Guitar Hero is an unrelenting juggernaut that has no sign of slowing down. Not content with releasing Metallica and Smash Hits already this summer, Activision has gone ahead and confirmed three more titles with the Hero moniker for this year - Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero and Band Hero - providing you with yet more reasons to collect more plastic junk for your living room. DS took a sneak peek at two of these games, which will undoubtedly rekindle your love for the pseudo-air guitar.
'Guitar Hero 5'
While World Tour at last brought the series up to speed with Rock Band’s instrumental package, Neversoft continues to iterate with a fifth Guitar Hero game, this time fine-tuning the expanded setup for an all-inclusive party atmosphere. Its major selling point is ‘Party Play’ mode, which allows any instrument to jump in or out mid-song without the need to pause the game. Nothing too exciting on paper, but practically essential when you have mates gagging to go on the drums.
When hopping in, the existing note track shifts aside to make room for the new one, bringing up a menu allowing the player to choose their difficulty and chosen instrument, and then you get jamming within seconds. But what if someone already took up the lead guitar? No problem - you can double up on the same instrument. In fact, you can have up to four of the same; imagine a party with four solo artists jamming at the same time, or three drummers and a vocalist. Any combination is possible, and you can keep having players swap in and out once you’ve set up a playlist of songs to keep folks entertained for the evening.
The party focus extends through a host of new competitive modes such as Momentum, where every player starts on medium difficulty and differs according to how well they play. Dominate a 20-note streak and it advances to Hard, but keep failing and it’ll drop you down again. The idea is that more points are available on harder difficulties, so players who can command lengthy note streaks will be victorious. All additional multi-player modes will be available both locally and online for up to eight players, and the game experience is set to be always online, so players can be invited at any time to help with the toughest tracks.
As well as shifting the focus to making the game more accessible at any time, not only will all previous DLC be playable, but the entire set list of 85 tracks will be unlocked from the get-go; hits such asSex On FireBrianstorm by Arctic Monkeys will be instant favourites, as well as tracks from Jimmy Eat World, Rish, Bon Jovi, AFI, Iggy Pop, Rammstein and more. Naturally all previous instruments will be usable with the latest game, and a new kit will naturally be released alongside it too, with the guitar set to feature better features under the hood - a highly sensitive digital touchpad, more durable strum bar and more distinguishable buttons will aid higher level play.
Although accessibility is the impetus for GH5, there’ll be plenty for the hardcore to revel in as well; ongoing campaign challenges, such as scoring 50,000 points in Star Power or winning a set number of stars on Hard, will unlock new costumes and characters, and Metallica’s Expert Plus mode for drums will be rolled out for all tracks. While Guitar Hero 5 seems more of an iteration than a full-blown sequel, it looks to be the most definitive band game yet, and one that could compete seriously for Rock Band’s party dominance.
Breaking away from the rock and indie trend for music rhythm games isn’t something easily accomplished - after all, how do you represent dropping beats and samples through the current set of instruments? Developer Freestyle Games has the answer in a PlayStation 2 sized, one inch thick turntable complete with switches, dials and note buttons - everything required for a budding virtual DJ. At last all those other genres can be fairly represented.
While trying to offer something for fans of R&B and dance, it’s interesting that DJ Hero's gameplay doesn’t stray far from its instrumental brethren, with music resting on three-note tracks instead of the usual five. The three notes - left being track one, right being track two and the middle assigned for samples - need to be pressed and held according to how the remix plays out. Not only do they have to be pressed in time, but the cross fader on the left side of the unit needs to be switched across as well. For example, if the first track is being played primarily, then the track will shift left, requiring the fader to be switched left and the note held down, and the same applies with the right.
Of course, a full 360-degree turntable allows you to scratch away like a flea-bitten dog, with arrows highlighting the direction and duration of the scratch. It also paves the way for a rewind feature, which allows you to replay the last five seconds of the track to boost your score further. And like Guitar Hero, sections of track glow with Euphoria, its own brand of Star Power. While it all sounds very familiar, in execution it’s vastly different; playing is nowhere near as linear or as straightforward, requiring concentration in when to switch tracks at a split section and still keep up with the standard note tapping that’s required of so many music games.
A full spectrum of difficulty options will ease players into the new style of play, which will be handy with the vast appeal of songs available - remixes of the Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Chuck Brown, David Bowie, Beck, Blondie, 50 Cent, Justice, Beastie Boys and more will be available, with 100 tracks across 80 remixes on offer. While top DJs will be drafted in to supply the remixes, and early demos showing some promising examples on show, whether they’ll have the same appeal as playing your favourite song unhindered remains to be seen. Additionally, there seems to be no way to introduce your own samples or mixing together songs yourself, meaning the DJ mantra of providing your own take on songs seems underused for now.
Those wanting to continue rocking out can take solace in the Guitar Support mode, featuring ten specific tracks that will allow co-op guitar play, as well as the usual range of competitive and co-op modes that will be available. It seems that Activision is playing it safe by borrowing many ideas from its Guitar Hero franchise, but still looks distinctive and fresh in its own right, especially with the diverse track listing on offer and unique gameplay. In fact, watching someone play looks both incredibly impressive and intimidating at the same time, and by no means derivative, and will be something you’ll be itching to scratch yourself.
Guitar Hero 5 and DJ Hero will be available on 360, PS3 and Wii by the end of the year.