Guitar Hero 5 Review
Xbox 360 | PS3 | Wii
Guitar Hero 5 box art
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.

Guitar Hero 5 screenshot

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.

Guitar Hero 5 screenshot

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.

By Jonathan Marx
CCC Editor / News Director

Visuals are as good as they've ever been, but they're still not why we play the game.
Note tracks are tighter and the menu organization is just about perfect.
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
While the set list may not be as widely appealing as in other Guitar Hero titles, the sound quality is off the charts and the tunes are very fun to play!
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.
Overall Rating - Must Buy
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.

  • Screenshots / Images
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