ctivision isn’t a powerhouse publisher for lack of an impressive lineup. We can confirm that 2009 is looking good for the industry behemoth. We spent an afternoon checking out Guitar Hero 5, DJ Hero, Blur, Singularity and more. Read on for our impressions.
Guitar Hero 5
We’ve not seen or heard much about Guitar Hero 5 till now, aside from the official press release confirming the games existence. So how is Activision keeping the Guitar Hero franchise fresh? With Guitar Hero 4 having launched less than a year ago, it’s pretty obvious that new peripherals couldn’t be justified. That leaves gameplay as the facelift recipient.
Our demo began with no explanation. Instead the Neversoft band jumped right into Tom Petty and the Hearbreakers’ Runnin’ Down a Dream – one member of the band joining at a time. Throughout the song, individual players paused their participation for a drink or to swap out their instrument. This highlighted the biggest change in GH5. Fans can now play music and form bands as they want too with the introduction of Party Play mode. You can now plow through music with four guitars, for vocals or any other combination. No more fighting over who has to take the microphone amongst a group of tone-deaf friends. This new mechanic is available in all of the band modes including career, online, party and quickplay. The addition is also compatible with DLC from Guitar Hero World Tour.
Moving on, Activision boasted that GH5 has the widest array of music in of any game to date and confirmed that the entire music library will be unlocked from the get-go. They even presented us with a list of contributing artists, but with a no photo policy and only 15 seconds we didn’t even get past the A’s: 3 Doors Down, AFI, Arctic Monkeys, Attack! Attack!...
Career mode has been expanded and will make use of your DLC content from World Tour. Also being introduced are new bonus challenges that will reward you for achievements such as scoring 50,000 points while on Star Power. These challenges will unlock cheats, characters, outfits and instruments. Star Power has been refined and “Band Moments” have been introduced. These moments allow the full band to pull together during key sections of a song to maximize their score multiplayer.
Lastly, Activision discussed “Rock Fest,” a collection of party friendly modes that allows four to eight players to battle or collaborate on challenges. We checked out a mini-game called Momentum, which pits everyone against each other as they play a song and dynamically move up and down in difficulty based on their performance. In Momentum everyone stars on medium difficulty. Miss three notes and your difficulty level will decrease. Every 20 successful notes results in an increase in difficulty. The player with the most points at the end of the song wins.
At this point major changes to the Guitar Hero formula aren’t warranted. But it’s nice to see that the next iteration of the mega-franchise will offer larger freedom of play, a bigger music library and more multiplayer options.
DJ Hero is a game that we can’t help but get excited about. Currently in development by Freestyle Games, our demo began with a recap of the history of the DJ. The team concluded that they hope the launch of DJ Hero will become another benchmark in the history of electronic artistry. The goal is to do what Guitar Hero did for rock; to bring turntables and the DJ culture to the masses.
Freestyle Games is based out of the UK and distributes 90 people between three studios. One of these studios is dedicated exclusively to content creation for DJ Hero. At this studio Freestyle employs professional DJ talent, including a world champion scratch DJ and famous radio personalities. Music will span multiple genres with a setlist of over 100 songs, 80 of which are original mixes made for the game. Hip hop, rock, electronica, motown and more will be represented. Artists confirmed as participating thus far include David Bowie, DJ Shadow, The Beasty Boys, Blondie, Beck, Marvin Gaye, Jurassic 5, Rick James, The Gorillaz and 50 Cent.
Additionally, DJ Hero is a result of a close collaboration with several famous DJs including DJ Shadow, DJ AM and DJ Z-trip, all of which are also playable as characters within the game.
As far as gameplay, the team wanted to be sure that they had the four key pillars of DJ artistry represented: mixing, sampling, scratching and freestyling. Similar to Guitar Hero, each song is represented by a stream of preset queues which the player must follow.
Before too many details were given, we were presented with our first live demo. The mix spliced Benny Benassi’s Satisfaction with the Black Eyed Peas’ Boom Boom Pow. It was hard not to bob your head to the music. Still, the controls themselves were a bit tough to comprehend without getting our hands on the peripheral, which we will be doing later this week.
Breaking down the components of the new controller helped clear up some of the confusion. Modeled after a real turntable, the peripheral won’t seem alien to those already familiar with the DJ culture. Included are both the platform and mixer, which swap sides to allow both left and right handed play. The buttons on top the platform represent the streams coming down the highway. The green button indicates record one, the blue record two and the middle a sample stream.
The cross fader is only utilized in the medium difficulty setting and above. The effects dial is DJ Hero’s equivalent of the whammy bar, which will allow you to personalize audio effects as you play. Scratch sections are represented by arrows on the highway indicating the direction to scratch. In easier modes the arrows are farther apart and much larger, but they become smaller as you move up in difficulty. A rewind meter allows you to reverse and fix errors after strings of successful combos builds it up. Combos boost up your euphoria meter, which is essentially the same thing as star power. Visually, the iconic Guitar Hero style returns but instead boasts packed clubs and go-go dancers.
Multiplayer has been included in three unique modes. DJ vs. DJ will allow for online and local competition. Additionally, the guitar is supported with ten unique tracks for a DJ vs. Guitar mode. Lastly, microphone support has been included to add vocals to the equation, but no other details on how it will work have been announced.
Our demo ended with two other mixes, one paring Chuck Brown and The Zombies, and another Gwen Stefani with Rick James. Both were as addicting as the first. We will shoot more impressions your way as we get our hands on the game later this week.