Guitar Hero Live Review: Running Through Six Buttons with No Woes

I’m sitting here typing this, and it’s surreal.

Today a new Guitar Hero comes out, and as drastically different as it’s become, I still get that feeling from 2005 when I first started playing.

This is dumb, they should have put eight buttons (two rows of four)

Before you adapt that line of thinking, you should probably try the game. I’m not talking about the demo at Gamestop, I am talking about the setlist for this game. It’s not easy… Of course I am not the best at Guitar Hero but I jumped into this game at Expert and rest assured that most concerts ended with disappointed fans throwing garbage at me, and sometimes my bandmates throwing in the towel (literally) at my face. Hi my name is toymachine on scorehero.com and I have only five starred one song in this game…

Maybe Fight Hound and Vivid Scream will ask me back to be their guitarist in the future, but I’m pretty sure the dudes in Blackout Conspiracy will chase me out with pitchforks if I ever show up to play Shadow Moses again…

Ok, so it’s hard but is it any fun? Yes, of course it is. I played a Rihanna song and it was fun, I played a Linkin Park song and I didn’t mind, I even found myself getting super hyped up playing Skrillex (maybe the fact that it became a giant party on stage helped).

Songs you have previously played in other Guitar Hero games (there’s a lot on GHTV) have new life with the addition of fake plastic barre and power chords. Imagine a Deftones song (Diamond Eyes) where you almost feel like you are playing Drop D hammer-on chords.

One gripe I have is the hardest thing seems to be quick vertical switches. When there are a lot of alternate black and white notes on the same fret you should be able to hold down both and strum up and down but it just doesn’t work that way, I understand why that is but it just seems like it should work.

However anchoring works as GH traditionally does even vertically when it comes to hitting single notes.

Example: anchoring White1 (W1) and hitting Black3 (B3)

One thing I found really interesting about Guitar Hero Live was how my mentality of approaching certain charts has become almost like a guitar tab. I found myself looking down at my fingers to form a certain chord shape as opposed to looking at the screen, definitely a new experience with Guitar Hero.

Also, since I know certain people want to know about the Engine, it feels a lot like a tighter Guitar Hero 5 in terms of timing when it comes to strumming, but honestly sometimes the hammer-on’s timing window feels wide open. Like GH5 wide, whereas the chord switches seem extremely tight and unforgiving. This is good because it’s making me less sloppy.

I don’t have much to complain about with the guitar controller, mine works fine it’s a GH guitar, it’s light and smaller than usual and it’s loud when I strum, I like that… Your mileage may vary of course, because it’s a plastic toy guitar being mass produced.

FMV? This is so cheesy, what a step back!

Do I feel like a rockstar after playing Guitar Hero Live? No, of course not but I won’t lie to you, I did say to my TV (see: no one) at least a few times “Come on! It wasn’t that bad” or perhaps when I played with Portland Cloud Orchestra “Just play your drum and shut up you weird hipster beard man,” was also directed at a person that I have zero human interaction with. Suffice to say, I got into it. There was also a great moment where a young fellow crowd-surfed all the way onto the stage just to tell me I ruined EVERYTHING, and then was dragged off by security.

The bands are incredibly diverse as are the fans in the crowds, you actually do feel kind of good when you are nailing a song and the crowd and band are loving it. Because of the live aspect of the game sing-alongs are also often present and don’t feel too obtrusive or overbearing.

It’s also important to note that although with FMV it’s a bit strange to suspend disbelief that the basis of Guitar Hero has always been your band playing other people’s songs. So while it’s a bit weird to see people lip-syncing songs playing huge music festivals that is exactly what we’ve been doing since 2005.

The game’s in game footage and fretboard looks great, and more importantly it calibrated almost perfectly. This is a big deal considering I’m playing on a 4k TV (27ms of input lag), on Xbox One with a guitar connected via a Bluetooth dongle.

The note charts are easy to read, so much so that I don’t even think I need a scroll speed modifier. Yes, For the first time since 2006 (on console) there doesn’t seem to be a hyperspeed option in this Guitar Hero. Unfortunately, with this revelation comes the fact there doesn’t seem to be a practice mode either. Which would be nice for some of the more difficult songs on GHTV.

Hammer-on’s are easy to spot as they are now glowing blue and Hero Power notes now have lightning bolts inside them. A great nod to advanced players shows up as marking note streaks by a glowing yellow note, and when you 100% a song it will end it by saying FULL COMBO, sweet!

There’s no DLC in this game? I can’t buy anything? Why!?

You don’t need to spend any money to play GHTV (you don’t need Xbox Live Gold or PS+ either). I am confident that you won’t have to spend your money to buy tokens if you don’t want to. As of playing right now I am rank 10 and have 40+ tokens and I’ve only used them five times. I may have a bit more open mindedness towards the music curated for me but even the most left field songs, like for instance Luke Bryan’s That’s My Kind of Night provided an engaging and fun guitar chart.

There is a lot to talk about with GHTV, and frankly a lot of unknowns that still haven’t been answered by Activision. However, for all I know they could be seriously changed in the next few months (see: there’s going to be a third channel). For now it’s (GHTV) a revolutionary idea that you really have to see in action to believe.

Most importantly if you are reading this review I can assure you:

You won’t need to spend money to get tokens.

If you do feel the need to play only what’s On Demand or you just want to go right into the Avenged Sevenfold Premium Show there is an option to unlock everything for 24 hours for $5.99 which may be a good option if you are planning on going for a FC of The Looking Glass.

A friend came over and we went in on GHTV, Your score is still ranked in this mode although the leaderboard totem was hidden (it showed up once and blocked part of my fretboard) and it still rewards coins towards unlocks and more importantly Plays.

I have noticed that the amount of coins you earn past Rank 10 does decrease a tiny bit but the Hero Cash free barrier of entry is 1,800 coins for three play tokens, and failing that you could use the voucher inside your game case for $9.99 of Hero Cash. (later discovered this was a review incentive)

Heck, I even got 600 coins just for signing into GHTV today, and that amount changes everyday from what I’ve seen.

 

All the best songs are on GHTV! This is the worst soundtrack everrrrr

The soundtrack for the on disc portion of the game is certainly a mixed bag. Heavily geared towards the post-2000 era it has definitely alienated many of Guitar Hero’s core supporters, but the song choices really mesh well with the game. The only song I am somewhat baffled by is the Avril Lavigne choice, as it wasn’t fun to play and it seems like in general an odd song to include from her catalog. The final setlist of the game consists of three classic rock songs, one of them so difficult that my performance ended with a janitor sweeping an empty club in front of me… Harsh.

Much like questioning the six button decision I guess you’ll just have to play through the game and see for yourself. Basically, if I can find enjoyment in a Linkin Park song you can stomach the lack of Foo Fighters!

The blister on my pinky (yes I used it for the third button) says otherwise about these songs not providing a challenge.

FSG knows how to make a pretty interface

What’s on the menu?

This is probably the best looking Guitar Hero game in a long time when it comes to UI, the song selection screen is sleek and contains all the information you need, each music festival has a really nice layout for the band schedule and even features an unlockable program of sorts for all the bands. If you get all 5*s you unlock more and from what I can see 5*ing all the songs on each festival will unlock a hidden song featuring the dev team performing.

Another nice touch is the radio banter and tweets after each performance, they can either make you feel great or make you laugh at how bad you were. Immersion!

GHTV really feels like you are watching a MTV channel complete with CG interludes/intros and atmospheric music to break up the shows on both channels (GHTV1 and GHTV2). Yes, there are commercials but they aren’t to market outside products, just to let you know what’s available for On Demand. You may use the times to grab a drink or snack or maybe just to rest your fingers.

There are some negatives that almost seem like a throwback to past Guitar Heros of old. The sorting in quickplay is non-existent! You just sort by artist and after you play a song you are right back to the top of the list. I know, I know there’s only 45 songs but come on… It’s fine in GHTV though, strange.

Also special shout out to “auto-calibration” not sure how it does what it does but wow, it’s bang on!


Guitar Hero Live is a great game. It’s better than I ever imagined it would be and I’m excited to see this revival of plastic guitar games. However, there were some issues I ran into during my review:

  • Occasionally there was slight video stuttering that occurred which threw the track off-sync temporarily.
  • You can’t have multiple profiles signed in when two guitars are connected
  • 1 vs. 1 on GHTV isn’t in yet, but will be implemented post-launch. It’s being called Rivals Mode.
  • There’s no Bass and I can’t figure out why. It seems like something that could easily be done for some select tracks (you don’t have to chart drums or anything, come on).
  • There really should be a practice mode, this game isn’t easy.
  • The entry to get into a Premium Show seems flaky, you play a song and get three stars and it doesn’t let you know you accomplished anything, you just get kicked back to the selection screen for premium shows.
  • It’s not clear how you select your difficulty in the game, it’s all done through the pause menu but an unseasoned player wouldn’t know to do that.
  • I’ve tapped the GHTV button while strumming twice.
  • With all the GHTV upgrades (Adding more Hero Power phrases for example) I almost wish there was a classic leaderboard where it just had normal Starpower. Note: You start off with a Bomb that clears all the notes on screen and gives you points from them.
  • Hangar 18 is the music video version, and Won’t Get Fooled Again is the single version. Might as well ruin that for everyone now.
  • You can’t own a song, even though there were numerous interviews which said otherwise

Despite these drawbacks Guitar Hero Live in my opinion is one of the best Guitar Hero games of all time.

@FSGStudio Now put some Death Grips on GHTV.

Activision provided The Hero Feed with a two guitar bundle + microphone for Xbox One for purposes of this review. The reviewer was unable to get vocal implementation to work.

This entry was posted in Activision, FreeStyleGames, Game Reviews, GHTV, Guitar Hero Live, Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Guitar Hero Live Review: Running Through Six Buttons with No Woes

  1. Groudon199 says:

    As nice as GHTV is, I have to limit myself to most songs released after 2005. Older music videos don’t have their aspect ratios preserved, and they look ugly. I almost never focus on the background, but it’s always in my peripheral vision.

    What I hate even more is no one who’s reviewed the game brought this up, including the “professional” reviewers. They’ll slam a game for mediocre graphics, but let something like this slide?

    • Elliott says:

      fair point, but I grew up with those music videos in all their glorious non-HD quality so stuff like that doesn’t bother me. I have read online that others are bothered by it, so rest assured you are not alone in this.

      • Groudon199 says:

        I grew up without HD-quality anything, and I know how stuff from those days are supposed to look. It doesn’t help that I see this type of thing pretty much everywhere.

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