Battle of the Bands: Guitar Hero 5

It has been almost four years since the original transformed the gaming world with its innovative plastic guitar controller and gameplay reminiscent of the seminal game . Since the introduction of the drum set and the microphone, the multiplayer cultural phenomenon that is enjoyed by a large audience has become one of today’s leading franchises in gaming. , the latest installment of the series, was highly anticipated since its announcement, and the game, released in the U.S. on Sept. 4, has indeed lived up to both its reputation and expectations.

The official playlist of , easily the most important aspect of the game, contains a mixture of 85 songs from 83 distinguished artists. Although the numbers are impressive, the wide variation in style and genre between songs is problematic for a player looking for multiple favorites.

’s playlist ranges from folk rock (Bob Dylan) to modern British alternative (Arctic Monkeys) to heavy metal (Megadeth) to grunge (Nirvana) to Bon Jovi. While it is easy to pick up and play a song that suits your taste, it is hard to find similar ones later on.

However, this is somewhat mitigated by the additional downloadable songs and through GHTunes, a feature introduced back in , which allows for player-created music to be used within the game. Aside from the playlist, the most noticeable components that separate from its predecessors are its improved features.

Players are now given the opportunity to jump in at any point in the middle of a song instead of having to wait for the song currently being played to end and having to join the fun from the main menu. Furthermore, multiple players can now play the same instrument, preventing further struggle on who’s playing the lead guitar and who is going to get stuck with the bass. Last but not least, the band no longer automatically fails a performance if any single player fails more than three times. This will increase game time and prevent better players from being dragged down by first-timers.

To make the game more accessible, two brand new gaming modes are supported by . “Party Play” allows players to switch instruments and difficulty levels mid-song, a feature greatly appreciated in social settings where people switch in and out more rapidly. The other is called “Rockfest,” in which players can set interesting rules or challenges to each song in a playlist beforehand. Though the game will only be slightly altered, the refreshing gameplay change will be enjoyed by casual players.

The single-player Career Mode also underwent some interesting upgrades, as now random challenges are set prior to each song played in a venue, providing the opportunity to earn exciting rewards like new guitars, clothing, etc. for the band. These bonus challenges are specific to each instrument and can each be completed on three different difficulty levels.

The maximum star rating that a band can achieve has also been increased from five to nine. Five of the stars are earned from the regular game play, the sixth for a perfect 100% performance, and the last ones are based on the level of the challenges met by the players. As some of the challenges are quite difficult and require that strategies be planned ahead of time, hardcore players will find these new features more appealing.

Taking its cue from Nintendo’s Wii, the Xbox 360 version of will allow players to use their Xbox Live Avatar in the game as a playable character. Though the stage presence of three rock legends and a significantly smaller, cuter cartoon character is odd, it is a welcoming new option for Xbox owners. Other unlockable playable characters include Johnny Cash, Carlos Santana and Kurt Cobain.

Overall, is another solid game that will only boost the reputation of the franchise and push the genre to the next level. Improvements can be found nearly everywhere in the game, with very few notable weak points.

The game’s current price tag makes it rather expensive to participate in the refined experience, but if you enjoyed the previous installments, will also rock your world.