Review: Guitar Hero Live
While Rock Band 4 launched a few days, marking the return of rhythm game peripherals, its eternal rival Guitar Hero could not help but follow the same track. However, while there was a time when both licenses positioned themselves on the same direction, by offering similar gameplay, Activision intended to completely overhaul its known mechanics to provide a more immersive music game experience. Is it a gig worth going to?
Before we start, forget all you know about the Guitar Hero series. A rather bold gamble which by Activision and Freestyle, Guitar Hero Live created a new concept with some core mechanics that worked from the past. Instead of a plastic shreder with colored frets on the same row, Guitar Hero Live introduces a different instrument, which make player closer to the sensations of playing a real guitar. Thus, replacing the color codes to which we were accustomed, we are in possession of a controller coupled with three upper and lower keys.
If one could criticize something about this new guitar, it would be the mechanical noise. The strumming slap is quite noisy, and can become particularly annoying, especially when playing the game as a duo, and during high difficulty levels. It may indeed be very disturbing to hear your partner play a rhythm while you’re attempting a solo, destabilized rhythmically by the strokes of the guitar. We would have preferred a quieter instrument to allow all to play without this atrocious clicking sound.
Nevertheless, this new guitar totally reinvents the way you approach the pace of play. Beyond its imperfections, the guitar six frets feel great to use. Depending on your difficulty level, you’ll have to play single notes, power chords (which requires pressing two adjacent buttons at a time), “fake” chords (pressing two diagonal buttons) and open chords which further reinforce the immersion. Guitar Hero has been able to greatly reinvent their peripheral to give the player the feeling of finally rediscover a set pace of play.
While in the lowest levels of difficulty which you play single keys on the same row are not very interesting, advanced modes will help you discover a new way of approaching a song. If these six frets make the game more accessible to beginners, it however doesn’t dumb the experience for veterans, with a very steep learning curve inherent especially on the advanced and expert mode. Only the fiercest virtual guitarist can manage to master the most devious songs on high difficulty, while others will quickly see a rather impenetrable wall of notes and chords scrolling too fast to be played properly.
This is however not really dramatic. The tabs are cleverly shown on the screen, and whenever we take the trouble to master the guitar, the pleasure is increased tenfold, especially as the positions of your fingers resemble more and more the so-pose on the strings of a real guitar. In short, the six frets is undoubtedly a success and should’ve been introduced to the license a long time ago.
After your initiation with a simple tutorial, Guitar Hero Live offers a series of shows that are portrayed and filmed like real concerts, which is an amazing idea and selling point from Activision. Live concerts allow you to experience some “artificial” festivals, having 5 to 10 gig set, each consisting of 3 to 4 songs. You are basically immersed in the skin of a guitarist that plays in all these bands in two major festival. Guitar Hero’s team even went as far as creating behind-the-scene sensation, showing your hands tremble at the idea of facing a large public audience, or even get a wink from a attractive groupie, and so on.
The live view as guitarist is greatly done, which I can personally vouch for, coming from a background of someone who played as a bassist for couple of local bands in hometown, I would say it’s as close as real. It’s so spot on when it comes to make you feel like rock star, with the adrenaline rush of the crowd and your band mates reacting to your guitar playing. If you take the trouble to look at what will plays behind the main guitar riffs scrolling on the screen, you will get a fairly credible sensation of what it is like playing to an audience but note that most of these scenes are scripted and based on your performance.
In addition, the public reacts in real time to your performance. In short, if you don’t play a song properly, your subjective view becomes blurred, turning members of your group and your audience to go from being hyped to angry in the fraction of a second . All certainly works well but does not mean game over for players, to the extent that you can totally bring back your momentum by picking up riffs properly all over again, regardless of the difficulty setting chosen.
Playing these festivals in the end allows you to open tracks for quickplay, which are limited to 42 tracks, from dubstep to metalcore, passing by indie, which can be replayed alone or with friends by adding a second guitar and.or a microphone. The most patient of you can try to collect as many grab the highest star rating for songs, unlocking a photo gallery and videos of the making-of the game. Is 42 tracks enough for the comeback of Guitar Hero? Yes, because the franchise introduced Guitar Hero TV, a new challenge series based on a set schedule.
When you first Guitar Hero TV, you get the main idea behind it, but not how it works. After having tried it for hours and hours, and enjoyed its catalogue, this mode is quite chaotic to explain: between micro-transaction, tracklist and music on demand, there’s so much going on in this mode. On the guitar, a single key is dedicated as a shortcut to access Guitar Hero TV, mainly designed as a music channel, which broadcasts every half hour two playlists based on major musical genres: metal, country, folk, pop… Depending on the time of the day you play, you’ll always get what play. By base, it is very simple: if a song is being broadcast, the music video can be joined at any time and play the guitar, alone or in pairs, to earn some experience. In addition, the program can be checked ahead of time, to see its schedule so you can plan properly if you want to play Metal riffs for example.
Guitar Hero TV offers a progression system: the better you play, the more you will be paid in GH coins and status points. Meanwhile, about 200 songs are on demand. In reality, things are a bit more complicated. Indeed, do not expect to be able to indefinitely play one – or all – the songs offered by Guitar Hero TV. If you were hoping for example to master a very difficult song like In Due Time by Killswitch Engage, you will need to spend a “play token”. So if you are short stacked on those tokens, you will need to play through the live broadcast to earn back currency and get more tokens. The question is whether or not, this system requires the active involvement of the player to the point of being disruptive, or even worse, pushes you into microtransactions to play your favorite songs.
There are several ways to earn tokens. The first of them is quite naturally. Besides the little welcome present you get in your first tutorial session of Guitar Hero TV, you can get tokens by leveling up. The progression between levels is quite fast and is determined by your performance when you join a broadcast channel. Of course, they will determine the amount of experience received even if it must be acknowledged that compensation criteria remain particularly unclear, as well as the allocation of the number of currency you need to use to buy additional chips.
On average, and as part of a practice game in advanced mode and oscillating between 3 and 5 stars in pieces, I received anything between 130 and 180 units of currency. Once I had enough, I simply jumped in the shop integrated in Guitar Hero TV, only to realize that 10 tokens need at least 6,000 units of currency. If the proportion may seem unreasonable, know that Guitar Hero Live “offers” gives you a certain daily bonus currency, increasing as you play throughout the week. In short and without much reflection, I had to grind through the broadcast playlists, to buy enough tokens to play several times during one game session.
Last way to get chips is real currency. Sure, it is actually possible to never spend a dime to access the entire catalog of Guitar Hero TV catalogue, however, this does depend a lot on your practice. Regular practice of the game without excessive objectives should be more than enough to accumulate enough chips to never have a feeling of being restricted by microtransactions, but could be seen quite differently for completionist who aim to 100% their favorite piece in expert mode.
However, keep in mind that each song is listed by genre, which you can simply go regularly on their free channels and play through until you reach your favorite music track, free of charge. That said, if the business model is fairly balanced, the fact of not being able to acquire a track indefinitely is just something i’m not used to in this franchise.
Guitar Hero Live was reviewed using an Xbox One retail copy of the game provided by Activision. The game is also playable on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and even iOS in retail store releases bundled with the guitar or two of them. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• The new controller is great
• Live concerts sensatins
• Guitar Hero TV is addictive to perfection
• Huge and varied Tracklist
• Compensation to recurring experience
• Microtransactions are not needed for the patient player
• Amateur player might be tempted to cash-in to play more in Guitar Hero Live
• Cannot buy a song permanently in Guitar Hero Live
• Career mode is quite short