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Preview: Guitar Hero 5: GHStudio 2.0

3:40 PM on 08.11.2009 // Samit Sarkar

With Guitar Hero World Tour, Neversoft attempted to shut up all of the “go play a real guitar” folks by introducing “GHStudio,” a suite of tools that allowed Guitar Hero players to actually make music, of a sort, using plastic instruments. But upon trying it out, many criticized the clunky interface, MIDI-sounding songs, and limitations placed on the amount of music that they could create.

At last Thursday’s Guitar Hero 5 event, I spoke with Travis Chen, the lead programmer of GHStudio 2.0. He told me that Neversoft listened to the input of the prolific and active World Tour community, which has uploaded over 300,000 songs that have been downloaded more than 11 million times, and they made a host of changes to help facilitate the growth of that user base with Guitar Hero 5. Hit the jump to read all about it, and go here for more of Destructoid’s Guitar Hero 5 coverage.

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Guitar Hero 5: GHStudio 2.0 (PS3, 360, Wii)
Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision/RedOctane
To be released: September 1, 2009


GHStudio comprises three main “studios”: GHTunes, which is the song creation program; GHJam, a less-structured “freestyle” mode; and GHMix, which allows for post-production work on songs. The key with Guitar Hero 5, as Chen explained, was to make the interface much more intuitive while giving gamers more functionality and options. GHTunes certainly looks less daunting than it did in World Tour, though with Chen at the helm flying through the menus, I was still intimidated. But things make more sense now that the menus have been streamlined -- important, often-used functions (such as record and play) are controlled by the five fret buttons for quick access.

Navigation isn’t the only thing that’s better in GHTunes 2.0 -- Chen admitted that the songs that came out of World Tour sounded sub-par, so Neversoft used “professionally recorded samples” this time around. There are more options, too, from your studio mainstays (pianos, synth) to more exotic stuff (harpsichord, 8-bit sounds for chiptunes). GHTunes 2.0 finally allows you to vary the dynamics of individual notes, so if you want a crescendo leading into the bridge of your song, you’ll be able to put it in. Embellishments like bends and slides are doable, too.

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In GHMix 2.0, you can mess around with all kinds of effects, which are, once again, provided by Line6. Thankfully, it actually lets you switch effects during a song -- yes, that means that your lead guitar can start out clean and get distorted in the chorus. And if you want to work with sections, you can go into the all-new Pattern Mode. It contains over 400 preset patterns in different genres, which does a lot of the work for you, and it also allows for moving and repeating parts of your song (say, for a verse or coda).

What’s great about GHStudio 2.0 is that Neversoft has actually made an effort to introduce some teaching aspects to it. All you have to do is hold a button for help, and you’ll see things like music theory notes about scales. For music geeks like me, that’s a big attraction.

But if all this sounds too complicated and scary for you, don’t worry; Neversoft has something for you. GHJam is, as Chen put it, an “accessible, improvisational mode for the mass market.” It’s not quite as simplistic as Wii Music, but if you don’t feel like diving headfirst into GHTunes immediately, you can get a feel for how the instruments work in GHJam. You pick from one of 14 musical “styles” (including “classic rock,” “hard rock,” “blues,” and “chiptune”), and then you just start strumming away. The background will be a genre-appropriate visualizer, so if you’ve come back from a night of partying, you can “sit at home with your friends and trip out.”

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Unfortunately, you still can’t record vocals, but if you’re playing your created song in the game, you can song over the track. At last, the old three-minute barrier is gone; songs can now be up to ten minutes long, and you can upload 50 of them with album art. The tool for creating artwork is similar to the tattoo creator in the game’s main create-a-character mode -- it has options for layers.

GHStudio 2.0 isn’t exactly “bigger, better, and more badass,” but it’s a huge step up from what was available in World Tour. Fans of the original GHStudio will definitely want to pick up GH 5 for the new music creation options alone. The game’s launch is only three weeks away -- September 1st is the date.



Samit Sarkar,
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