Guitar Hero 5 First Impressions

Normally I do full-fledged reviews, but since I rented this game and had my time cut short due to visiting my grandparents in New York, I’m providing a first impression article instead.  Anyways, the blog:


Activision are a publisher that seem to value quantity over subtlety, with the recent release of their third Guitar Hero game this year alone being as much an indicator as anything.  In addition, with the success and acclaim Rock Band has achieved with only two (three this Wednesday) game releases, one might get the impression the Call of Duty publisher isn’t so concerned with integrity.  But fans keep on buying and, for the most part, the games themselves haven’t been too shabby.  Arguably the first full-fledged Guitar Hero game since World Tour, the series fifth main installment has hit shelves; have the first few hours of playing left me wanting to purchase it?

The game’s Career mode has gone through a few alterations this time around.  Taking a slight cue from Rock Band, songs are organized into sets at various locations and allow you to play any two songs at the end of each set.  What’s nice about this is that there are several venues to play at, most of which look fairly impressive.  Unfortunately, even though the set-up might be different the progression is ultimately the same: play some songs, unlock some new ones, play those and repeat.  Though the way to join in as a band is handled smoother and, like Guitar Hero: Metallica, unlocking songs isn’t too demanding, this is still the same trod-along through songs you’ve seen before.  On the other hand, all of the songs are available to play from the get-go in Quick Play, meaning those strictly playing for the party aspect won’t have to worry about this tedium.

Other design choices in the game, however, are welcome and help benefit the overall package as well as potential band experience.  The first to note is Party Play, which can be tested at the opening menu whenever a song plays.  In this, players can drop in or out of any song during any point (so if a friend comes over while in the middle of “Sympathy for the Devil,” they can join in wherever you are; no restart required).  Another pleasing addition is how gamers can now play any instrument they want even if someone else is playing that same instrument (got four drum sets and want to play the same songs cooperatively?  Go right ahead).  Changes have also been made to the song creator to make it at least a little more accessible, which dedicated players will definitely appreciate.  Though I didn’t have the time to mess around with the other changes (namely online and competitive multiplayer), what I did manage to try out was very pleasing.

But of course the main concern with Guitar Hero or any other game is how fun it is, and this series has admittedly had its highs and lows (Metallica and Rocks the 80’s, respectively).  In regards to what I played for this entry (which was about one third to half of the total set list), the entertainment was rather mixed.  One key reason behind this comes in the form of the game’s demographic which, outside of the soundtrack, is how it appeals to either newcomers, series veterans or both.  The note charts are overall some of the easier ones found in the series, especially for those developed by Neversoft.  In fact, there are barely any challenging songs at all, with none of on-disc inclusions hitting the highest difficulty on guitar.  This might turn off experts looking for practice-worthy tracks, but in the long run it helps make the game more manageable for when in a full band playthrough.

Then there’s the game’s soundtrack which, like any other collection of songs, will appeal to some and repel others.  On a positive note, there are some great, long-awaited songs included such as Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the Queen and David Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure,” “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down and my personal favorite, “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits.  However, other inclusions and selections for certain bands are rather questionable.  For instance, including a band like Attack! Attack! is rather silly and the continued addition of the Beastie Boys in a still guitar-oriented game feels out of place.  As for the track selection for certain bands, just look at Megadeth and Children of Bodom with “Sweating Bullets” and “Done With Everything, Die For Nothing” being the song selections, respectively.  I think I can speak for many other fans that the song choices for both are rather disappointing.  But for what it’s worth, the soundtrack is a decent mix, but it does have a distinct lack of strong, memorable song.

My time with Guitar Hero 5 was simultaneously surprising and disappointing.  Even though just about all of the design choices are very pleasant; the soundtrack, overall gameplay and thus entertainment did leave me feeling unfulfilled.  Even though I’d normally say spending more time could yield more fun, all of the previous iterations (save for the lackluster Rocks the 80’s) at least provided satisfaction from start to finish.  As of now I’d have a tough time trying to justify shelling out $60 for this game; let alone over $100 for a bundle.  If the price goes down anytime soon and more, better songs are made available via download, it might be worth a purchase but as it is, the game is only worth a lengthy rental.

First Impression Score: 77



  1. specialk20 Said:

    This is a wonderful review, you really put a lot of detail into it! You hit just about every aspect of the game. Seeing as I’m not a hardcore Guitar Hero player I would probably like this new game.

  2. Benjamin Said:

    I heard of the new characters that would be revealed in this edition. I didn’t hear too much contreversy considering it’s a game meant for fun and not for any weird symbolic purpose. I don’t really play this game unfortunately (I never knew why) But the updates that are always preparing for the future are pretty stellar!

  3. Chantal Said:

    I am a huge Guitar Hero fan and I have all the games. I was skeptical about getting this game because the last two have been mediocre at best. For the most part, this blog makes me want to purchase it and give it a chance. The one question I have is whether or not you can save more than one career at one time (under different names)? The first couple of games you could do this but then with the last few you could not.
    If you can, then I’m sold. =]

    • Xenoraiser Said:

      I’m not sure if you can create multiple career/band profiles on the same system profile. I know you can for Rock Band 2 but didn’t try with this one since I got about half way through it. Personally, I very much enjoyed Guitar Hero: Metallica, thought it was the best installment since GH2 (part of this is of course because I loved the soundtrack, but I also found it arguably the most fun installment).

      • Chantal Said:


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