Getting Ready for the Comeback Tour
What’s there to say about Guitar Hero Live, other than “Guitar Hero’s back”?
In a way you’d be right to think that much hasn’t changed in the five-or-so years since the franchise went down with the rest of the oversaturated peripheral-based music genre it popularized. In another way, however, you would be wrong.
My hands-on time with GHL recently made apparent a handful of the small changes developer FreeStyleGames (they of DJ Hero fame) have made to freshen up the trademark gameplay for the modern era. For one, everything’s much more pleasant on the eyes. Gone are the punk-rock cartoon bands and grungy menus, replaced with a smoother, cleaner aesthetic in line with the more streamlined sensibilities of today’s musicians.
It actually looks quite nice, if you ask me.
But the fresh coat of paint is nothing compared to the real major change in Guitar Hero Live: the updated guitar controller and, in particular, its control scheme. Even at this point in time, I feel comfortable stating that the new six-button setup –two rows of three buttons– is a definite improvement over the five-button layout from the original era of GH games. All of the buttons are within comfortable reach of one’s available fingers, meaning the days of awkwardly straining one’s pinky to reach that obnoxiously distant orange button are now things of the past.
The new layout also has the added bonus of making one’s fingers contort in ways that better resemble forming chords on an actual guitar (well, about as much as a six-button video game controller can, anyway). It’s a nice touch that really helps pull you into the illusion of being on a stage and rocking out like a real guitarist.
What really helps to sell the illusion, though, are the changes to what’s happening in the background. I was initially a bit on the fence about GHL’s first-person perspective and use of live-action footage, but seeing it in action for myself, I’m beginning to warm up to it. Simply having the audience seemingly watching me instead of some generic avatars, ready to go from cheering to booing at me if I started messing up, really drove home how much I didn’t want to make a fool of myself.
It’s one thing to slip up a sizable sequence of notes (which I totally didn’t do on multiple occasions, honestly), but having the audience voicing their disapproval and a pseudo band member irritatedly shouting to step it up, make doing poorly sting more than it ever has before. As a result, one becomes more driven to perform well and give these prerecorded crowds something to cheer about.
At the end of the day, the foundation of Guitar Hero Live is essentially untouched. You’re still watching notes fall down a guitar neck-shaped highway and attempting to strum accordingly. The changes, as I said, are rather small ultimately, but they serve to refine the Guitar Hero experience in some notable ways; ways that stand a good chance of convincing fans that the series deserves to return from the depths of the gaming netherworld.
Guitar Hero Live will have its world premiere on October 20 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U and mobile devices. It will come accompanied by the new guitar controller, a soundtrack of over 80 songs, and a continuously-updating selection of hundreds of additional tunes.
A writer, journalist, and aspiring storyteller, Peter Grimm has been gaming since the days of the Nintendo 64, and reporting on the goings-on in the World of Gaming since late 2011. His base of writing operations is located within the void between Here and There, or so he would have you think.
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