Guitar Hero Live Review
After a long hiatus, Guitar Hero is back and this time it is trying a lot of new things. Some of them work great, while others don’t seem to be fully baked. The first thing you’ll likely check out when opening up your copy of Guitar Hero Live is the new guitar peripheral and I’m happy to say that this is Guitar Hero’s best quality controller to date. The strum bar has a great rubbery coating on it that is just a pleasure to touch and the new fret buttons no longer stick up off the neck of the guitar, making this a much more attractive piece. Gone are the 5 distinct colors of the buttons. Now instead of one row of five buttons, you have two rows three buttons. The top row [for righties] is for your black notes and the bottom row contains your white notes. The guitar feels a little short though; I would have liked to see the neck a little longer. Even with all the improvements that have been made to the quality of the guitar, they seem to be just a step behind their competition in regards to build quality, but it is more than sufficient.
Let's talk about the new set up. If you are new to the franchise you likely won’t have a problem gradually learning how to play effectively, but if you are a veteran to these kinds of games, you’re in for one heck of a time re-training your fingers to utilize this new two-row setup. Thankfully, once you do, it feels amazing! Once the new patterns finally click for you - you feel like a real guitarist more than ever, it's more addicting than ever!
The “career” mode is called Live. You choose from one of two different festivals that contain bands. Bands are little more than a set list of three songs. Once you complete one set list you move on to the next…there is zero customization, zero story, and zero attachment to anything in the career mode. It feels little more than a glorified tutorial before hopping in to the online mode, more on that later. The new “live” backgrounds are ok, they look really good, but they definitely didn’t give me that sense of stage fright that they were going for. Coupled with being a part of a new band after every three songs, it really took away from any sort of connection that I could have had with “my” band. You just feel like a freelance guitarist moving from band to band. Each band did have their own unique look, attitudes, and note highways, which was a welcome addition. However, there are a few strange design choices I feel compelled to mention. Guitar Hero has always been about ramping up your multiplier and going for the highest score possible and while the multiplier is still present on screen, your score is strangely absent until you finish the entire set list and they grade you at the very end. Another strange gameplay quirk that took an abnormal amount of adjusting is when you press down a note instead of lighting up the corresponding note on the note line it creates a sort of “flag” that appears right above the note line. This created some frustration for me as my peripheral vision would perceive the top of the flag as where I should be strumming instead of an inch below where the actual note line is. Your mileage may vary.
The real draw and addictive nature of Guitar Hero Live comes from their new ambitious GHTV mode where you can choose from two different channels of prescheduled music. The type of music changes every hour twenty-four hours a day. They have taken kind of a Call of Duty approach to the customization of your online profile. The better you do, the more points you earn and the quicker you level up. When you level up, you get in-game currency that you can use to purchase new personalization cards, new note highways, new power-ups to gain the advantage over other players and songs to play anytime you want. There is a lot of meat in GHTV, hundreds upon hundreds of songs. There is a real time leaderboard that as you do better or worse, you move up or down the ranks corresponding to how you are performing, compared to the others playing the song. Instead of having a hero power that gives you a 2x multiplier boost you start out with a bomb power-up that will clear the note highway of all notes on the screen, but as you level up you can unlock new and more interesting power-ups.
The multiplayer also feels a little half baked here. You can play with your friends in quick play or in GHTV, but can’t create a band or personalize anything. You play the same notes as each other, without any option to have one person play the lead while the other plays the melody. At launch, you are unable to purchase extra guitars separately at all. The only way to play two player is if you purchase the two guitar bundle that seems like it was pre-order only. This coupled with the lack of previous guitar support really makes this a solo experience.
Guitar Hero Live does a great job of evolving the gameplay of guitar based music games and I hope to see the new two-row chord scheme stay, but I do miss having to move my hand up and down the neck of the guitar. Guitar Hero is as addictive as ever, thanks to smart online play, but is lacking in a strong career mode and customization options. It’s definitely not the flop it could have been, but it isn’t the comeback story you might have been hoping for, still for fans of the genre I do recommend it.
Guitar Hero Live gets 3 out of 5 stars
(All reviews are based off of a 5 point scale)