Review: Guitar Hero Live Evolves The Rhythm Game Genre And Will Halt Productivity
Prepare your fingers.
- Worth The Time?Definitely and especially if you're a rhythm game fan
- Things LovedThe brilliant new design of the guitar with the 6 button layout makes for the most authentic rock fantasy experience out there. The Live portion of the game is fairly well executed and is extremely fun to play on the first playthrough. Guitar Hero TV is a natural evolution in the playing of rhythm games and is as addictive as chocolate covered crack. Simple designs making it easy for you to quickly select what you want to do and get in there as quickly as possible. Definite value for money and a game that can have you hooked for hours. Upgrading your guitar and raising your level in GHTV provides real incentive to keep playing. The setlist in GHTV is great with lots of variety and can only expand from this point on.
- Things HatedThe buttons can be obscured by the hero power icons. The setlist in the Live portion leaves much to be desired. Some basic filter options missing and the quickplay menu seems woefully incomplete. Not really worth it for just the Live portion. The timing window is sometimes really finicky. No real-time versus online multiplayer can be a bummer for some. The microtransactions.
- RecommendationIf you were a fan of rhythm games in the previous generation then this is a must-have. Even if you're entirely new to the genre, you can still find a lot of enjoyment in this title. The price may be high, but rest assured that you will get a ton of entertainment out of your investment. However, rather steer clear if you don't have internet since you will be missing a gigantic portion of the game.
- Name: Guitar Hero Live
- Genre: Black Metal
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Yes
- Platforms: Literally everything except PC and Android
- Developer: FreeStyle Games
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R1500 Guitar Bundle, R800 for standalone guitar
- Reviewed On: PS4
Editor’s note: You may be wondering why this review is so far behind the rest of the world. Quite simply, we took our time with it. We wanted to see how the game stood up over a period of time given the longevity that previous Guitar Hero games enjoyed.
When Guitar Hero unceremoniously died back when Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock released, the future of the rhythm game genre was in flux. The genre was relatively dead for years until suddenly, a resurgence happened with the release of Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live. With the lack of innovation being one of the primary reasons for the death of the genre, these games had to bring something unique to the table to recapture our imaginations and, more importantly, our desire to rock out with plastic instruments. Rock Band 4 went the traditional route and gave us an update for the new generation, but Guitar Hero Live wanted to try to do things a bit differently.
Instead of the iconic 5 coloured buttons that we’ve come to expect from Guitar Hero, we now have 6 buttons that are split into two halves namely the top and bottom. It’s a strange concept at first, but it makes a lot more sense the more you think about it. It’s possibly the closest facsimile of an actual guitar since it mimics a lot of the actions that a real guitarist does while still retaining the simple interaction. You’re only using 3 fingers at any given time instead of the traditional 4 and it makes the experience more simplified even if it does get ridiculously hard on higher difficulties.
- You’ll Be Able To Play (Expensive) PS2 Games On Your PS4 Now | 7 months ago
- Jessica Jones Disempowers Its Male Characters And The Effect Is Refreshing | 7 months ago
- Hell Is 30 000 Deathclaws Tearing Through Boston And It’s Glorious | 7 months ago
- Sony Santa Monica Is Teasing Something Truly Strange | 7 months ago
Guitar Hero Live is split into two parts which, while having the same gameplay, are completely different from each other. These two modes are called Guitar Hero Live and Guitar Hero TV and they both offer different experiences. Before we dive into what goes on in each mode, let’s first look at the core gameplay and how everything works.
As mentioned, there are now two rows of buttons that you can use. Notes are shaped like guitar picks and the black ones that point upwards represent the top three buttons and the white ones pointing downwards are for the bottom buttons. While appearing simple at first, mastering these six buttons can be a significant challenge. Since there are so many combinations of buttons that can be pushed, chords become a lot more prominent in gameplay. For example, you can possibly have a chord where you have to press down both the top and bottom button on the first row as well as the top button on the third row. It gives the gameplay a lot more variety than the often limited 5 button configuration of previous games.
Since this is an entirely different button layout, your previous experience with rhythm games will be largely irrelevant. I have played Guitar Hero and Rock Band for the better part of the last decade and playing Guitar Hero Live was an entirely new experience. My past experience did allow me to learn much faster than normal, but I still had to play on medium difficulty at first and slowly make my way up to Expert by means of practice and patience. For old rhythm game fans, this can be a breath of fresh life since I felt that same desire to become better than I did when I first started playing Guitar Hero all those years ago.
The gameplay, if you can grasp it, is extremely fun. The chords can be a massive challenge at first since you have to differentiate from the top and bottom buttons on the fly. It’s disorienting and difficult at first, but with repeated play, it becomes much easier. As a person that plays real guitar, I’ve noticed how the gameplay edges very close to its real life counterpart. Some of the chords you play are basically what you play on real guitar and barring solos, many of the actions are also pretty close. They did a really great job of making a simplified version of playing the actual instrument and at times I even thought it was easier to play a song on real guitar than on a tiny plastic one.
Guitar Hero Live
Apart from the name of the game, Guitar Hero Live is one of the modes that you can play. It is essentially the singleplayer portion of the experience and it has quite a lot to offer. Contrasting previous installments, the visuals for this mode are entirely live action. You will be part of a fictional band playing in front of a huge crowd. While it is painfully obvious that everything is staged, it at least tried to make it as believable as possible. The conceit here is that if you play well, the crowd will scream in admiration and your band will have a good time, but if you play terribly, the fans will turn on you pretty badly and your band will be very displeased with you.
There are two separate festivals that you play in, each with their own bands that perform. Each band has about 3-5 songs that they play and each has an overarching theme associated with them. For instance, there’s a band that plays three metalcore songs and a folk band with flowers in their hair and hipster beards playing songs with banjos in them. They did a good job of making it slightly believable that three separate songs can be done by a single band by carefully choosing songs that sound closest to each other.
When you play with a band, you go through the backstage where everyone wishes you luck and gives you your gear and so on. It tries to create the illusion that you’re actually playing on stage and for the most part, it succeeds. I got really into it at one point, sometimes becoming much more animated in my playing since I thought I was playing in front of a huge crowd. The filming and the visuals of everything are brilliantly done with excellent wide angle first person shots that do a great job of drawing you in. The environments, which are rendered mostly with green screen, are pretty epic. In one show you’re in some basement with a lot of people and the next you’re in this massive stadium or outside next to some monument.
The reactions of the bands and fans can be a bit over-exaggerated at times. When you’re playing well, everyone is a bit too happy that you’re there. I came up with a great explanation of the phenomenon. You’re treated like you have terminal cancer and your last wish was to play with a certain band. Everyone is constantly glancing at you with massive smiles their faces and treating you like the main focus point of the universe. It felt a bit fake, but it wasn’t so severe that it took you out of the experience too much. Seeing individual fans in the crowd freaking out is nice and seeing all of the signs with lovely messages is great. I even developed a bit of a crush on one bass player that looked at me with lust in her eyes while we were playing a groovy tune in unison.
When you play terribly, the reaction you get is really painful. The crowd boos you rather loudly and throws you with stuff and your band members look at you with disgust and disappointment. I even think I heard one girl in the hippy folk band say “you’ve ruined this for me”. It harrowed me when I missed a few too many notes and the scene transitioned to this living disaster. It didn’t happen too often with me, but I let some sets just run without me playing anything and the reactions are horrible to witness. It makes you want to play better just so that you don’t disappoint these hipster kids that have worked so hard to be there.
The songs on offer leave a bit to be desired sadly. They really focused on mainstream hits and included a lot of songs that aren’t really Guitar Hero-esque. Stuff like Rihanna, Eminem and Skrillex for example. This is all subjective to taste, of course, but they clearly went the route that guaranteed the largest possible audience. This is not saying that the songs are bad, but rather the playing of those songs can be a bit boring. Some have the same phrase that you play over and over again and there really aren’t many solos or exciting parts. There are some difficult songs, but they are few and far between. Thankfully, thanks to the visuals and the thematic bands, you don’t really mind playing these songs. I’m not the biggest fan of pop, but even I got a bit into playing Katy Perry at one point. That’s part of the magic that Guitar Hero Live has. It makes you not mind playing Katy Perry.
However, the longevity of this mode comes into question. Once you’re done with your initial playthrough of the 42 songs available, there really isn’t much else to do. You can play all of the songs in quickplay if you so desire, but since that initial charm of playing with a band is gone, you’re just playing for score. Since there are only 42 songs, you don’t even have that much to play. The quickplay menu also leaves a lot to be desired since it does not have basic filtering options and it’s really difficult to look at your stats in detail. There’s also no option to practice songs which is a really puzzling decision.
So while the Live experience was a really fun ride with a lot of charm and nice little moments, it’s a bit too short and sparse to be worth the purchase by itself. Luckily, there’s Guitar Hero TV
Guitar Hero TV
A really quick description of GHTV would be “the modern, interactive MTV, if MTV still had music” and that description is accurate to the letter. This is an always online mode that allows you to tune into channels that offer constantly streaming songs 24/7 where the music videos of the songs play in the background. You essentially jump in and start playing from the massive library of songs that are available and the platform is continuously expanding and evolving. You can also play songs on demand by using Play Tokens that allow you to play any song once. There’s also a progression system where you earn experience and coins depending on our performance in a song and you can use coins to purchase upgrades for your guitar and to buy Play Tokens. There’s also Hero powers that are unique powers with their own effects that you can use.
There are two channels at the moment that you can tune into. They’re simply called Channel 1 and 2, but they differ a lot from each other. Channel 1 is where you’ll find all of the hard rock, classic rock and metal and Channel 2 is where the indie, pop and electronic tunes are. It’s not entirely unreasonable to think that they will add more channels as the platform grows through time. The channels and the songs are the same for every person so you can potentially jump in when a song is halfway and you cannot pause when you want.
The thing about GHTV is that it is extremely addictive. You can conceivably sit and play for hours and not get bored. The songs on offer are mostly excellent since they’re the songs that artists are known for the best since they have music videos. You improve yourself by just playing the songs that are streamed and the progression system gives a lot of incentive to keep playing. You always want to earn more coins so that you can get that upgrade and gain ranks.
At all times you play against 10 other players and the person with the highest rank wins the most experience points. While it is possible to compete in real time with people, most of the scores I saw in my over 20 hours of play were offline scores. They were essentially other players’ “ghosts” that you competed against. The higher your rank, the more difficult these scores become to defeat. This mechanic adds to the excitement of everything and really brings your competitive side out.
Premium shows are mostly live shows from bands that you can play. You can play a Premium show by using Hero Points, which will be discussed later, or by completing simple challenges in certain songs. It’s pretty easy to get into a Premium show without paying and you can win some nice bonuses if you play well in them. You can also play them whenever you want if you already unlocked them.
The upgrade system was an unexpected feature since you’re giving yourself major benefits from purchasing these upgrades. Things like increasing your max multiplier by one or having your multiplier increase more with each successful note. It makes a giant difference in the scores that you will get and how you play. The Hero Powers are also a bit strange since they offer a range of effects. From the simple double multiplier to having a safety net where you can’t miss any notes. Their usefulness ranges wildly and the biggest bummer is that you have to purchase most of these powers. There is one unlimited Hero Power that allows you to instantly hit a bunch of notes in front of you, but it does not really benefit you that much if you’re going for big scores. The rest have to be bought with coins or with Hero Points.
Hero Points are one of the game’s microtransactions which are used if you want to buy Hero Powers or Premium Shows. Thankfully, you don’t have to use this currency as these items can be obtained through regular play, but the mechanics had to be changed in order to facilitate this currency. The other microtransaction is a “party pass” that you can buy that allows you to play all of the on demand songs as many times as you want for 24 hours. There’s no option to simply buy a song for personal use and you have to adhere to this day pass structure. It would have been kind of alright if the party pass only counted hours that were played rather than a static 24 hours.
I’m sort of willing to give GHTV the benefit of the doubt when it comes to microtransactions since you get to play a whole bunch of songs for free that you would otherwise had to purchase, but some aspects of the pricing model are a bit shoddy. Thankfully the game doesn’t adhere to the “pay-to-win” mindset where you can just buy a load of coins and fully upgrade your guitar and buy as many Hero Powers as you want.
Overall, GHTV will absorb all of your productivity if you allow it. The way it functions allows you to become addicted really quick and it’s truly difficult to tear yourself away from it. Since it is streaming songs, you don’t fall into that common rhythm game trap of only playing the 10 songs you like over and over again, but rather playing everything equally. It’s an innovation in rhythm games and one that evolves the genre into something completely new.
Guitar Hero Live as a package is fantastic. You get to enjoy a nice singleplayer experience and an ever expanding mode that can take hundreds of hours out of your life. The 6 button configuration is ingenious and offers the most authentic plastic guitar playing experience out there. It adheres to the traditional rhythm game mentality of “easy to learn, difficult to master” and fans both old and new will get a kick out of playing the game. It can be seen as the natural evolution of rhythm games and given that it’s a platform rather than a once off release, it can only improve from here on out. Definitely worth the pick up if you’re interested in music and rhythm games.