Guitar Hero Live

Guitar Hero Live

Producer: Activision
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC, Wii U, iOS
Rating: Teen
Rhythm Game


Get The Shred Out
Written by Jessie Seilhan

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: there is a game you can buy that comes with a plastic instrument. I know, it’s not a radical idea, as literally millions of these have been sold in the past decade, and you might even have some guitars or drums collecting dust in your closet right now. But Activision decided to give it another go, designing a brand new game with a brand new guitar, using a new concept and tons of new music. Sounds too new to be true, right? Somehow, someway, they actually pulled it off with Guitar Hero Live, putting gamers in the shoes of a real guitarist in a real band, transcending the bedroom rockstar experience for something more authentic that represents a real evolution of the genre.

There are two innovations for Guitar Hero Live, the first being the most obvious and important: the guitar. Sadly, those dusty instruments will continue to sit in your closet, as this all-new design deviates from the standard five-button layout from games past. Instead, the controller now features two rows at the top of the frets, with three buttons per row. So you actually have a sixth button and the ability to play chords, adding a degree of realism. You aren’t going to be able to solo “Freebird” on a Stratocaster anytime soon, but at least the actual hand motions are more representative of playing a real guitar.

The second innovation is what is happening on the screen. Gone are the days of mechanical and polygonal representations of larger than life fake rock stars, and in their place are a suite of full motion videos. You now play guitar on a stage from the perspective of a real guitarist, interacting with your bandmates and feeding off of the crowd. And your performance dictates how these videos play out, as constant success breeds more energy from the fans and jubilation from your friends. But screwing up makes your band pretty pissed, and the crowd will quickly turn on you, booing your every note, until you string together a good combo to get back on track. It’s somewhat jarring the first time you experience it, but goes a long way to getting you involved in each performance.

Finally, Guitar Hero Live has an awesome new mode called Guitar Hero TV. Essentially, it’s an MTV-style music video service, but every song is playable. They run continuously 24 hours a day, with different genres highlighted at different times of the day. Even better, you can go in and select any of the 150+ songs available in the library at any time, perfect for those that love to throw parties and want to bust out a game for everyone to play. The huge library is getting updated every month and there is even a live concert mode where you play along with bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Weezer, taking that sense of realism just one step closer.

It’s remarkable that we’re talking about a music rhythm game in 2015, but it’s truly astounding that we’re talking about one that is so good. While it looked like the fad was over for good, Guitar Hero Live proves that the formula just needed a shot of adrenaline and a new way to play. Rock Band 4 tried to get the band back together by promising old instruments would work and all legacy songs would be compatible, but that ended up being a weight around its neck that kept it from rising up to Guitar Hero’s forward-thinking ways. Both games will come down to the soundtrack and if they have songs you actually want to play, but Guitar Hero is a better game in almost all respects.

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