It’s surprising how quickly one can change their voice from Joel Madden to Mark Hoppus
It’s been 5 years since parties everywhere have had a new Guitar Hero game to show off on but now, people have been gifted with not one, but 2 music/rhythm games within weeks! However, the latest installment developed by FreeStyle Games and Activision isn’t the same Guitar Hero you’ve played before. You have been warned; prepare for hand cramps.
Like I said, this isn’t the Guitar Hero you have played before… well, it is but it’s a much needed freshen up of the loved franchise. They’ve still got their story and free play modes but they’re creatively altered from the last time you would have played. This time, story mode is called ‘Live’ and free play is called ‘TV’ and yes, they’re basically what you’re thinking.
Live is the brand new story mode and unlike the previous GH games, your audience is exactly that: live! And with that, so are you! You go first-person mode, get given your guitar, you’re spoken words of encouragement and you step onto the stage with your real-life band comrades. This real-life mode is interesting as a concept that only gets better as you play through some great songs. As someone who’s been to her fair share of rock concerts and festivals, both huge and small, inside and out, I can confidently say that they got the atmosphere pretty close to authentic.
The crowd isn’t as loud but they’re not stagnant like I somewhat expected them to be; just jumping around because the director told them to look lively. No, they sing the songs back at you and they get louder in the right points, throwing their hands in the air and cheering. While you don’t necessarily jump into the game thinking you’re actually a rockstar, you do feel like it’s a real concert of music lovers.
There’s the little things as well, like the continuity of the guitar tech bringing you out the right guitars for you between songs, or your bandmates, although a fictional band, they actually played their hearts out with the sweat making their hair stick to their faces. Like I said, small, but I appreciated it and it made the experience that much more enjoyable.
The other function of ‘Live’ is the real-life reactions of your bandmates and fans. If you start doing badly, they’ll all let you know with a manifold of reactions and ‘boos’ as well as some plastic cup throwing (which is NOT allowed at real gigs, FYI). There is only two reactions: a ‘yay’ and a ‘boo’, both of which can change pretty quickly, and it doesn’t matter if you get the first 90% of the song completely right; if you fuck up the outro, they’ll boo you. One time, I literally screwed up the last note and the crowd changed to ‘boo’.
Your bandmates also give you feedback on your performance as the camera work is meant to move all the way around the stage, getting in everyone’s faces to gauge a reaction toward you. It got … I don’t know … odd at some stages. It was extremely overreacted and sometimes the acting was laughable. You feel like you were just picked out of the crowd as everyone looks at you with utter amazement in their eyes that you can play the guitar so masterfully. That, or they can’t bear to look at you like you’ve just soiled yourself at a party.
Guitar Hero TV is the new way to quickplay (apart from the actual quickplay which is playing the live songs free without having to do the whole set). You get to pick your favourite songs to play from the list GH has catalogued and as you play, their music video plays in the background. This is a whole lot of fun and a much better way to play the songs than previous GH games.
However, this is where the microtransactions come into play. I’m not a fan of microtransactions at the best of times (though, I do occasionally partake… Fallout Shelter) but some of the flack I’m seeing for the game being wrought with them isn’t completely just.
Each song you play in the song catalogue uses 1 play, and right when you start off playing in ‘TV’, they give you 10 to play around with. If you play the songs you like, trying your best and growing your score and ‘status’, the game gives you additional plays. I’ve been awarded from 3 to 10 extra plays after leveling up certain amounts and have not yet needed to purchase more after a couple afternoons of solid play. You can also purchase plays using in-game currency that you earn by, you guessed it, playing songs, which they give you a pretty good headstart on anyway.
Their only other notable microtransaction is the 24-hour pass which gives you access to unlimited plays of all the songs in the song catalogue for $6 US. “Dammit, Activision!” you say, “Why must you take more of my money?!” However, $6 is the price of 3 songs of your own choice from Rock Band 4‘s array of song choices, as they are priced at $1.99 US. When you think about it that way, I’d rather my friends at a party play all the songs on GH‘s catalogue as many times as they’d wish rather than pick and choose songs I may never play again for $2 a piece.
Anyway, onto the features of ‘TV’. Like I said, the music videos are real fun to play with and it gives anyone watching a bit more to look at than previous GH games. They include a live leaderboard which, to my understanding, it kinda works like ‘drive-atars’ in Forza; they save your progress and your GamerTag/PSN name shows up in other people’s games when they play the songs you’ve already finished. And the higher the place, the more you score.
They’ve also got a 24/7 music channels running which is segmented into genres/eras and timeslots and everyone in your timezone will be playing those exact same songs at the exact same time. For example: you may jump in 10 minutes into the pop-punk slot, halfway through a Green Day song, then 20 minutes later, an hour of heavy metal will be playable. All completely free and unlimited; no plays needed. You can unlock more channels and groups of songs as you level up too. Very neat idea.
The only things I wish could be improved are a larger list of songs (though, they’ve said they’ll add more later on). I’m someone who only enjoys playing the songs I know, so it limits me to around 15 I want to play.
The last new feature of Guitar Hero Live is the brand new guitar model they give you to play with. The buttons are 3 on the top and bottom of the neck rather than 5 along the neck and, as gimmicky as it sounds, it really does make you feel a bit more like a guitarist (sorry to all the guitarists out there). Throughout the game, they make proper use of these buttons, the black top row pointing upwards, the white bottom row pointing downwards, a square with a split using both ‘strings’, and just a strum bar.
At first, after only recently playing previous GH titles, it was real difficult getting used to the buttons as my pinky finger didn’t know where to sit, but if you follow the game’s tutorial, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quick.
As the difficulties go up, they throw in much more tricky moves, rather than just a button further down the neck. As much as I felt I was competent with the ‘regular’ difficulty, ‘advanced’ throws you many curve balls, not just with speed but with the needed maneuverability of your fingers up and down rather than just using fingers that aren’t used on real guitar anyway. And here’s a tip from me: sometimes, your fingers just won’t listen to your brain. In that case, put the game down and just walk away for a while.
This isn’t exclusive to the ‘TV’ version, but the notes on the highway start too abruptly. Previous versions counted you in to the song’s beginning then started the notes at the end of the highway, yet this version just starts mid way down all of a sudden and I kept on missing the first several notes because I wasn’t ready.