Guitar Hero 5

"Making music social"

Guitar Hero is much "more than a game", RedOctane's European executive tells us, as we sit down to look at the next iteration of the hit music series. The big cheese sees Guitar Hero forming a key part of the same history as the iPod; the game representing the next step along the line for digital music, "making music social".

We're told the series has now sold 35 million copies worldwide, and made it much easier for players to access and appreciate different kinds of music, or even older music. The chief tells us that the game is a recognised part of the business now, a way for musicians to reach new audiences, and that Guitar Hero Metallica and Guitar Hero hits will further the IP - taking it into fresh niches.

Music from bands like Queen, Weezer, Blink 182and Queens of the Stone Age is coming to the store, while Guitar Hero Van Halen will be release in late 2009 - another seminal rock troupe getting the RedOctane treatment - Activision presumably positioning their title for a bitter tussle with Rock Band Beatles.

Finally we meander our way round to Guitar Hero 5, and it seems Neversoft are working under the assumption that you simply can't have too much of a good thing. The title promises to 'reinvent' the series around the idea of 'social play', while broader and more diverse musical tastes will be catered to via the fifth full iteration of the series. GH5 promises to deliver the "best Guitar Hero ever, coupled with the best music in history", while the series will also reach out to uninitiated players via the top-40-tastic Band Hero (also due out towards the end of the year).

With a few words on DJ Hero further expanding on RedOctane's newly inclusive theme, the executive makes way for Guitar Hero 5 designer Brian Bright, who is here from Neversoft to show off the developers new opus. Bright's co-stars strike up a rousing rendition of Sex on Fire by the Kings of Lion, and as we enjoy the game's even slicker visuals, players keep appearing on stage to 'drop in' and jam with the track. Gradually, the lead guitar is joined by a bass, vocals and drums. Cue grins from the audience; but the fun isn't done. A second drummer and lead guitarist join the fray, plus another vocalist, as the screen begins to fill with music streams.

This is Party Play mode, and it is seemingly one Nevervsoft's big plans for Guitar Hero 5. Musicians can come and go, but the music never actually ends, the game working jukebox-style from playlists that take the experience into new territory from the standard for-piece arrangement. The interface has also been cleaned up, allowing for this newly found accessibility, and Bright tells us that the title will support up to four guitars, two drums, four vocalists - with this many possible in every game mode.

Addressing the music to feature in the new game, we're promised tunes from new artists, including the Kings of Leon, the White Stripes and the Arctic Monkeys, while downloads from Guitar Hero IV will also work with number 5 including new features such as the multiple instruments. The social, non-competitive theme will also see the title's entire set list open from the get-go, while competition will come in new forms, such as the Rockfest mode, which will see four players off-line or eight players online duking it out. Bright shows of an Arctic Monkeys tracks, showing us Momentum, a competitive mode based upon score accumulations.

All in all, the presentation of number five is perhaps the slickest it has ever been, while Neversoft seem intent on pushing the title's multiplayer limits; the social motif, as far as possible via the games support for absurd numbers of players across a variety of modes. Whether all this will be enough to stop players pondering whether the game offers a sizable enough leap-forward remains to be seen, but "GH '09" this certainly isn't. We'll bring you more details on this gigantic new release as we get it.

Guitar Hero 5 will be out in time for Christmas on the PS3 and Xbox 360.

E3 Trailer