for a small fee. The downloadable songs will expand the game instantly and are updated with the GH5 engine.

Going into the year, I declared Guitar Hero to be dead and that Rock Band has officially taken its place. Now, I'm not so sure. Guitar Hero 5 is everything the last entry in the series should have been: fun, inspired and featuring two songs by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers. This is the natural progression from the guitar based games into the world of plastic bands. A game that retains the challenge of the older games while presenting it in a new way. Hell, there are a few things from this game that Rock Band should use for its next edition. Welcome back to the fold, Guitar Hero.

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