We’ve all had the plastic instrument phase. That time in your life where you did nothing for days on end besides mash away on your plastic guitar listening to the same four or five songs on repeat. That one Guitar Hero or Rockband game will always be your favorite, and those four or five songs remain engraved in your mind forever, always coming back to you when you pick up that familiar plastic instrument once more. For most of us, playing Guitar Hero is like riding a bike: you’ll never forget how… Until the bicycle completely changes where the pedals are and how you use the breaks.
What I’m getting at here is that Guitar Hero has changed. Gone are the five colors of yesterday’s guitar hero and in their place are six buttons laid next to each other on the neck of the guitar. Small fixes with the guitar make a much better quality of life as well. The addition of a Star Power button that can easily be pushed in with your wrist stops those annoying moments when you’d slip your finger off trying to turn it on. This new guitar with its sleek lines and sturdy finish feels different than it’s predecessors; For once, Guitar Hero finally feels all grown up.
Of course, it’s not just the new guitar that demonstrates this feeling. Guitar Hero Live, as a game, is all grown up. No more are the goofy CGI characters dancing around on the screen, wacky set-pieces in hell, and goofball antics. Now, the team at FreeStyleGames has replaced the characters with you. Live-action concerts were shot and recorded in front of live audiences, giving you the feeling of truly being a rockstar. Do well and you’ll see the crowd cheering and having the time of their lives. Begin to play poorly and you’ll have cups thrown at young boos shouted at you as your crowd checks your Facebook instead of watching you perform. Your band members will yell at you, clearly angered that you’re destroying their show.
These new shows put you through forty five songs across a variety of different shows at two different music festivals. Each song brings with it a fun sense of flare and each concert even more so. The new placement of the buttons on the controller brings with it a whole new learning curve as the game throws different button combinations at you. At first I found myself frustrated with these new combinations, but by the end of the song I had them down completely. After a half week with the game I bumped the difficulty up from Regular to Advanced and begin the learning curve all over again.
What’s most satisfying about Guitar Hero Live’s campaign mode is the unique sense of build-up and mini-story that each concert has. Everything feels different from band to band. Walking on stage, your chemistry with your band, and even who you are always feels unique. Nailing a song and looking out to a thunderously loud crowd feels gratifying and rewarding each and every time, and the sense of extreme dread when you know you’re bombing a song is a feeling we don’t much get in games, especially not music games.
I’d reckon to say that this is Guitar Hero Live’s biggest accomplishment is something we don’t always get with guitar hero: an audience. Everyone’s favorite moments in Guitar Hero are when they’re sitting there strumming away with friends. Having a group of people watching you rock or roll off the stage is extremely nerve-wracking and gratifying, and Guitar Hero Live has managed to give you this sense even when you’re all by yourself in your bedroom with no friends to be found.
Guitar Hero Live’s other big change is it’s new quickplay system called Guitar Hero TV. GHTV operates like old-school MTV; A constantly looping channel of nothing but music videos that you play over. Players can select any song from the entire catalog by spending ‘plays’ which are bought with coins earned by playing GHTV or through real-money micro transactions. At time of writing I’ve spent multiple nights with friends alternating between playing quick play and GHTV and never once have I had to purchase extra plays, they’ve come quite plentifully through regular gameplay.
GHTV solves a very unrecognized problem in the Guitar Hero franchise as well, and that’s discovery. In my time with Guitar Hero III many years ago, I played every song at least once through the games story mode. After that, however, I never went back to touch a majority of them, instead playing my favorite four or five songs on quickplay. Why would I want to play something that I wasn’t familiar with? With GHTV, loading up my game and jumping in to a random song has helped me discover many, many songs that I otherwise would not have chosen to play.
My time with Guitar Hero Live included playing through the entirety of the single player campaign, many long stints in the GHTV music video section, and a full night of passing the guitar around between myself and two friends. Within these times, I can honestly say I was never un-entertainted with the game. I embarrassingly ditched out on other gaming plans with friends twice just because I was so very engrossed with Guitar Hero.
Guitar Hero Live reinvents the wheel in the rhythm game genre and does so with energy and flare. Featuring a huge library, a rapidly expanding free set of online songs, and new ideas, I’d go as far as to say Guitar Hero Live is the best game in the series thus far.
Guitar Hero Live was provided to LevelSave for review purposes. The game was reviewed on a retail Xbox One console.