Guitar Hero Live Review: Comeback Tour

Guitar Hero is back, setting out on a reunion tour. This time its got a fresh new look, sporting a redesigned controller and the perspective of a rock star. Is it enough to justify having a plastic instrument take up precious space in your living room?

First off, this is a different guitar controller than you may remember. There are now two rows of three buttons, three black and three white. It ups the button count to six and it takes some serious getting used to. I found myself messing up a ton even on easier difficulties due to my unfamiliarity with the controller. There is a learning curve for sure, though a good hour or two with the game will bring you up to speed. It requires more depth and makes those 100 + note streaks feel more satisfying. It will take some getting used to but once you get the hang of the new controller it feels significantly improved over past titles.

Guitar Hero Live’s got two major modes, Career and GHTV. Career is where it earns the “Live” title, where you play songs in groups of three or four in a cover band. As your band’s guitarist, you’re apparently the center of the world. Everyone makes a ton of eye contact with you, fans and band-mates alike. The interactions you have with everyone on stage is comical. They’re reactions to your guitar playing skills are over-the-top and completely phoned in by the game’s actors.


Rock out, bro!

The track list is lengthy though whether you’re impressed with the songs is up to your taste in music. There are a few pop songs that don’t originally feature prominent guitar riffs, like from Katy Perry, that aren’t outright terrible but don’t feel like they belong. Its nice that these songs are played in a way that there is more guitar in them but it would have been much better to skip these songs altogether for other additions.

As a whole, the list of songs is hit and miss. I certainly appreciated being able to play Surfer Blood’s “Demon Dance” but it felt like most bands either had songs in previous Rock Band/Guitar Hero titles, numbing any excitement for playing them in a video game for the first time. Also, who doesn’t choose “Infinity Guitars” over all other Sleigh Bells songs to play in Guitar Hero?

GHTV is the other main mode here and its probably the one you’ll spend most of your time with. You don’t have to watch actors ham it up, instead the music videos for each song play in the background. This is where Guitar Hero Live really opens up, with hundreds of songs available on day one in various music genre channels. You purchase these songs with tokens you can earn in-game or buy with real money. Once you buy one of these songs, you can play it whenever. The game is pretty liberal about handing out tokens so I never felt the need to use real money to get more songs though I’m sure mega-fans will do so to unlock everything quickly.

Despite its robust selection of songs and videos, GHTV’s interface isn’t all that intuitive. Navigating menus on the guitar controller is a chore and GHTV will randomly throw you into a song that you didn’t select. It also suggests songs that are wildly different than what you just played, as if the game isn’t paying attention to what the player enjoys. You liked playing The White Stripes “Fell In Love With A Girl”? Then you’ll apparently love Disturbed’s “Down With The Sickness”.

Guitar Hero Live may have its flaws, like cheesy acting, odd song choices and cumbersome menu navigation but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun experience overall. Many may roll their eyes at the idea of Guitar games in 2015 and Activision won’t win you over with this. If you’re still up for more jamming out on plastic controllers, Guitar Hero Live takes the franchise in the right direction with GHTV and a new guitar that has more depth to it than the old, four button controller. Ultimately, Guitar Hero Live takes more steps forward than it does back.

Final Thoughts

Guitar Hero Live may stumble with cheesy live action footage of cover bands and fans but it proves that it is still fun to play with a plastic guitar. GHTV saves what could have been an otherwise so-so revival of 2006's popular rhythm game. Review copy provided by Activision.

Overall Score 85%