keskiviikko 9. marraskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Guitar Hero 5 (2009)

GENRE(S): Rhythm
RELEASED: September 2009
DEVELOPER(S): Neversoft Entertainment, Budcat Creations (PS2), Vicarious Visions (Wii)
PUBLISHER(S): Activision, RedOctane

11 games in five years, whew. The year 2009, in particular, was the year of Guitar Hero. It was the year the franchise was expanded and branched to DJ Hero and the family-oriented Band Hero; one DS exclusive was released, Guitar Hero: Metallica arrived to rock, Guitar Hero: Van Halen was scheduled for the end of the year, and 48 choice cuts from Guitar Hero, Guitar Hero II, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock and Guitar Hero: Aerosmith were re-released as Guitar Hero: Smash Hits. Somehow, Neversoft found the time to make Guitar Hero 5. With this game, critics' belief in the main series was revived, as the game had many new features that made it the most enduring gameplay experience since the first three titles. All they would've needed for a true rhythm game classic was a good retail tracklist.

Plug in, baby

Buying Guitar Hero 5 was a reflex. I had not really followed the game's development step by step like I usually do; I was still very much of a rhythm game fan, but the tracklist of Guitar Hero 5 didn't really give me any sort of vibes one way or the other. However, I read a good review of the game; this guy had given World Tour a quite mediocre ranking, and in turn, he praised Guitar Hero 5 as the first true competition for Rock Band 2. So, I went out the morning the game shipped and bought it with a win or lose attitude. I won and lost; the gameplay is absolutely awesome. Neversoft finally acknowledged hardware problems, as well as how unrewarded truly skilled players felt playing the few previous games as they could easily be completed on any difficulty level to the same rewards. The new multiplayer modes are the shite. In turn, the retail tracklist is thoroughly lame. The developers had 85 chances to blow us away, and they capitalized only on a minimal amount of those chances.

This band thing's getting more real all the time.
The back of the box promotes the collection of songs as "The Hottest Rock 'n' Roll Songs". Right now, I'm not saying what I personally think about some songs, I'm just questioning Neversoft's judgement: what the freakin' hell are Stevie Wonder, Wild Cherry, Vampire Weekend, A Band of Horses, Gorillaz, Sublime, and once again, that damn Coldplay, doing in a game that was built on a mountain of rock, and should there be some sort of an amazing feeling you get from playing these songs with the guitar? 'Cause I don't feel it. Money seems to talk more than the voice of reason. Digging hard enough, you will certainly find something you like here, and I do hope you bought the game for songs that truly belong in Guitar Hero. There's Iron Maiden and Megadeth, gotta wonder about the song choices, though. There's Wolfmother, The Sword (who have become a favourite of mine thanks to Guitar Hero), Rush, Dire Straits, Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Bon Jovi, Queen, Muse, Santana, 3 Doors Down and Rammstein. Children of Bodom receive the honour of being the first Finnish band in a Guitar Hero retail (a song by The Rasmus was previously available as DLC for World Tour). Way to go... assholes. I'm not a huge fan, but I've got to admit that they truly belong in here. The biggest positive surprise of the game is a new version of Public Enemy and Anthrax's crossover hit "Bring the Noise", recorded by Public Enemy and Zakk Wylde. It's full of energy, it's a fun song to play on all instruments, and I enjoy shouting along to it very much. The tracklist simply does not have enough great songs, and as good as King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" is, it's a lame end credit track after full metal bulldozers like "Through the Fire and Flames" and "Pull Me Under".

What's technically cool about the game is that you can import a whole bulk of choice songs from Guitar Hero: World Tour, Metallica and Smash Hits, 95 of them to be precise, and their inclusion in the game actually means something, as you are allowed to pick a showcase song for each gig during your career out of the total of 180 songs, PLUS the DLC; almost every downloadable track for World Tour, including Death Magnetic, works with Guitar Hero 5, and of course the game has its own library of DLC. I myself have a total of 236 songs in the Guitar Hero 5 song library. What's crap is that importing the songs costs notably more than importing songs from the previous Rock Band game to the next, and in the case of Rock Band, you can import ALL of the songs. The best songs in World Tour, including the Tool trifecta and Ozzy's songs are not available for import, while all of the crappiest tunes are. It's like they're force feeding 'em to the uninterested public.

We miss you, Johnny.
Graphically, the game hasn't changed much, but I guess they put a little more effort in making the guest stars look a little less like puppets. Mo-caps were done by guest stars who were available - in other words, not dead - and I must say this game made me a total fan of Matthew Bellamy of Muse. The guy goes absolutely crazy in "Plug in Baby". Other guests include Shirley Manson of Garbage, Carlos Santana, and two late greats, Johnny Cash and Kurt Cobain. Boss battles are a thing of the past, these iconic characters only appear during the Career Mode to perform their songs along with your band, and after you've beaten the songs, you unlock the characters for free use... a neat feature that famously angered a lot of Cobain fans and his closest friends.

The vocal mechanics are a little closer to home. You're allowed to actually sing in a different octave in practice instead of just on paper... in most songs. There are a lot of songs in which you have to once again twist your voice in some mysterious ways to have the game deem your performance "Excellent", although you know damn well you sound like shit, and you also know damn well that your "Sloppy" or "Average" performance was as close to the right notes as you can possibly get. The wireless guitar controller works better than ever; the game forgives a lot of flaws in hardware. There are still some phantom notes playing here and there if you're playing with an old controller, and the touch pad has a tendency of locking on to a single note and fucking up your performance since you cannot play any other notes during the lock-up, but all in all, there are not nearly as much problems with hardware there were with the last couple of games.

Even though the retail game lacks great songs by a whole lot, and has a lot of downright abysmal crap to boot, Career Mode has not been this fun since Guitar Hero III. You are rated very differently for each song. Doing extremely well in a song still garners in a five-star performance - but doing perfectly in a song, on any instrument, garners in six stars. If you can conquer the bonus challenge perfectly in addition to those six stars - each song in the game has one - you'll gain a total of NINE stars for the song, as well as an unlockable item, be it a bonus character or some random extra. Some of the challenges are just impossible to complete; for example, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" requires you to bank in as much Star Power as possible on the guitar. I've done it, several times, on Expert, and I still haven't got past Platinum. The vocal challenges are the worst and most frustrating, since the mechanics aren't perfect even if they are tweaked. Still, the challenge system adds to the game's longevity by a great deal, and also, since many of the challenges cannot be completed on any other difficulty level than Expert, skilled players finally get the exclusive rewards they deserve, while casual players who boast on beating World Tour and Metallica on Easy for the same basic rewards are encouraged to practice.

Electricity is in the air.
I guess there ain't nothing left but the new multiplayer modes. First off, there's the much-praised Party Play, a freeform, no-fail mode for players of any skill level that allows players to just jump in and play, with any combination of instruments. This mode was specifically designed for parties with attendees that don't really care for high scores or other rewards, and just want to have some karaoke-styled fun. Up to eight players can take part in the new competitive modes. Pro Face-Off is in as a classic. In Momentum, you start a song off on Easy, and gradually make it up to a higher difficulty level and better scores as long as you do well. Streakers explains itself; no, you're not supposed to reveal your private parts to your rival, you're supposed to get the longest streak of notes in a single song. Do or Die is an extremely fun mode in which you have to avoid missing any notes; three misses will result in a penalty (I recommend playing "Do You Feel Like I Do?" with a friend on Expert, it kills). Elimination gathers scores from each part of a single song; the player who gets the most wins out of a song wins the match. Perfectionist pretty much explains itself. In RockFest, all players vote on the game mode. As you can see, Guitar Hero 5 is a very fresh game in the franchise when it comes to the tweaks in gameplay instead of just a rehash. Once again, I must say that I would've wished for better songs.

Even though I got the most out of it by playing DLC and imported songs, Guitar Hero 5 pretty much lasted over the gap between it and Warriors of Rock, which is the exact time it was expected to last. The Trophies and Achievements are of the same low caliber Guitar Hero: Metallica's were, and I have no further interest in going on a hunt for the missing marks. However, I cannot judge Guitar Hero 5 after its successor, I must judge it after how the game felt during its cycle, and it felt good; gameplay-wise, it was another defining title in the franchise, right up there with Guitar Hero II and III.

Today, it might be simply useless, but it did the Guitar Hero franchise a lot of good in its late period and proudly stood up to Rock Band with great gameplay, despite the retail's extremely disappointing selection of songs. Sure, it pleased a wider audience than ever, but I believe that was never Guitar Hero's point. 

SOUND : 7.0


a.k.a. Guitar Hero V

GameRankings: 45.00% (PS2), 86.58% (PS3), 89.58% (Wii), 85.66% (X360)

A cover version of "Lonely is the Night", recorded by WaveGroup Sound, was included in Guitar Hero Rocks the 80's.

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