Guitar Hero 5 Review

Guitar Hero took the first step. It was the leader in the console world. Suddenly, the masses could throw concerts in their own house. Air guitar was redfined. Loud music, check. Good music, check. The world was Activision’s oyster.


Then a grit of sand came along and it has irritated that oyster for a while now. What, you have JUST guitars? *cringe* No karaoke? *churn* Your instruments don’t come with built-in adapters? *groan* We used to be on your side?


Well after several years of tit-for-tat, Guitar Hero is unveiling its pearl: Guitar Hero 5.

A sight to behold


Having first seen the Xbox 360 version I was prepared to chew on my bottom lip with the lesser powers of the Wii. I was instead amazed! The styles and the lights are done superbly. The animations from the band members don’t match the music exactly, but that goes for all the versions. You think they can fit a custom model for each level of diffiiculty? Maybe in a couple more years.


And as good as the graphics are, the whole new GUI is outstanding.  Everyone has their own Star Power meter now, the layout is crisp and clean, the character models are great for the Wii, and there is no lag to be found.


The GH series vs. my Wii (not all, but especially mine) has been a bitter relationship. Plagued with problems like crashing, locking up, and constant annoyance at having to start from square 1 or 2 when I simply need to lefty-flip – I was very dissapointed time and time again. Then to suffer humility on top of shame, we got half the options the heavy duty consoles got. Friends, that is no more! Activision has completely redone the menu system, and we get all the same features that the so-called big boys do.

Music for Everybody


The selection of music ranges from the magnificent A Perfect Circle, to the droll Bob Dylan. That’s my opinion, but I find myself suffering at about 1/4th of the tracks in this game. Bon Jovi ‘You Give Love’ again? It’s one thing to throw in some new bands that are still clawing their way up. The exposure can be good in both directions. However, some of the reaches into the past are badly reaching into one of a couple bags: Nostalgia, or “Marketing said we need this”. I can almost forgive nostalgia if it’s a very small sample of very classic stuff, but we’re steeped in some ye aulde tunes that don’t come close to representing the genius of the age.


So it’s not spectacular, but anyone can buy the game and find something they like. In this case, I guess the marketers win. I’d like more Pearl Jam, and if you can make the mic do a brass-thing how about Reel Big Fish?

Nothing New Yet


On one hand, I don’t have to buy a whole new set of instruments. On the other, what can they do new? On another (hey what planet is this? I think I have too many hands…), I think we have an opportunity for the brass section. A thin-style mic can make sure the player is doing vocal input with some opportunity for buttons. I dunno, think about it.


I had some issues with calibration, but once that was done I was doing alright. Let’s face it; most of my issue is skill-based. I mainly wish I had more Wii-motes so I could try more combinations without shuffling them around!

Get Out that Li’l Black Book


Because you are going to throw a party like never before. There are so many great things to do with other people that you aren’t going to stop anytime soon. The simplest, and most marvelous, innovation is Party Mode. Fire up the game, hit the Yellow Button, and the rest is as easy as toasting bread as though you had a butler that toasts your bread for you. The game picks a song at random and starts playing it. Grab an instrument and tap the green button. The game figures out what instrument you have, gives you options for type, difficulty, and even handedness if that’s important. And you’re playing. Your neighbor likes the song too? Great, but he wants to play bass guitar as well? Fine! He picks up another guitar, hits the green button, tells the game he’s playing bass too, and you’re BOTH playing bass! Add a third, even a fourth! Or add a pair of singers/drums/a singer and a drummer/whatever you have instruments for people to fill they can play!


If you have a couple Nintendo DS handhelds, the people not playing the instruments can still have fun! While the group is on stage you can play the disgruntled employee and mess with the equipment! Pull plugs or start fires, and you don’t have to buy another version of the game! Or, play the groupie and blow the fires out before the band goes up in smoke (you do this by blowing into the microphone on the Nintendo DS), and plug cords back in before the lead guitar misses the solo!  This is the best implimentation of DS / Wii crossover we’ve seen yet.


The best new feature is one that should have been there all along – proper friend support.  Whilst granting high-capacity SD card support in the same masterstroke, Guitar Hero 5 also allows you to set up a band from your friends list WITHOUT inputting obnoxious friend codes!  That’s right, Guitar Hero 5, after several years of the Wii being on the market, is the first title to get it right and use the information in your address book!  It’s no Xbox Live, but I won’t go blind entering in obnoxious number combinations!


There are competitions to give it a more arcade style, but this is also a blast. You can play elimination battles, best of section battles, or even one where the game adjusts to your abilities on the fly! Play in teams, or free for all! Can’t fit them all into your studio apartment? Play it online with up to 8 others! Online competitons lets you challenge friends near or far, and make new ones. It’s all up to you.

So all this is great, but I have to throw out all that other stuff I’ve already got dont I? Absolutely not!  Your downloadable content from GH World Tour will be made compatible when you install Guitar Hero 5!  So, to recap: There’s a crisper and more friendly GUI.  There’s a new wide selection of mostly great songs.  You have loads of freedom to come and go from the stage as you please AND its backwards-compatible with Guitar Hero World Tour.


That is win.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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