While previous Guitar Hero games have been replicas of the same layout fans loved except with new songs, Guitar Hero Live strives to break the mold with new content, a new format, and a new controller. At PAX Prime 2015, we were able to test out a demo that gave us access to the majority of the game’s features.
Before jumping into the software, the biggest and most notable change that comes along with Guitar Hero Live is the new controller hardware. Instead of the five button layout to which fans have grown accustomed, the new guitar controller comes equipped with two tiers of three buttons. At first glance, the difference doesn’t seem all that drastic. When I jumped into the gameplay, though, I quickly realized that my experience with the previous Guitar Hero games wasn’t going to help me that much.
When playing on the easiest difficulty, you only use one tier of the buttons. In this setting, the game is simple and plays similarly to the easier modes in other Guitar Hero games. But as soon as you begin to step it up into two tier difficulty, everything changes entirely. One of the hardest parts of using the new controller is that, at some points, you need to bar your fingers across the frets as though you were playing an actual guitar. You’re also required to use both tiers at the same time to play chords.
The new guitar definitely makes playing feel more realistic. On a real guitar, it’s hard to get your fingers used to playing chords across multiple bars. Guitar Hero Live will help build your coordination and finger strength, which will help. If you plan on learning how to play the guitar, however, this won’t teach you how to play; but it will absolutely give you useful experience with fundamental guitar finger placements.
In addition to the new guitar, Guitar Hero Live brings a lot to the table with its new format. When playing in single player mode, you will be part of an actual band composed of real people. In the game, there are 10 different bands performing across different genres. To make the game more realistic and immersive, Activision found professional musicians and recorded them playing. At the demo, Senior Designer Nathan Coppard mentioned that this was done by constructing the ideas and images of what the bands should look like and then casting people to fit those roles. While the musicians aren’t necessarily playing the song you’re strumming along to in real life, it’s almost impossible to notice unless you’re a music aficionado paying close attention. And if you start playing poorly, the musicians will turn and stare at you, giving you dirty looks and nods of disapproval.
Furthermore, Activision also took the time to record real crowds of people having both positive and negative reactions. So they too will cheer when you are playing well and start to boo and become restless when you consistently miss your notes. It’s awesome to see how seamlessly they transition back and forth between their reactions. Since the footage is prerecorded, you might expect some choppiness, but that’s not the case. In the same song, you can go back and forth between playing well and not playing a single note multiple times and each time the audience and the rest of your band will respond appropriately. Plus, depending on the genre of music, you will also see dramatic differences in the audiences.
For those who enjoy the experience of playing at home with friends, Activision has listened to fan feedback and decided to include local multiplayer in Guitar Hero Live with the option to play with two guitars and a USB microphone so that a friend can sing lead vocals while you and your opponent strum for victory.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of Guitar Hero Live is Guitar Hero TV. This new addition to Guitar Hero is what Activision describes as a “24-hour playable music video network that lets fans play along to a continually-updated collection of official videos, from the newest releases to favorite hits.” When accessing this content, players have the option to either join a live channel genre or select songs from a catalog. The live channel plays the same songs at the same time no matter where you are in the world so that all players can share the experience together.
When you join a channel, you will be matched with up to about 10 other players based on your skill level in the game. This way, you won’t constantly be taking a beating from Guitar Hero pros nor will you feel bored crushing newbies if you happen to be a Guitar Hero pro. As you play through the songs on the channel, you will move with the same group of people. If a player beats you on one song, you can use your frustration as fuel to inspire you to play better the next round. And, of course, this section will constantly be updated with new content as well as exclusive content from artists that Guitar Hero Live will be working with closely.
Overall, this game is a great blend of old and new that provides a significantly more realistic and immersive experience of playing the guitar. While the realism of the game could still be improved by modeling the controller more closely to a real guitar, there’s a good chance that adding that many frets could make the game impossible to play. Who knows, though, maybe one day we’ll see a game that uses a controller in a way that the skills learned can directly be transferred to real life.
Are you excited about the upcoming release of Guitar Hero Live? Worried that you aren’t going to be as good on the new guitar controller as you were on the old one? Be sure to let us know in the comments!