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Guitar Hero Live Review - ROCK OUT

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(Article by The Gareth Woods)

Guitar Hero is back with another chance to live your dream of being a rock superstar without the need for an expensive drug habit, or fame, fortune, millions of fans, groupies, sponsors ok ok you get the picture….

The latest instalment is titled Guitar Hero Live and is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3,  Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One and iOS.

The rhythm game genre has been quite stale for the past few years, and developer Freestyle Games have had their work cut out for them trying to breathe some new life into Guitar Hero.

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Perhaps the most obvious change the developers have made has been the change to the guitar itself. While traditionally the guitar featured five coloured buttons all in a row. It has been changed up for two rows of three buttons which the developers felt not only mimicked a real guitar more and felt more natural; they also believe that newcomers would find it easier as they could keep a steady hand position rather than getting “lost” as was a complaint of previous versions.

While this makes the control scheme easier to “pick up” it also makes for some tricky combos with the introduction of bar chords and chords featuring multiple rows and buttons. Certainly easier to learn, but definitely harder to master and I’ll be the first to admit that as a previous self-professed “Slayer” at the previous games I felt like I’d somehow given myself brain damage the way my fingers were acting like left feet and so had to swallow my pride and start at a more modest difficulty.

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Gareth in his "Slayer" days

Strangely though after a few songs one suddenly “clicks” and the bit of motor memory kicks in with your fingers able to find their way around which gives your brain a bit more time to think and maybe even some room to ROCK OUT. As for the guitar itself it seems reasonably well built and I haven’t had any issues thus far. I have read that a few users have had issues with buttons sticking, but I don’t know if that’s an issue with the controller or if they have a chronic case of gamer Nik Nak fingers. The game comes with one controller, the game itself (duh), batteries, a strap and a blue tooth dongle to connect to the controller via your console’s USB port.

The other major change has been to get rid of the cartoony graphics of the previous game that focused on some made up band that you would watch while playing (although to be fair most of your concentration would be on the notes and I usually had no idea what was going on elsewhere on the screen). There is a real life first-person point of view which makes it feel like you’re playing in a band in front of massive crowds. The one cartoony element that has remained though is the B-movie acting from some of the band members and technical crew who say some of the most twee lines that sound like they’re out of the Brady Bunch.

The crowd are also a lot of fun, even if a tad fickle. When you’re rocking out (and by that I mean successfully hitting the right notes), they’ll be jumping around, singing along and undressing you with their eyes, but heaven forbid you miss a few notes or you’ll feel the crowd turn very quickly and start to stare daggers at you. Except for one or two of the crowd that I noticed will still jump around singing regardless, but I think they might be so high they don’t even know what band is playing. But don’t worry, just a few correct notes in a row and they’re back on your side … fickle.

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One of my favourite new additions has to be Guitar Hero TV that looks and feels much like the MTV of old (when the M stood for music videos and not Miscellaneous Reality TV shows as it does now). You choose between two themed channels which are streaming a series of videos depending on the theme. I’ve seen for example a Metal hour or Pop Hits or Indie Groups. You simply jump in and play whatever is on at that moment and can jump out whenever. Every time you complete a song you’re rewarded with in-game currency that can be spent on cosmetic items such as new highways or player identification cards. Your score is also tracked live against ten other players at a similar level to you so you can see how you’re doing. The better you do, the more in-game currency you get.

Another thing you can use your in-game currency on is something called PLAYS. These PLAYS allow you to play any song in the current library of over 200 songs on demand, but will cost you one play. I’m not sure why exactly they don’t just let you play any song you want whenever you want it, but it probably has to do with the fact that you can purchase more plays with in-game currency or REAL LIFE currency…bwahahahaha. So microtransactions are alive and well.

Of course, if you’re cheap like me you can just play whatever is on the channel free of charge and, to be honest, I found this a great way to discover new music.

Which leads me to probably the most important part; the music. The song list is not only extensive at over 200 songs but is also pretty diverse with genres such as metal, country, rock, whatever Nickleback is now and even, can you believe some dubstep. While certain songs and genres obviously lend themselves better to guitar it did feel a little forced at times with certain songs where the guitar doesn’t feature that heavily, and I felt that some of these songs were added more to reach a broader market than necessarily for how good the song fitted the Guitar Hero gameplay.

One feature that appears to be missing though is the ability to practice a portion of the song that makes it difficult to master those tricky solos as you would need to play through the entire song just to get to the solo, and then fail miserably before repeating the process.

At this stage, I’m about 20 hours of game time in, and I can’t see any reason to be stopping anytime soon. In fact, I’m excited to have some friends over and jam music videos all day which is one of the best parts about Guitar Hero Live. Tere’s a genre or style for everyone and a scalable difficulty that makes it accessible or challenging enough for anyone’s ability.

All in all, it’s a fun and innovative new entry into the rhythm game genre, and if you were a fan of the previous Guitar Hero or Rockband games, you wouldn't want to miss it. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a fun party game to jam along with friends then this is also the perfect game for you 

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