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Guitar Hero revamp rocks

Nov 2, 2015

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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The band is finally back together again.

Guitar Hero LiveGuitar Hero is the latest gaming franchise to get a makeover. This reboot though is no lame reunion tour. Taking a hiatus after the market was flooded with all manner of rhythm games and their sequels, the revolutionary Guitar Hero franchise has returned with a complete face-lift. Thanks to developers FreeStyleGames (DJ Hero), everything from the visuals to the guitar peripheral itself have been given a progressive refresh.

Although Guitar Live retains the same gameplay concept – strumming and pressing fret buttons as they scroll down a music track – the experience is much more realistic than ever before. Even veteran players will have to go back to school as the controller has changed and so has the gameplay. Gone are the garish row of coloured fret buttons. In their place are a double row of three white and three black buttons.

On the lower difficulty settings, you only need to worry about one row of buttons. The higher difficulties make use of both. The learning curve is a steep one with hammer-ons and pull-offs still being skills you have to learn if you wish to master the game. This change though not only means players will have to learn a new set-up but all the time, patience will be worth it as the experience is far more realistic than ever before.

Guitar Hero LiveIn keeping with things being more authentic, the animated band and audience segments have been replaced with real people and real time reactions to your gameplay. If you are killing it, your bandmates will rock out with you and the audience will be whipped into a frenzy. If you bumble and stumble, the band will express their displeasure and the audience will scowl, talk trash and boo you like no tomorrow.

You can regain everyone's approval by not missing a beat and using Hero Power (formerly Star Power) when it is available. Some of the acting does range from campy to darn right goofy as there is no dialogue and the characters have to express their feelings using facial expressions or actions but I found it to be all part of the game's charm.

The screen is a lot less cluttered in Guitar Hero Live as well scrubbing much of the informational graphics present in other versions. There is no rolling points score and many of the other prompts are less invasive than before. Note streaks are still shown but your overall score appears after you have finished a song.

Guitar Hero LiveWith the introduction of real-life characters, fan favourite series personalities such as Judy Nails, Also missing are the inclusion of drums or bass guitar, although you can attach a microphone to sing.

The familiar career mode is now known as Guitar Hero Live, which is a bit odd since most of us would associate "live" with being online. As the guitarist for various faux bands, you play three to five song sets which become more and more intricate. When you complete a set, you can check out your stats and all of the songs will be available to play in Quickplay mode.

The Live playlist is somewhat limited, there are 42 songs and a few of those aren't exactly Guitar Hero worthy. Artists such as the 1975, Rihanna, Avril Lavigne take a lot of patience to strum through if you are more of a rocker, metal head. As any Guitar Hero fan knows though, you have to take the good with the bad and Live has far more of the former and far less of the latter.

Guitar Hero LiveGuitar Hero TV (GHTV) is the new online mode. It is where the majority of the content resides. There are packaged set-lists of rotating songs or individual Quickplay songs. Currently, there are approximately 200 songs available online and that list is constantly updated with new selections. To choose any of the QuickPlay songs, you must spend in-game credits which can be purchased or earned. One of the major and regrettable snags is that none of these songs can be unlocked permanently, available to play at any time. That kinda ruins some of the fun especially when you are a fan of particular artists, songs or want to master particular tracks by practicing them often.

In Guitar Hero TV, the Live concert experience is replaced with the actual music video or live concert footage from the artist or band. Added to the screen are the scores of other players who are rocking the same song and where you are stacking up against them.

Guitar Hero Live is not some knock-off cover band or some fleeting comeback. It is a fully reinvigorated experience. I never would have thought it possible after all the countless iterations but FreeStyleGames has surpassed my expectations revising the Guitar Hero franchise for the better even though I am not a fan of the present in-game credit system. Let's hope that changes for the better as well. The Guitar Hero franchise has been revitalized and ready to rock into what could be a very promising future. Mission accomplished, FreeStyleGames. We are ready for an encore.

Guitar Hero Live
Format: Xbox One
Publisher: Activision
Developer: FreeStyleGames
ESRB Rating: T for Teen

Official Site:

Rating: 8 / 10

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