Guitar Hero 5 Review for Nintendo Wii

Guitar Hero 5 Review for Nintendo Wii

Rock Out with Your Mii Out!

Neversoft and Activision’s latest entry in the Guitar Hero franchise looks to buck the slumping trend in music and rhythm gaming by giving consumers the very best it has to offer. Guitar Hero 5 coalesces years of trial and error and lessons learned into one cohesive, ultimate experience – signifying the maturation and perhaps pinnacle of the genre.

Guitar Hero 5 screenshot

Vicarious Visions and Activision’s latest entry in the Guitar Hero franchise looks to buck the slumping trend in music and rhythm gaming by giving consumers the very best it has to offer. Guitar Hero 5 coalesces years of trial and error and lessons learned into one cohesive, ultimate experience – signifying the maturation and perhaps pinnacle of the genre.

Like millions of gamers out there, I’ve been picking up plastic instruments for years now. Honing my virtual musician skills across all platforms, multiple brands, and rising up through the difficulty levels was something of a badge of courage. Unfortunately, years of repackaged games with little more than new set lists and slightly tweaked peripherals have forced my six guitars, two drum sets, and four microphones to the back of closets, bottom of drawers, and dark parts of my basement. I rarely play any of my music games anymore. In fact, the only time I pull out all that jazz is when my noob friends and family members come over and demand a jam session. Without a doubt, music and rhythm games have lost much of their novelty for core players.

Enter: Guitar Hero 5. Rather than appealing solely to casual gamers or to the hardest core of virtual axe slayers, the game synthesizes the best aspects of the genre into a user-friendly and seamless experience. For example, if you and your friends hate to sing and are bothered by the incessant banging of the drums, you can all play guitars. If you plan on having a party, the pick-up-and-play nature of Party Play is without equal. If you simply hunger to shred licks or blast through fills on your own, the challenging song list and perfectly mimicked note phrases will test your technical prowess more than ever before. This game really feels like the ideal amalgamation of qualities drawn from across the genre.

The most revolutionary aspect of Guitar Hero 5 has to be the Party Play feature. Imagine inviting a few friends over, effortlessly setting up lengthy playlists (before or during play – even mid-song), imbibing a few libations, and hopping on to play whenever you want without any risk of failure or waiting through load screens. The new Party Play mode allows you and your cohorts to jam however you want, whenever you want, in any difficulty setting, with any instrument combination, at the press of a button. In fact, if you never want to play, you can simply have the game spin in the background and let the tunes fuel conversation. It’s the perfect party tool because it requires nothing from your guests while still adding to the ambience, just waiting for someone to hop on and jam.

Guitar Hero 5 screenshot

Furthermore, being able to play with any combination of instruments is an upgrade that is long overdue. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had friends bicker over the mic and guitars. Guitar Hero 5 lets you create the kind of band you want to play in. What’s more, this option isn’t just limited to Quickplay. This functionality is implemented across the board, from online/local co-op and competitive modes to Career and Party Play; the mix of instruments is always up to you.

This spirit and freedom of choice is found throughout Guitar Hero 5. The options menu alone is evidence of that. Truly, anything that you want tweaked can be adjusted to your liking. I especially liked the ability to mess with playback levels and import downloaded content via SD card from the Music Store. Being able to create your own rocker and even make and share your own music via an enhanced GH Studio and GHTunes is also nice.

Guitar Hero 5 screenshot

Having the import functionality is particularly significant, because the song variety in Guitar Hero 5 isn’t ideal. This is perhaps my biggest gripe with the game. Sure, the game sports 85 original songs, but there aren’t a whole lot of classic crowd-pleasers thrown in for old-timers. Outside of notable exceptions from Tom Petty, 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. Moreover, despite all of Vicarious Vision’s and Central Audio’s hard work maximizing the sound quality of the game on the Wii, the hardware holds the title back – the fidelity isn’t very good, after all. 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.

Guitar Hero 5 screenshot

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.

Additionally, the Wii version also features two of its own modes exclusive to the system. Mii Freestyle mode is like Wii Music on crack. Instead of worrying about note streaks and even harmony, players can simply rock out and create their own note tracks by just playing to their heart’s content. Also, DS owners can join in on the fun by controlling the lighting, camera angles, and setting off stage effects. Best of all, this mayhem can be recorded for posterity through video capturing, which can actually be shared through WiiConnect 24.

DS compatibility doesn’t stop with behind the scenes production either. Guitar Hero 5 actually lets two DS players and two Wii players join up in Roadie Battle mode. Similar to the multiplayer antics established in Guitar Hero – On Tour, roadies (DS players) will try to sabotage the competition while efficiently repairing the damage caused by the other team. While this may sound a bit gimmicky, I assure you it’s not – it’s actually one of the best cross-platform features that has been implemented between the Wii and DS to date. The action is fast, furious, and a whole lot of fun.

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 better, but they still seem quite stiff compared to what’s on offer for the other consoles. Also, singers’ lips do not synch up particularly well with the songs, and jaggies are ever-present. Graciously, controls are 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 more realistic-looking than ever, are of much higher quality construction, offer interchangeable faceplates, 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.

Visuals are as good as they’ve ever been, but they’re still not why we play the game. 4.8 Control
Note tracks are tighter and the menu organization is just about perfect. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The set list isn’t as widely appealing as in other Guitar Hero titles, but there is still a lot of great music. Unfortunately, the sound quality is simply not quite where it should be. 4.5

Play Value
Despite the aging conventions of the genre, Guitar Hero 5 gets nearly everything right. There is a ton of gameplay packed into a decidedly user-friendly/hardcore-friendly package.

4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Assemble Your Band and Rock Any Way You Want: Guitar Hero 5 allows fans to play alone, as a full band or, for the first time, with any combination of multiple guitarists, bassists, drummers or vocalists, to customize their musical experience. Players now have the control to rock any way they want whether it is with two guitars and two drummers, four guitarists, or three guitarists and a vocalist, any combination is possible. This freedom is available in all modes of play: online, Party Play, Quickplay, RockFest, and even Career.
  • The Definitive Rock ‘n’ Roll Set List: Experience furious finger fretting, intense drumming, and lyrics that will challenge even the best vocal chops with songs from some of the hottest bands of today to all-time favorite classic anthems including; Tom Petty, Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, Santana, Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan. Featuring 85 master tracks, the breadth of rock-centric styles ensures that every Guitar Hero fan will find their favorite tracks and discover new ones.
  • Join The Party!: It has never been easier to rip it up and rock out with friends than it is in Guitar Hero 5. The brand new Party Play Mode puts players straight into the action with the press of a button and allows them to jump in or drop out, or switch difficulty level at any time without interrupting the jam session.
  • Become the Best. Shred the Rest!: In Guitar Hero 5 players can test their skills against others with four-player local and up to eight-player online battles in the all-new competitive RockFest Mode. Within RockFest Mode, players can choose from various head-to-head gameplay types, including Momentum, Perfectionist, Elimination, Do-or-Die, Streakers, and Pro Face Off.
  • Limitless Jams: Guitar Hero 5 delivers hours of endless entertainment, as fans will be able to play Guitar Hero World Tour downloadable content in the game, experiencing all of the upgrades and new features in Guitar Hero 5.
  • The Band that Plays Together: Bands can earn bonus multipliers by hitting new special note streams in unison, creating an even greater sense of excitement and accomplishment for players that can rock songs together.
  • Make and Share Music: Guitar Hero 5 features the innovative GHMusic Studio and GHTunes first introduced in Guitar Hero World Tour. Produce hits in the redesigned Music Studio with improved editing tools for easy use, new guitar samples and mix patterns and share them online with GHTunes to create what could be the next breakout hit.
  • Rock With Your Mii: Exclusive game modes for Nintendo fans will let living room rock stars interact with their music and friends like never before. In Mii Freestyle Mode, gamers can rock any way they want with their Miis for a unique experience that connects players to the music and adds yet another layer of personalization to the game. Players can jam with the Guitar Hero controllers along pre-set note track options in multiple music genres or just rock out using the Wii remote and Nunchuk to “air drum.” And, for the first time, fans will be able to capture videos of their Mii rocking out and share with other Wii owners.
  • Nintendo DS fans can experience the life of a band roadie thanks to the brand new Roadie Battle mode. Up to two DS players can connect with two Guitar Hero Wii guitar players for an intense competition. While the guitar players rock out on stage, the DS players frantically navigate their virtual roadie from one side of the stage to the other, trying to sabotage opponents’ equipment while repairing any damage to their own.

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