When I think Guitar Hero, I think "rock". After "rock, maybe I think "metal", or possibly "alternative". I do not immediately think "folk". So when I see that "All Along the Watchtower" is a song I can play in GH5, I think, “Yeah! Jimi Hendrix!”, but is it the Jimi Hendrix Experience version I get? No. It is the lesser known and arguably lesser good Bob Dylan version. Now, I’m not knocking Bob Dylan – he wrote the song for goodness sake – I’m just saying he’s more of a lyricist than a rocker. And for my GH dollar, all I really want to do is rock!
[image1]The whole "Watchtower" thing is just an opinion of mine. It doesn’t necessarily reflect on the merits of the game. It’s possible that there are some guitar fans out there that think Jimi Hendrix is a hack, just as it is possible that some believe Bob Dylan’s prowess on the axe is what made him the icon he is today. I only bring the artist selection up to highlight something that is at least questionable about GH5. Everything else I have to say regarding it is definite. Though some of my criticism is positive and some is negative, the total effect on me was boredom. Even with all its new bells and whistles, GH5 may be solid but it’s also so much of the same, that it’s dull and makes me long for some real innovation in the music genre again.
There are definitely some things GH5 finally got right. Some would say that getting it right on the fifth iteration is nothing to be proud of, but that’s beside the point. The most useful improvement has to do with navigation: It is much easier to slip in and out of gameplay. Mid-song, it is possible to change difficulty, add or remove players, and switch instruments. Quickplay lets you play any song – no unlocking necessary. Everyone can also play the same instrument and GH5 will not even flinch, no matter the sheer improbability of a band made up entirely of drums – on a game with "Guitar" in the title no less.
Other tweaks include an intensity meter which gives you an idea of a song’s difficulty. Star Power is no longer shared, and if a player does badly enough to be ousted from the game, the whole band no longer gets booed off the stage. It’s even possible to bring an ousted player back if the survivors continue to do well. All of these improvements point to the fact that Activision is really going for the party crowd.
GH5 may be great for a group, but it falls flat for the lone wolf. A single player will not notice much in the way of differences between this and earlier versions. Career mode does offer challenges that can garner extra points and vary from things like using the whammy bar as much as possible to getting the most consecutive notes. Unfortunately, the challenge feature come across as a thinly veiled attempt at boosting replay-ability. Point seekers might appreciate this feature, but the casual observer might walk up on someone trying to get that whammy bar challenge and think they have just walked in on a very private and personal act and find themselves backing out of the room slowly.
[image2]The look of the game has been enhanced. The most enjoyable boost to the graphics is the trippy way Star Power deploys. It’s probably the best new thing about the game as a whole, and that’s kind of sad. That’s also the point: In the end, GH5 is just another Guitar Hero. We’ve seen this before, and we are not impressed.
You’ll find GHStudio is resurrected from GH World Tour, but this time, there are no easy-to-find tutorials to tell you what to do in this mode. In fact, there may be no tutorials for GHStudio at all; I certainly could not find them. In effect, this mode which has potential to be a great creative outlet for the game, will probably be underused.
If you own previous versions of Guitar Hero, give the purchase of GH5 some serious thought. You probably don’t need it. If you are looking to make your first inroads into the franchise, though, this is a good introduction. And if you are a fanboy (or fangirl) of the series, then well, you already bought it anyway.
If I were Bob Dylan, I might ask, “How many versions of this game must we suffer, before we get something really new? “. And I might answer myself, “The answer, my friend, lies with Activision…” But I’m not Bob Dylan, so I’ll just say I was bored and felt duped.