Guitar Hero 5: It Begins

This morning, I finally started up Guitar Hero 5, and over the next two or three days, I’ll be chronicling my playthrough along with various impressions of the game. So far, I’ve only played two songs on Expert guitar – “Song 2” by Blur and “In My Place” by Coldplay (100% on both, of course), but I’ve already noticed a few interesting things:

-          As is becoming the norm for rhythm games, the entire 85-song setlist is unlocked from the get-go in Quickplay, so you don’t have to slog through Career mode or find some weird cheat code if you just want to party with your friends.

-          The menu system has been overhauled, with mixed results. There are a LOT of menus to sort through, and while it’s certainly an improvement over Guitar Hero World Tour, it might not be obvious where certain things are located now. On the plus side, I was happy to see that Hyperspeed is no longer a “cheat” to be unlocked, but a standard option that can be toggled on and off at the song start screen.

-          In addition to the classic characters like Axel Steel and Pandora, and the ability to create your own rock star, there’s a new option to use your Xbox Live avatar as your rocker. Will it look out of place alongside the GH5 graphics? Maybe. But it’s cool that the option is there, as there will undoubtedly be players thrilled to see their XBL avatar rocking out.

-          Maybe the best new feature we’ve seen in rhythm games in a while are GH5’s Bonus Challenges. As usual, you can get 5 “stars” on a song for playing well, with a 6th star for getting 100%. In addition, you can earn three more stars by performing certain tasks. On “Song 2,” it’s a band challenge: get 500,000, 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 points. On “In My Place,” it’s a guitar challenge: Whammy notes for 30, 40 or 80 seconds total through the entire song (it’s got a lot of sustain notes). If balanced properly, these challenges will offer lots more replayability to songs instead of playing them once and forgetting about them.

So off I go to plow through the Expert guitar campaign. My prediction is that I’ll 100% about 20 of the 85 songs on my first pass; we’ll see how that goes. I’ll be posting every 15 songs or so with updates and more impressions, and maybe even a few videos if I can get some all-star band sessions together.