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(Pocket-lint) - Having skipped "4" in favour of "World Tour", Guitar Hero's back to its numerical counting system with the forthcoming release of Guitar Hero 5, due on 18 September.

However, given that the franchise has five titles due out in 2009, is there such a thing as too much Guitar Hero? Can Activision maintain the quality of the series while churning out versions tailored to Metallica and Van Halen as well as upgrading older songs to the full band versions of the game?

We were lucky enough to get a look at the game in progress, and while we weren't able to see the whole 85-song setlist, we got a look at plenty of features in the game, that haven't been revealed until now.

First of all, you'll be pleased to hear that the core Guitar Hero gameplay hasn't changed. You still have the same fretboard with the same little coloured circles whizzing towards you, the same "Star Power" to crank up your score, and the same feeling of being a rock god.

Neversoft has tried to make the game more accessible. First-timers on Guitar Hero are often put off by the sink-or-swim gameplay where failure involves the humiliation being booed offstage. That's a little embarrassing at a party, so the developers have added a "Party Play" mode.

This lets anyone pick up or put down a controller in the middle of a song, and it'll carry on playing tracks at random even if no-one's playing. It'll also let you plug in any combination of controllers - you could have 3 guitars and a singer if you haven't bought the drum kit. Or if you went overboard then you could have 4 drummers.

We didn't see it in action, but latest reports say that you can import songs from previous versions of the game into Guitar Hero 5. That means that once you've got everything imported, you should end up with a massive song database, with something for any music fan.

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Johnny Cash, Carlos Santana and Shirley Manson are all playable characters. There are more too, which we haven't seen yet, but the company seems very keen on following up the success of Ozzy Ozbourne, Billy Corgan, Hayley Williams, Zakk Wyle, Sting, Ted Nugent and Travis Barker in World Tour.

Also added are a series of new modes for multiplayer. Momentum is the most fun, which rewards good play with a bumping up of difficulty settings, but if you miss a bunch of notes then down you go. It's a great way of dealing with that stubborn friend who refuses to go above medium, even though he's hitting 99% of notes in each track.

Other modes let you take turns to play sections without missing more than three notes, with those who fail losing a life, along with "Streakers" - one where you get points for hitting the most notes in order.

First Impressions

While Guitar Hero 5 doesn't appear to be a revolution, it's nabbbed some of the better features of Rock Band 2 and combined them with a more accessible interface for party play, plenty of licensed characters, and a bunch of fun multiplayer modes.

We played, we had fun, and are happy to report that Guitar Hero fans will be happy when the game hits 18 September.

Given that the Rock Band series is a little distracted at the moment, mucking about with Lego and the Beatles, this could be the point at which Guitar Hero strikes back.

Writing by Duncan Geere.