Guitar Hero Live is a fantastic music rhythm game. Guitar Hero Live totally reinvigorated my love of music rhythm games with plastic guitars. Guitar Hero Live got me emotionally invested in the outcome of my performances in a way that felt new and addictive.
I don’t like the idea of recommending that people buy Guitar Hero Live.
So, let’s start off with all the positives. Guitar Hero live does for me what Rock Band 4 failed to manage, it changes up the plastic instrument music rhythm in ways that feel new and unique, fresh and exciting, and that all starts with the new guitar controller.
Gone is the old five-button single row layout, replaced with two rows of three buttons placed next to each other. On screen you’ve got three note tracks scrolling, which will either show a white pick pointing down or a black pick pointing up to denote if you should play that note on the top or bottom row. It’s a switch up that slightly more closely resembles guitar fingerings, and it feels like a new, manageable challenge to learn. Starting with three button difficulty modes and ramping up gradually, it feels like both an accessible entry point for new players, and a fresh challenge for plastic guitar veterans.
Oh, and thank goodness there’s no getting your pinky finger involved or sliding your hand around any more.
Using a combination of vertical and split chords, alongside open strums, the new layout feels far more like you’re showcasing skill, even if it still barely resembles the actual act of playing a real guitar.
Unlike past Guitar Hero games or Rock Band 4, the focus in Guitar Hero Live is clearly on playing lead guitar. You can play either solo, or two player, but both players will be playing the same lead guitar role in the song. There’s still some very basic vocal implementation, but gone are the bass, the drums, the keyboard or any other instrument options.
While vocal support is available to add a third player, the difficulty of their role and the detail with which they are scored feels lacking. Vocals definately feel like an afterthought compared to the Guitars.
Since Guitar Hero Live was first revealed, a lot of people have been interested in how the FMV crowds would turn out in practice. Honestly, I was surprised at how well they held up throughout my time with the game. In the single player story mode you play a number of three song sets, starting backstage with some band discussion, walking out onto stage, playing through your set and experiencing the aftermath. From the begining to the end transitions between footage based on performance is handled in a subtle and smooth manner. Fast camera pans are clearly designed to mask these transitions, but it certain does what it’s intended to.
When I was doing well at Guitar Hero Live, I felt like a guitar shredding legend. The crowd went wild, the pit jumped, the crowd fought to lock eyes with me and everything felt amazing. It’s amazing how much difference the switch from computer animated crowds to real human faces can make, but seeing actual people respond well to your performance felt awesome.
When I messed up, my god things got uncomfortable.
First the audience began to look mildly confused. Then, they looked upset, personally let down by me. I glance at the bassist and he’s trying to ask what’s going wrong.
I do worse.
The audience grows upset, confused and angry. I glance at the drummer and she’s freaking out. Mascara is running down her face as she mouths obscenities at me. The singer motions to have the stage hands pull me off stage.
While the story mode is only playable in single player, all 42 songs are available in free play at any time for pairs of players.
Right, let’s get to the bit of the review where things go a little down hill. Let’s talk about GHTV.
So, GHTV is where the you’ll find any Guitar Hero Live song that’s not in the main 42 track set list. You’ll have two “channels” available to you at any time, which switch out every thirty minutes. You’ll stream songs from the internet and play the same songs as everyone else in the world. No choice, play what you’re given.
These tracks feature music videos rather than reactionary FMV crowds and my results here were mixed. While there was some benefit to being encouraged to try songs I would normally not have bothered with, this was completely overwhelmed by my frustration at finding a song I liked and wanted to nail. I’m a bit obsessive by nature, and when I find a song in these games I like I want to perfect it.
There is no option for players to purchase an individual song they enjoy to play permanently, only a series of options to temporarily grasp a light grip upon it.
You can unlock “on demand play tokens” through playing randomly selected songs on GHTV. Typically, depending on your performance, it’ll take between three and five randomly selected songs to earn one selectable play of a song. This means having a good two hour play session with your friends where you can play anything you want is going to take you between six and ten hours of random song play to unlock. That’s less than ideal for a game that seems set up for playing with friends.
If you don’t want to spend that time unlocking free play tokens, you can purchase a 24 hour pass to play all the songs you like. That 24 hour pass will cost you roughly the same price as half a month of Netflix. For a full price retail game, at an elevated price point as it requires new plastic instruments, charging the same amount for 24 hours of song as two weeks of Netflix is ridiculous.
I pay for a Netflix subscription because that fee covers my open access to all available content with no upfront additional cost. Here I’m being charged a considerable amount upfront, to then also pay a subscription fee if I want to chose when I enjoy that content and which content I have access to. I bought Guitar Hero Live already, I don’t want to have to spend money to temporarily chose which tracks I want to play. I want to buy songs, or chose which I stream.
Seriously, I love Guitar Hero Live as a 42 song game. It refreshed the genre in a way that got me incredibly excited about plastic instrument games again.
But GHTV makes the game hard for me to recommend. It really soured me on an otherwise stunning video game.