Another major addition to Career Mode are challenges. Each song has a specific challenge associated with it. There are challenges for individual instruments as well as for the entire band. The challenges are typically related to score, or note streaks, but some are more exacting. One example is a bass challenge that asks you to play as many upstrum notes as possible. There are three levels of achievement: gold, platinum, and diamond. These challenges are fun, and add replayability similar to that of achievements and trophies in other games. There's a nice boost to the co-op feel during full band challenges, too.
My single biggest gripe with the Guitar Hero games has been fixed in GH 5. When one person fails out, the rest of the band keeps playing! No more feeling bad if you let your friends down. You can "revive" a failed player, but the method is a bit different than Rock Band, where you use Star Power to do so. In GH 5, a player comes back automatically if the rest of the band keeps playing well. After just a few seconds, everyone's right back in the mix, having a great time. There's not even a limit to the number of revivals possible. By far, this was the biggest flaw to the co-op in previous titles, and now it has been fixed, in a way that is, if anything, more cooperative than Rock Band's. Kudos for the developers for fixing this issue!
A couple other little tweaks add to the feeling of teamwork. One is the changes to Star Power, which everyone now earns individually. If your Star Power meter is full, and you earn a bit more, the excess fills up a bandmate's meter! Very, very nice. Band Moments are another addition, similar to the unison bonus in Rock Band. Notes all turn orange, and if everyone hits them perfectly, a multiplier is earned and there are some fancy screen effects, similar to those of Star Power. These changes are minor, for sure, but they all add up to a far better co-op game.
Another welcome change is in importing songs. Previously, only a few tracks were compatible between Guitar Hero games. All of the downloaded songs from World Tour are usable in GH 5 by downloading a small, free patch. Even better is the fact that you can now import songs from the World Tour disc to play in the new engine, albeit for a small fee. Soon, songs from Smash Hits will be able to be imported. This is a major change for the series, as this feature previously was found only in Rock Band games. It's great to be able to import your favorites from previous discs; however, at this time, only about a third of the tracks from World tour are importable. Activision says more songs will be available to import soon. If they indeed follow through with this promise, I don't have a problem with it. The fact is, Activision must allow the import of most of the disc songs in order to keep up with Harmonix.
So far, I have been overwhelmingly positive in this review, but this is not to say that Guitar Hero 5 is flawless. For one thing, there's the setlist. I can't think of a more diverse set of songs in any music game previously. It feels like Activision was trying to include something for everyone, from Johnny Cash to Blink-182 to Megadeth. In the end, the whole list feels less appealing as a result. There is a large portion of more modern songs, many of which I didn't even recognize. I'd have preferred more of the head banging, guitar-heavy classics that are the mark of the series. After all, isn't Band Hero intended for the more modern, pop-loving crowd? Why not keep Guitar Hero more, well, guitar-driven?
Another issue I have with the game is the note tracking. It feels a bit muddy, for lack of a better term. I felt the same way about Smash Hits, and it seems the trend is unfortunately continuing. Often, notes are left out, or added in at strange times. This is a minor issue, and highly subjective, but every moment spent thinking of the strange note tracks is one less spent enjoying the game.
This review is already fairly long, but there is much more that could be covered. GHTunes makes a return, and the editor is supposedly better than ever, for those who are into that. The arcade-style competitive multiplayer battles are gone, and there are some fresh new replacements. A new and improved guitar controller and drum kit ship with the full versions of Guitar Hero 5, but I have no experience with them, as I just picked up the standalone version.
It's pretty fashionable in the gaming community to bash Activision, and for good reason. The Guitar Hero series in particular has been heading in the wrong direction. Guitar Hero 5, though, deserves praise. It is far more user friendly than any other music game, especially with the addition of party mode. There are some rough patches, notably the track list, but all in all, it's a great game. The additional co-op friendly features make Guitar Hero 5 the music game to beat when you're looking for some head banging fun with a group of friends.
The Co-Op Experience: Guitar Hero 5 continues the Guitar Hero legacy with full band support as well as something new, drop-in and drop-out play for band members.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.