- + Revamped, more intuitive controller
- + Using actors instead of in-game avatars is far more immersive
- + Attempting to perfect a song without missing notes is still addictive
- - A wider variety of songs would have been appreciated
- - Social integration is limited and frustrating
Want to look beyond the score? Check out the full review below…
Start Replay: “Encore”
It’s been a while since I wrapped my fingers around a plastic instrument, over 5 years in fact, but now rhythm games have returned and Guitar Hero has rebooted itself. Outside of gaming I’ve never even touched a guitar, but after a session of GH I feel like I could become a professional.
That feeling, no matter how unrealistic, makes this new entry and all that have come before it, a ton of fun. The illusion of becoming a rockstar offers quite a thrill, and anyone who has prior experience with rhythm games will feel right at home, albeit with a few slight adjustments.
Guitar Hero Live ups the tempo by giving the control scheme a rehash and overhauling its presentation. Unlike its competitor, Rock Band 4, no old equipment can be used in this newer iteration of Guitar Hero. Developer FreeStyleGames has decided to refocus their efforts and stick to vocals and guitar only, meaning drums are out of the running. No mic comes with the starter pack, though you can use a headset or another USB-enabled microphone.
The new instrument does away with the series’ regular 5-buttoned combo and replaces it with a block of 6 inputs. Located at the top of the fret, the new control method is laid out in two rows of 3, whilst a strum paddle remains at the bottom alongside a whammy bar.
Both rows are colour coordinated on the edges and are represented in-game via black or white notes.
It might seem a little complicated at first, moving from a string of 5 coloured buttons, but containing all 6 buttons in one block allows for more sophisticated combinations. Depending on which difficulty you select, you’ll either only be tasked with residing to one line, or if you can up the ante and use all buttons through a series of different sequences.
Sometimes I was tasked with holding down two notes together, whether that be a black note and the white note below it, or manoeuvring my fingers to hit two different notes entirely. Luckily a thorough tutorial is provided, so even a novice can pick it up quite easily.
Instead of performing songs in front of lifeless avatars, this time pre-recorded footage of staged live recordings offer a more realistic tone. Taking the first-person perspective of the lead guitarist, your POV will mostly span out to a huge crowd in front of you. Should you mess up your performance, your fans will become agitated and start to throw items to get you off stage. However, bring it back from the brink and the scene will quickly change back to an upbeat atmosphere.
Personally I really enjoyed getting feedback from a crowd of human faces, as opposed to generic avatars seen in the series before. I actually felt bad if they weren’t enjoying themselves and became uninterested in my performance; it made me strive to perform better.
In the Live portion of the campaign you’ll tour across different stages that feature a whole range of songs. Some of the artists featured include The Black Keys, Ed Sheeran, Fallout Boy and My Chemical Romance. I was a little disappointed by the lack of older songs seen in previous iterations, such as Jimmy Hendrix or The Eagles. Strumming away to Hotel California is definitely one of my favourite past times.
Outside of the content on the disc, Guitar Hero TV presents the added benefit of discovering new music through its built-in streaming service. Lists of curated songs are in rotation every hour of the day and the service itself acts akin to a radio station. In-game currency can be earned alongside experience points in order to unlock more content on a regular basis, though micro-transactions are present for those looking to buy their way past putting the time in.
Unlike previous entries, GH Live doesn’t present as many opportunities when it comes to social integration. Sure, there are leaderboards, but I can’t play with my friends and set up a competitive match online. Local multiplayer is limited to two players, but instead of allowing two guitars to use one receiver, each player must have his or her USB to hand. This isn’t ideal if they forget their dongle, plus it also means all ports on your console are used up.
The return of Guitar Hero has made me a very happy gamer. It’s a series I used to be absolutely addicted to, and this reinvention has brought me back into the fray with more to learn through its fresh approach. It’s a shame to miss out on the series’ previous library of songs, particularly as Rock Band can access its own extensive catalogue, but moving into more engaging gameplay is worth the loss.
*Guitar Hero Live was provided to Start Replay on PS4 by Activision