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Guitar Hero 5

Play it your way

You may have noticed our growing apathy towards Guitar Hero. Over the past year Rock Band has asserted itself as the office music franchise of choice, and the constant bombardment of GH editions, each offering minuscule improvements, has slowly eroded our old enthusiasm for each successive release.

We can whine about Activision's market saturation all page long, but any accusations that Guitar Hero 5 has been churned out on a dime would be utterly false. Against all expectations this fifth instalment has taken a serious step into Rock Band's party territory, and the new jump-in/jump-out and instrument-duplication modes set new benchmarks for the rhythm-action genre. Both features are perfect for gatherings (going back to menus in between songs to switch instruments or change players now seems laughable), as is the neat touch of making every song instantly available in Quickplay.

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The inability to save failed band members has also been sent packing, while No Fail mode for the pre-title screen Jukebox mode lets people experiment with higher difficulties without penalty. Insanely difficult fretwork and drum tracks remain for those serious about score challenges, only now they're also complemented by impressive catering to the casual gamer.

The constantly morphing career mode has seen yet another positive overhaul. This time every song comes complete with a nine star reward: five for performance, one for attaining perfection, and a further three for either fulfilling a set task for a given instrument or for impressive teamwork. Stars are the sole currency to unlock new venues and gear. Pointless gear, we should say, because with Avatar support you'd be crazy to stick with the gurning Neversoft puppets and their bespoke outfits.

Although party play is GH5's main focus some DRM annoyances could scupper any gathering before it gets started. Taking your memory card and hard drive to a friend's Live-less house is a recipe for disaster as the game has rather strange DRM issues. DLC isn't verified on second machines - if the cursor is even briefly held over such a track on the select screen the game reboots back to before the title menu. Rock Band 2 never had this problem.

Still, this is a definite step forward for a genre in which the idea pool must be running dry. The Beatles: Rock Band has the style and the songs, but GH5 boasts the greatest features for get-togethers. n Matthew Pellett

The verdict

The best vanilla band party game available. No more now, please. Cheers.

  • Nobody's forces to sing
  • Import older GH music at a (admittedly low) price
Xbox 360
Rhythm Action