‘Guitar Hero Live’ video game review
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
When Guitar Hero made its debut over 10 years ago, it was something pretty special to an entire generation of gamers. Although the idea of strumming and fretting your way across a plastic guitar controller to your favourite songs had been done before in arcades, Guitar Hero’s release marked the point in which anyone could bring the concert home to their living room. However, within the span of about five years, publisher Activision saturated the market with a new Guitar Hero every single year. The last Guitar Hero game before this year’s Guitar Hero Live was 2010’s Warriors of Rock. By that point, the series made disco look alive and in wonderful health.
Thus, after a wisely chosen half-decade hiatus, Guitar Hero Live brings the series to the current and previous round of home consoles, complete with some choice innovations, an extensive song list that covers all decades and genres, along with some rather questionable choices—particularly when it comes to presentation and inclusion of microtransactions.
Despite the fully revamped guitar controller, anyone who’s played these games in the past will find their way around the fretboard relatively easily. With the previous games, the plastic guitar was set up in a way that would allow you to play any title in the series with any controller you’d like. With Guitar Hero Live, they’ve completely altered the fret board (and, by extension, the gameplay), turning the five button row into two rows of three, one row above the other. An honest-to-goodness gameplay innovation was something I simply never thought I would get from another Guitar Hero game. For many veteran shredders, the massive reboot of the gameplay alone may be all they need to justify picking up the axe again.
It strikes me as strange that they changed the controller in a way that makes it seem more challenging when the 42 songs available upon purchase are incredibly easy to play (such as “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers), come from genres that generally don’t contain guitar (“Bangarang” by Skrillex), or are just plain boring (“Counting Stars” by OneRepublic). Guitar Hero 3 was the most critically acclaimed game in the series, thanks mostly in part to the extreme challenge of some of the later tracks. I can’t imagine anyone who mastered that game being impressed with this set list.
This is alright, though, because Guitar Hero TV—the alleged centrepiece of this latest title—has over 200 songs… except you can’t choose to play them at will. It’s a predetermined set list of songs that you may or may not want to play and, although the option to play at will is there, it costs real life money ($6 for 10 free plays). You don’t even get to keep the songs afterwards; you’re just renting the right to play the tracks. That is not at all what I’m looking for in a music game.
The single player career presentation is also super questionable, which becomes glaringly obvious upon starting your first song. The audience is seen from a first person perspective, as if you were playing on stage yourself, but those audience members are super lame. They have the most ridiculous smiles and over-zealous cheer, making the whole thing an unfunny joke.
Guitar Hero Live is the best Guitar Hero in a decade. Though, considering the quality of Guitar Hero 4 and Warriors of Rock, that says nothing at all. There are many reasons why I wouldn’t recommend this game but, ultimately, people who want to rock out with their plastic controllers out will do just that.