Thursday, 21 January 2016

Guitar Hero Live

Rather than conform to what’s expected, Guitar Hero’s return is like that kid that just has to have the black hair with the red mohawk just to stand out in class. When that didn’t shock anymore and his ginger roots began to show, he shaved the black out of the sides and coloured the top black to create one of the most hideous colour combinations ever, just to say it was different than what’s expected. Not that I knew that kid, I would have punched him in the gut if I had, but Guitar Hero Live is like him, standing out against the current rather than easily phoning it in. Guitar Hero Live is a culmination of mixed ideas and attempted innovation in a long-believed dead genre and honestly its equal parts a resounding success and disappointingly underwhelming.

Out now for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 comes Guitar Hero Live which is essentially broken into two main modes: Live and TV. They say fortune favours the brave and the Live mode is certainly brave. Its execution is also pointless and cringeworthy. Rather than have video game graphics play in the background while you hit the notes on the highway, everything is shot in live-action. As you play a song, the video plays and it reacts to how well you’re playing. If you hit every note perfectly, you are a rock god as your bandmates and crowd give you canned, forced smiles and cheering that’s hard to notice just how inauthentic it all looks. Play badly and you’re left to hear jeers and boos from the crowd and unhappy bandmates. The problem is that there is no in between. You are either a rock god or a gobshite.

The controller also strays from the path with a brand new six button layout that features three on top and three below it to imitate a more realistic feel with power chords as you play. It simply being different certainly makes it feel fresh. It also means a couple of songs of fumbling about is back as you get acclimated to the new layout. From someone who’s played guitar for over 10 years now, it feels more natural and authentic to the real thing, well, as authentic as 6 plastic buttons can feel.

The Live portion of the game is bitterly disappointing, but the game is completely redeemed by the TV mode. This mode is essentially a streaming service that allows you to play along with essentially music stations as they feature hundreds of songs across multiple genres. You may not be able to buy any of these games but you can pay to play whatever song you want or simply stream some great songs in the hope the ones you want will come on. The “paying” part can be both real money or by the credits earned by simply playing on one of the channels for some time. It’s not perfect simply by the fact that you can’t buy the right to own and download a song but it’s a sacrifice that’s worth it for the mode that’s created.

The setlist on GHTV fares much better than the one in the Live mode. Live mode features mostly songs from the last five years and side more on the pop side of things. TV features more classic and good rock songs but still expect the pop songs to be found in the +200 songs available.

Ambitious, daring, different, unusual, cringe-inducing, and eventually it becomes pretty good again. It’s the true definition of hit and miss but at least they tried to give fans of the genre a new experience. I still can’t get those cheese-riddled faces smile at me while playing. I don’t hit people but if I ever met them I would have to ask them to explain themselves to me first before I cast my fist of judgement.

Guitar Hero Live is alive and trying something different 3/5.


Jason Redmond

Guitar Hero Live at CeX

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