Guitar Hero live is a music video game developed by FreeStyle Games and is published by Activision. The game is available on PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Several hours after waking up Christmas morning, I was back in my room, eager to try a game I haven’t owned or even played since 2007. Assuming you’ve read the title, it’s easy to guess I’m talking about Guitar Hero Live. I sat in my room, waiting for the game to update, looking over my instrument of pure rackage, taking in the whammy bar, the power button, knobs I didn’t recognize but could easily guess their function, all the way up to the fret buttons. Wait… what happened to the fret buttons? Back in the Legend of Rock days, I had six neatly lined different colored buttons, but now my colors were gone! The buttons were now huddled together, side by side never passing the sixth fret, plotting a conspiracy against me and my uncoordinated left hand. I tested the buttons a little. Fingers gently hopping from one side to the other and I thought, “You know. That’s not so bad”. Immediately it already felt like I was playing an actual guitar and since the last rhythm game I had owned was RockSmith, a game that uses an actual guitar for its music, it was almost like having an easier version of it.
After the updates had finished, I went ahead and jumped right into the bulk of the game, eager to rock out to the song of my choosing. Unfortunately,the game had other plans, grabbing me by the ear and hauling me to the tutorial. My agitation sparked even more when I noticed my goofy animated rockers were replaced with actual people. I liked my goofy animated rockers! And now a big guy with a slightly cheesy, over the top British accent and a beard longer than my guitar was muttering instructions to me, telling me to strum this and then strum that. I remember thinking “for f&%k’s sake I get it. I hit the buttons when the game tells me to come on. It’s not difficult”. I also took note on how much Guitar Hero had become like its competitors, Rock Band. Between the lack of bright and toon-ish colors and animated rockers, the way the on screen button triggers were, even some of the mechanics looked like they were pulled from the last Rock Band game I played (roughly six years ago, so behind).
But then something magical happened. The guitarist who’s mind I had possessed then wandered through the back stage, where more real people began clapping me on the shoulder, telling me to rock on and such and eventually I ended up on stage with my, again, very real band mates and a very real audience. I found myself watching everything and everyone. From the rest of the band taking their positions, strumming a few practice notes, to the crew in the background, on standby. I noticed little things, too, the plugs in everyone’s ears, the bracelets on “my” wrist, even the kissy faces someone was making in the 3rd row. I was beginning to feel like I was actually there, nearly overloaded with an amazing amount of detail. I had gone from the cardboard cutout crowd that swayed back and forth to an actual crowd filled with so much detail I made it a personal challenge to notice it all.
Unfortunately, that level of detail also has a downside. Thanks to my sudden fascination with real life people in my make believe rock world, I found myself missing the first 5 notes of the song that suddenly started play. My fingers quickly attempted a type of river dance along the fret buttons, trying to collect the notes while the sound of someone beating my guitar with a metal fork filled my ears. It was good to know of all the things guitar hero had changed, the obnoxious noise of missing a note was still there to fuel my hatred and wrath. Apparently, my band mates hated it too for one of them ran up to me, still jamming on his guitar, and growled “come on” before moving to the front of the stage trying to cover for my apparent lack of practice. My guitarist wheeled around to look at the drummer and he glared down at me from his beat keeping pedestal, shaking his head while hammering on the drums, probably wishing it was my head instead. Even the crowd took note. Instead of the loud booing that usually filled the ears of the guitarist in Legends of Rock and similar titles, the crowd here grew quiet, their enthusiastic rocking came to a standstill and they all just stared at me in gross disappointment. And I felt terrible. I was failing a room full of people that didn’t even exist, but because I could see all that agitation in their eyes it was enough to make me completely restart and suffer through the tutorial againTake two went way better. I was prepared for the song to start this time and was able to keep the crowd cheering and dancing. And, damn, it felt amazing. Using real people just had a way of tricking my brain into thinking I was the best guitarist on the planet, despite actually being a terrible guitarist.
After the first set, I went ahead and continued with the story, which was basically the story of two major music festivals and you taking part in various bands. I was a little disappointed in the lack of hard rock songs that were available. The majority of the songs were ones that had been released within the past 2-4 years. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I was more than happy when R U Mine by Arctic Monkeys came on and I got to rock out on that. There were songs that I had ultimately forgot about such as Love Bites But So Do I by Halestorm that are now back on my iPod where they belong. Even the songs I have to listen to on a regular basis thanks to my part time job at a retail outlet seem that much better playing to a massive crowd with an enthusiastic band. And in the end they rewarded me with the Rollings Stones and Queen so really the story song list was decent and enjoyable.
But I then discovered Guitar Hero Live’s GHTV, which is a mode that could easy have made me forget any grievances with the story mode song list. It works almost like a more controlled Beat Hazard, where you click on a station and play through the songs they have available in an endless stream of rocking and/or rolling, whilst comparing your score to the scores of others either online or offline. You’re then granted points that you can use to purchase free plays from an extensive list of songs they provide. They give you a load of tokens to start off with so you can play whatever you song you like, which I gladly spent on bands like Disturbed, Living Color, Queen, etc. Earning points to play whatever songs I wanted was toeing the line of annoying, but to be honest, it was no different than having to play through the story to unlock certain songs in the other mode and that’s not a new thing from Guitar Hero either, so I sucked it up and grinded through the music stream.
Now, let me finish off on the bad: The multiplayer, or the blatant botchery of it. Now from what I remember seeing in more recent Guitar Hero games is a form of multiplayer that lets you connect with a friend online and play songs together. In Guitar Hero Live? Nothing. Closest you get with having the ability to rock on with another person is the random versus “battles” that happen during your GHTV stream, which, from what I’ve gathered, you have no control over and have no choice on who you play against. It was so hard for me to wrap my head around, I spent about an hour going through the game and researching online, believing that there was no way they would just leave multiplayer has bare as that. It’s a step in the wrong direction and is probably a big turn off for a lot of players. Actually, it’s not probably, it’s definitely a major turn off. So, if you’re hoping to have another game to jam with your friends 3,000 miles away, allow me to crush that dream before it’s too late.
Well, if you’re on the fence about buying Guitar Hero Live allow me a recap that’ll sway you one way or the other. If you’re looking for a rhythm game that lets you indulge your inner rock star, letting you escape your mundane day to day, I say go for it. I was happily entertained while I powered through the story and I’m sure I’ll be happy when I do it again on the next difficulty level. Now if you’re looking for another rhythm game to play with your friends, either in the next city or 3,000 miles away? This game is definitely not for you. Save yourself from the angry realization of Guitar Hero Live’s poor lack of multiplayer. Stick with one that has what you need or wait until FreeStyle Games churns out something with something that better suits your little gaming heart.
Gameplay: 3.5/5 (solid 1.5 off for lack of decent multiplayer)