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Guitar Hero 5 review

No sign of 'difficult eleventh album' syndrome...


  • 83 artists
  • 85 songs
  • Precision notechart placements
  • Party features raise the bar


  • Looks aren't anything to sing about
  • Track list isn't perfect
  • Some may be offended by digital Kurt Cobain

Shout it out loud: after the relative comedown of Guitar Hero: World Tour, the series is back with an installment set to keep you glued to your instruments ’til at least two minutes to midnight, six days a week. Neversoft and Vicarious Visions haven’t just taken one big holiday since the last Guitar Hero and tried to sneak out an update low on new features as expected. Instead, they’ve heeded recent criticisms and responded with a cracking music party game.

Guitar Hero has always catered for hardcore players, and GH5 is no different, with Expert and Expert Plus modes guaranteed to leave you sweating bullets. Clearly under pressure from Rock Band’s family-friendly approach to rhythm action, this game’s focus, beginning with an improved Mii Freestyle mode, has been on the simpler side of the fretboard.

Failed member rescues are an overdue addition, but it’s the jump-in/jump-out, no-fail Jukebox area that impresses, especially as instrument duplication means four people can play without anyone having to sing. Activated moments after boot-up, it’s a portal to on-the-fly, instrument-swapping party nirvana that bypasses the main menu. And anybody wanting to play that funky music without unlocking it is in luck: each track’s available from the off.

Those after more substance will find the Career mode’s had yet another facelift. Each song now comes with a nine-star award: the usual five for score and a sixth for those who never miss a beat. Seven, eight and nine, in the meantime, are reserved for instrument-specific challenges. Career mode’s disconnected from Quickplay, so stars unlock new songs here alone, although new venues and equipment are usable in all modes.

A scattershot approach to the full track list reveals a strange mix of artists, with the likes of Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy lining up alongside Elton John and Duran Duran. While all the songs won’t please everyone, enough of them will satisfy enough people.

On top of the expected content, Guitar Hero 5 comes with DS Stage Manager and Roadie Battle download modes, the latter of which pits two pairs against each other in a classic Battle match where the special moves are all instigated and countered on the DS. It’s a neat diversion, but if everybody has an instrument they could just play the (superior) standard game instead. The multiplayer features beat the other Guitar Hero and Rock Band games hands-down, so why bother?

Guitar Hero 5 is the perfect excuse to stock up on some lithium batteries, invite your friends back around and deadbolt the door. You’ll be hooked by song 2.

Sep 24, 2009

More info

GenreOther Games/Compilations
DescriptionMore accurately titled Guitar Hero 17, another entry in the monster is coming to gamers very soon. New features include being able to change band members, instruments and difficulty levels at any time during a song.
Franchise nameGuitar Hero
UK franchise nameGuitar Hero
Platform"PS2","Wii","PS3","Xbox 360"
US censor rating"Teen","Teen","Teen","Teen"
UK censor rating"Rating Pending","Rating Pending","Rating Pending","Rating Pending"
Alternative names"Guitar Hero V"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
Matt is former editor of Official PlayStation Magazine, his favourite games include Skyrim, Final Fantasy VII, Braid, Shadow Of The Colossus and Puggsy, and when he's not grinding away in Destiny you'll often find him talking about WWE or NFL (go Seahawks!).