Guitar Hero Live Review

Now raise your goblet of rock. It's a toast to those who rock!

Guitar Hero Live

The Verdict

I can't honestly declare a winner. Both accomplish something different, but also deliver a solid rhythm game. I will say that creating a new controller with a new button layout was a smart choice, as it breathes some life into the already established formula.

The live concert gimmick is cool, and works as advertised. It might be slightly jarring for the screen to switch between performing well and badly, as it's literally just two videos playing simultaneously as you peform, and switching out based on how well you play.

It's the cheaper option as well. Sure, you're not getting the full band experience, but when the guitar gameplay is this good, you honestly don't really need it. I'm curious to see the future of GHTV, and just how well Activision and FreeStyle Games supports this feature. I would also be interested to see stats of paying players versus players who just play whatever is available on the channel.

Guitar Hero Live is a wonderful evolution of the music genre. Everything from presentation, to mechanics, to the new controller was an advancement for the better. Whether or not this picks up steam with the gaming crowd is left to be seen, but the effort on both FreeStyle Games and Activision is apparent.

Guitar Hero Live Review

The Positives

  • Let's talk about the new controller. Holding it, it certainly feels closest to the Guitar Hero World Tour peripheral, which is a very good thing as that was the sturdiest guitar controller ever made. This one feels just as sturdy, and I really like the black and gold finish. But the real highlight here is the new button layout. Three buttons are layered in rows of two. This is interesting because it essentially gives you three buttons to worry about on each layer instead of five, but on the flipside it brings the total number of buttons to six. Someone asked me whether it was easier or harder, and I don't really have an answer. It's just different, but in a good way. It feels "new" and that's something music games needed for a long time.

  • The actual strum bar clicks. This is good for those that like some actual feedback on whether they're strumming correctly. However, that also leads me to a negative point below.

  • In my Rock Band 4 review, I stated that the on-disc song list wasn't really my cup of tea. I didn't know a lot of bands there, and the few I knew, the songs were just OK. Activision on the other hand decided to go for a very well-rounded song list. I mean it has everything from classics like The Who and The Rolling Stones, to more contemporary rock like Fall Out Boy and Paramore, even rounding out some electronica with Skrillex and dipping into more Pop territory with Eminem and Rihanna. For those that like a little folk in their rock, the Lumineers and Mumford & Sons are included as well. While the on-disc soundtrack is only 42 songs, which is over 20 less than Rock Band 4, the actual selection is so varied, I can't help but really like nearly every song.

  • While the new button configuration will take some time getting used to, it does end up feeling like actually playing chords, at least in the higher difficulties.

  • The game's campaign is required to unlock the majority of the on-disc songs. Luckily, it's actually a blast to play through. Each stage is made up of three songs, all of which make you a part of a different band, complete with intros of walking on stage. While the acting is super campy, I couldn't help but feel like a part of the band, so mission accomplished Activision.

  • The crowd reactions can certainly seem a little forced, but seeing them cheer for you, and subsequently boo you if you perform badly, does have a pretty big impact on how you feel as you shred, and that's pretty great.

  • GHTV (Guitar Hero TV) is easily one of the most unique advances in DLC, especially in terms of music games. Like I stated on the previous page, GHTV is a 24-hour set of channels that stream music constantly. It's separated into a few channels that are broken up by theme. If you hear a song you like, you press a button and you're in playing that song, along with others who were currently watching it as well. It's a pretty sweet system for players like me who don't necessarily want to play repeat songs over and over, but rather keep mixing it up with songs I have yet to play.

  • If you do happen to come across a song you might want to play on demand, you can use a Play Coin, which is a currency you earn as you play GHTV. If for some reason you run out of those, you can also pay money for them, or outright buy a pass for 24 hours that lets you play any of the 200+ songs on GHTV on demand.

  • There's also a progression system tied down to GHTV. Leveling up grants you access to new features, as well as new visual items like player cards. While it's largely superficial, it's nice that you feel like you're still progressing in a mode like GHTV.

Guitar Hero Live

The Negatives

  • While I personally love the song list that's included on disc, I simply have to put the 42 track song count on the negatives list. I understand why, since each song basically had to have two versions of live footage recorded (positive and negative feedback), but it's a shame that they didn't at least match Rock Band 4s 65 songs.

  • The guitar clicks are actually pretty loud. Make sure to crank up that volume so you don't keep hearing *click* *click* *click* *click* *clickety-click*

  • Well, I guess it couldn't have been an FMV game without cheesy overacting. It doesn't impact the game, but holy crap is it cringe-inducing at times. Especially backstage.

  • On lower difficulties, it doesn't feel like you're actively making the music. At least less so than previous iterations on lower difficulties. I'm not really sure why. Perhaps it's thanks to the new button layout, but something just feels off.

  • Not being able to outright buy the GHTV songs will upset players who want to build up their collection of songs to play. While this didn't affect me negatively, I can picture this mode making a lot of people angry.

It's time to put an end to the debate. Now that Guitar Hero Live is out, we must crown a champion. Right? I mean they both let you live out your rock band fantasy as an up and coming band, although in Guitar Hero Live's case, it's just the lead guitarist. But what if I told you that you don't have to compare them. What if I told you that each one brings something unique to the table, that makes them both a viable purchase, even if you were just scoping out a single game.

Guitar Hero Live is easily a reinvention of the entire series. Gone are animated bands and caricatured characters like Lars Umlaut and in their place are pre-recorded FMVs with real people, real instruments, real crowds. Gone are the days of five multi-color buttons in a row and in their place is a far superior three-on-three button placement, that easily makes for some realistic chord action.

But what Guitar Hero Live has going for it, outside of its pretty fun campaign, is GHTV; A live 24-hour set of channels that stream music videos, which you can hop into anytime and play at no extra cost. Want to play a specific song? Use a Play Coin that you can earn as you play. Don't have any Play Coins? You can buy them using real money. It's a really interesting evolution of DLC, since it never really allows you to outright purchase a song, but it also lets you play any song currently playing, without any kind of fee.

The Positives / The Negatives

The Verdict