It’s been a while since Activision over saturated the rhythm game market with Guitar Hero titles and then seemed to vanish overnight. Now they have reappeared with Guitar Hero Live along with a new gimmick and a new plastic instrument to play.
The main noticeable change is the guitar controller and its button layout. It has increased the number of notes you can play but instead of increasing them down the frets in previous games they have put 2 sets of 3 buttons on a layered set up. The guitar now feels like it has two strings instead of one and it’s definitely improved the experience.
Guitar Hero virtuoso’s may miss the old 5 button setup because you’re hardwired to change hand position constantly but I found the 6 button system fairly user friendly and got I back the into rhythm quickly. I was bumping up the difficulty in no time but I found there is a big difficulty spike moving from regular to the advanced. The game brings in a combination of the 2 layer button system making the song feel more realistic to play. Playing a combination of up and down notes (sometimes on the same fret) makes the playing songs more enjoyable but it can be a bit tricky when the developers have removed the standard colours.
The major part of any musical rhythm game is the track list and it can get to the point where it makes or breaks a game. With the selection of songs at EB Expo and songs available online there was a decent mix of tracks to choose from. The list includes music from Disturbed, RHCP, Paramore, Rage Against the Machine and Tenacious D along with a variety of pop, rock and punk artists (and somehow Bangarang by Skrillex?) thrown in for good measure.
Being able to get some hands on with Guitar Hero Live has reinvigorated my excitement for the Guitar Hero franchise. With the on stage environment being the main gimmick of Guitar Hero Live the crowd adapts and reacts to how you are playing through the song. You really get immersed in the live experience irrespective of how well you are doing. A few misplaced notes results in awkward looks from your other band members. This takes a toll on your performance and as you miss more notes, the crowd starts to appear more confused and slowly devolve into obscenities being thrown your way.
On the other hand, when you are hitting that sweet note streak and getting into the music you see the crowd of actual people (pre-recorded but who cares) also getting into it as well. Since you’re usually focused on the upcoming notes you’re not always looking at the crowd but when the song has a quiet section, you look around and see the adoring faces of the crowd here to see you play this awesome music. It’s a really cool feeling to have in a game were you are essentially standing in front of a TV (probably in your underwear) holding a plastic guitar and retrying a song for the 10th time to nail that awesome solo.
The best way I can describe Guitar Hero Live is that it feels like you’re catching up with an old friend. You remember how they were before and why the two of you slowly drifted apart years ago. Now you see how they have grown up and changed from their previous mistakes. You leave as friends once more, saying you’ll see other again and hope they don’t go down the same path that lead to your original distance.
Look to play your way into the leaderboards when Guitar Hero Live releases its first album on October 20th for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.