On top of returning acts, Guitar Hero 5 offers a surprising amount of artists never before seen in the franchise (or in any fake plastic instrument game, for that matter). I'm talking about Arctic Monkeys ("Brainstorm"), King Crimson ("21st Century Schizoid Man"), Spacehog ("In the Meantime"), Sunny Day Real Estate ("Seven"), The Raconteurs ("Steady, As She Goes"), The White Stripes ("Blue Orchid"), Vampire Weekend ("A-Punk"), among others. There's an impressive list of songs for just about any musical type, including only a few tracks that are repeats from other music games.
On top of offering 85 songs, you can also import some of the songs from Guitar Hero World Tour and the recently released Guitar Hero Smash Hits. While the idea of exporting your older songs may sound exciting, Activision has taken all of the fun out of it by limiting the amount of songs available to you. Of the original's 86 song library, only 35 can be exported. I'm no good at math, but even I know that we're talking about less than half of the songs, including many fan favorites. Similar cuts were made to Guitar Hero Smash Hits, which only allows 22 of the game's 48 tracks to fit on your hard drive. Granted, the prices are somewhat reasonable ($3.50 for the World Tour content and $2 for Smash Hits), but it still feels like we're getting the short end of the stick. Like Guitar Hero 5, Rock Band 2 allowed you to import songs from the original game; only in that case you paid $5 and lost only three tracks.
As always you can go into the music creator and compose your own rock hits. This time around the interface has been cleaned up and the whole process is a lot less painful. That doesn't mean that you're going to create the next rock anthem, but at least it's not fighting you the whole way. Best of all, you can make tracks on the fly, so there's none of the cumbersome waiting we're all used to when it comes to this kind of thing. When you're done you can upload your songs and test out other people's tunes, giving you an almost unlimited amount of user-created content to play after you've grown bored of the 85 songs on the disc.
What Activision has learned is that the original Guitar Hero gameplay is what made the series so successful. There's no need to add a bunch of gimmicky features to an already good game, all you need are great songs and fun modes to play them in. For the first time in several years it doesn't feel like Activision is just throwing ideas at the wall and hoping they stick, the additions here actually make sense and in no way take away from the brilliance of the gameplay. I'm still not a fan of some of the World Tour improvements (those tap notes have to go), but I'm thankful Activision didn't take the opportunity to cram even more useless gameplay changes down our throats.
As I mentioned before, Activision has retooled the look of the game. While Guitar Hero III and World Tour looked good on the Xbox 360, they were really nothing more than higher resolution versions of the PlayStation 2 releases. Guitar Hero 5 is different, featuring dynamic lighting, fully realized 3D characters and amazing new venues to rock. Couple the detailed graphics with some impressive camera/lighting effects and you have one of the best looking music games of all time. Simple pictures do not do it justice; the change is night and day when you see it in person. It's cool seeing what my favorite guitar heroes look like with real next-generation graphics.
With its accessible game modes, amazing track list and sensational visuals, Guitar Hero 5 is easily the best installment in the series since Guitar Hero II. Instead of focusing on gimmicky gameplay, Activision has wisely stuck to perfecting the game that wraps around the gameplay. It's still not perfect, but Guitar Hero 5 is a giant step in the right direction.
It doesn't matter if you're a longtime fan of the series or picking up the fake plastic guitar for the first time, Guitar Hero 5 has something for everybody. It features an impressive track list, amazing graphics and enough gameplay modes to keep you rockin' long after you've played all 85 tracks. Guitar Hero 5 is a major step in the right direction!
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