Are you ready to rock? I said are you ready to rock? The Wii U is ready to rock out with Guitar Hero Live. Let’s crank up the volume and tune in to see if you are ready to jam!
The Guitar Hero franchise has been absent from the video game market for awhile, so here is a quick refresher. The object of this guitar simulation is to press buttons and strum along to popular songs. The notes appear as single notes or chord combinations sliding down an on-screen fretboard. After each song, you are given points based on your accuracy.
Guitar Hero Live largely keeps the same overall gameplay as its predecessors. Instead, the big change comes in the guitar controller. Previously, the controller contained five buttons colored red, yellow, green, blue, and orange lined up in a single row on the fretboard. On the new controller, there are two rows of three buttons. One row has white keys and the other has black. I like the updated design, as it better represents a real guitar. My friend plays guitar and he always reads The Sound Junky when he’s buying a new guitar. He really loves Guitar Hero! When translating this to the functional gameplay, however, it was a difficult adjustment.
My main issue with the game is the various difficulty settings. In Guitar Hero Live, I found that the casual setting is comparable to the easy setting in previous games. The regular option I compared closer to hard. It felt like this game was missing something in between. This made me feel that the medium difficulty was removed. I found the difficulty curve from “casual” to “regular” to be too steep, as the number of buttons increased from three to six. In previous titles, there was only a single button added when raising the difficulty level. While a popular saying is that “practice makes perfect”, I found myself not adjusting easily. After playing multiple songs, this yielded varying results with some songs having harder combinations and different tempos.
One of the other major changes to the series is the addition of Guitar Hero TV or GHTV. This new mode introduces a play-a-long type of session. The songs available range from those unlocked within the game, and new ones not found within the game. You join other players online as everyone plays the same song but each plays at their selected difficulty level. I disliked GHTV as I had no control over the song selection unless I wanted to pay cash for each song choice. The genres and songs rotate around as time goes on. At the time I was playing, the songs were ones I did not personally enjoy, mostly being more modern songs. I was also surprised that there is no song store to purchase additional tracks. In previous entries, I really enjoyed being able to purchase additional content. Instead, this new structure felt like I was only making a temporary purchase as I can only select a single song for one play. I had to pay about ninety-nine cents for six tokens. Each token allows the owner to select specific tracks on GHTV. While I was still able to play GHTV without making any purchases, I found that was not always the best experience. I do not always enjoy playing either the same songs or those that I do not like. The best part about playing online is being able to pick your favorites or the ones you are best at.
Guitar Hero Live has an entirely new display of background visuals. The camera angle makes it look like you are standing on the stage and facing the crowd. There are two major parts to performing onstage. I enjoyed seeing fans holding signs and I loved being able to listen to the crowd. The crowd’s reactions change when playing well to poorly and vice versa. I felt this added a great sense of realism to the game. While the primary focus is always on the upcoming notes, the crowd was fun to watch during a guitar break in the song.
Speaking of songs, I did not enjoy many of the included tracks. While there were at least a dozen of them that I did like, I felt there could have been a better offering. During my sessions with GHTV, I felt there was also a considerably weaker list of available songs. Since I did not enjoy the available tracks as much, I felt this impacted the overall replay value.
I felt my experience with Guitar Hero Live was mostly unenjoyable. I could not get a handle on the new controller, the difficulty spiked too quickly, the online experience did not fit the pay-to-play model and the overall track list was not to my liking. While the visuals were very enjoyable, it did not cover up the other issues with the game. I would recommend you review the track list, and give the new controller a test play prior to purchasing.
Final Score: 6 out of 10