(Activision for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
It’s tricky business reviewing games as what they could’ve been rather than what they are, but Guitar Hero 5 really pushes the issue. As a stand-alone product, it’s great: It features a long, mostly excellent song list, fixes a lot of the little issues that popped up over the past two years (boss fights are thankfully still M.I.A.), and throws in stuff you didn’t even know you wanted (in-song challenges, the ability to instantly start playing on any instrument once the game boots up). But it’s a stand-alone product, and therefore almost completely divorced from all of the songs you bought on the GH 1, 2, Encore, 3, World Tour, Aerosmith, Metallica, and Smash Hits discs. If, following the success of GH3 two years ago, an executive decision was made to build up a downloadable content library, the franchise would have an expansive song library by now. Instead, there has been a sporadic trickling of downloadable songs, while the discs are beginning to pile up like so much plastic (three so far in 2009, not counting portable titles, with two more on the way). Guitar Hero is starting to share uncomfortable similarities with the ill-fated Tony Hawk series, a series that never lost the satisfying core of its revolutionary gameplay, but was sequeled to the point of fatigue and gamer apathy. It’s hard to argue against the fact that Guitar Hero 5 is the best game in the series, but more often, it just feels like the latest.