The Reluctant Technologist on Guitar Hero 5

I’m not going to rehash my love of the Guitar Hero franchise; though my fervor for virtual wanking has waned over the years, and the game’s technology has advanced beyond what my last-gen game system and “cozy” living room can accommodate, I am an unabashed fan of the game and don’t purport impartiality.  From one iteration to the next, the developers have upped the game, improving graphics and peripherals (ie the instruments), expanding multiplayer modes and fine tuning the user interface (for example, smoothing out hammer-ons and pull-offs between Vs 1 and 2).

GH5, released in September, follows the vein of this evolution. Since I couldn’t care less about customizing my avatar’s visage and wardrobe or scoring a Marshall stack, for the purpose of this review I’ll focus on a just a few of the pithier, niftier new features. Like Party Play mode, in which tunes play continuously from a track list and players can drop out whenever they lose interest or need to refresh their PBRs, and jump in with the press of one button. In case earlier versions weren’t quite ADD enough for you.

Also cool is that you can play with any combination of instruments. If no one wants to take rhythm, you can all be lead guitarists. Got three drum sets at home? Have at it. Plus, you can play all 85 songs right off the bat, without unlocking them. Beating each song the first time ’round is typically a fun and exciting — if occasionally frustrating — rite, but really, who has time anymore?

Activision also added GH Jam mode, so you can jam along with songs, using the controller to produce notes. Music Studio, where you compose original music with the peripherals, debuted in World Tour. You can make and mix your own tracks, and upload them to an online server.

GH5 got some unsavory reviews from one particularly unsavory commentator: Courtney Love. The game features a CGI Kurt Cobain, which, somewhat morbidly and, indeed, disturbingly, can be played like any other character. Meaning: Grunge Rock King sings Vampire Weekend and Gov’t Mule. Love might be a psycho, but even Dave Grohl knows that shit ain’t right.

On the plus side, the game also gives Muse’s Matt Bellamy his guitar hero due:

Basically, no reason not to have this game.

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