Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guitar Hero Live: Not the Same Old Song and Dance

Today, Activision announced a new entry in the Guitar Hero series -- Guitar Hero Live.  Developed by the DJ Hero developers FreeStyleGames, this entry in the Guitar Hero series steps away from the established 5-button guitar gameplay and changes it up to something different.  It's an interesting spin on the franchise, and I have to say I'm very intrigued by the new gameplay.

As I said, GHL gets rid of the 5-button experience, and replaces it with 6-button gameplay.  Instead of having the usual 5 buttons along 5 frets of the guitar, the new guitar has six buttons split across two rows on 3 frets.  This change to the peripheral also affects the highway.  Gone are the colours of each note, which are replaced by two colours -- black notes to represent the lower strings and white notes to represent the higher strings.  Instead of having the challenge of reaching for the orange note by shifting your hand up the fretboard, the challenge is presented in being able to coordinate between the upper and lower notes among the three frets.  It's an interesting spin that I'm excited to try out, as it's something that I haven't experienced before on a plastic guitar (though I do play real guitar so it might not be too unorthodox for me).

Apart from core gameplay changes, GHL won't be using computer graphic avatars to represent the gig in the background.  Instead, the team have recorded a live-action audience and band to play to the music.  Along with this change, the action is shot from a first-person view of you (the guitarist), rather than a third person view.  It's a change I don't have much to say on.  I won't necessarily miss the old Neversoft avatars, but I have no big feelings towards this change.

The last notable change is the instrument support.  GHL will be a guitar only game.  No drums, no vocals.  This is centered on the instrument in the title, just like the original Harmonix GH games and GH III.  This is fine for me, and pits GHL not as a direct competitor to Rock Band 4, but more of a compliment to it, as both games offer different experiences.

There a couple things I'd like to point out as "gripes", so far.  While I'm interested by the new gameplay mechanic, I think three frets is a little small for the experience because the pinky finger won't be used.  While it will make the experience easier for those just starting, I think veteran Guitar Hero players (like myself) would prefer using all four fingers in the game.  I'm also a little worried about the soundtrack scope.  While there are a couple songs confirmed that I'm excited for (Gold on the Ceiling by The Black Keys and My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up) by Fall Out Boy), having Skrillex and hip-hop and EDM isn't something I'd like to see in a Guitar Hero soundtrack.  I would prefer songs that do are centered around guitar or a "rock band" type of experience in this type of a rhythm game.

What I am glad about is console availability.  Obviously the old instruments won't work for this game, so it will only be released in a $99 guitar bundle.  But the game will be available for pretty much every major console so far -- including PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U.  There will also be a "mobile companion", which will probably be an app similar to previous Guitar Hero apps and apps like Tap Tap Revolution.  This also means that I can actually purchase GHL, in contrast to Rock Band 4, which is only going to be on PS4 and Xbox One.

I'm excited for the revival of the rhythm games.  Sure, FreeStyleGames could've stuck with the traditional GH formula with GHL, but I think this new vision of Guitar Hero will please fans of both the series, and the genre.

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