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"Guitar Hero" is coming back, and we got to check it out today

Preview: ‘Guitar Hero Live’

Earlier today, Blogcritics sat down and rocked out with FreeStyle Games and Activision as I got my hands on the all-new, completely reborn, Guitar Hero Live.

It was all the way back in 2010 when DJ Hero 2 and Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock hit store shelves. Those were the last two entries in what had been an insanely popular franchise, one which helped spawn a number of competitors in the music rhythm game genre. That length of time, and the feeling that they had something new and different to present is what has led to the return of the franchise and t
he new game which will be available in October for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii U.guitar

Now, I say return of the franchise, but we have been told that the thought isn’t on any other games at this point. FreeStyle is just looking at this title, including tons of additional content after launch.

Ah, but what is this title?

Broadly speaking, the new Guitar Hero Live is divided into two sections – the titular Guitar Hero Live and Guitar Hero TV (GHTV). It may sound odd, but Live is actually the single player offline mode, the basic campaign mode if you will. This is where you’re going to get a feel for the title and perhaps the more traditional Guitar Hero experience. You will get to go from small venues to large ones, playing in front of crowds and with bandmates. Actual bands have been filmed for the game as have real crowds, and the camera gives you a first person view of both. You are going to get different reactions from them depending on whether you play well or poorly. And, for those in the latter group, the new Guitar Hero Live doesn’t kick you out mid-song, it lets you keep going (you just get fewer experience points).

While Live offers up this first-person view of being a rock star, GHTV is playing to a music video. In both areas, your highway (the look at the notes you need to play that mimics the look of a guitar) is right there, but the images behind it are different.

GHTV is perhaps best thought of as MTV, but for Guitar Hero. There are actually multiple channels and multiple “shows” (different genres of music) happening at any given time, and anyone in the world playing Guitar Hero Live at a single moment has the exact same selection of channels and shows and therefore songs. If you tune in to a channel at 12:45pm and the show started at 12:30, you’re going to most likely find yourself in the middle of a song. You just jump right in and start playing with other folks. If you want to just play a specific song in GHTV, you can earn points—or spend real money—to be used for on demand music plays. There are also premium shows you can unlock by playing certain GHTV tracks, or again with real money, and beating others in the premium shows offers up exclusive rewards not available elsewhere or for purchase. Then there are Hero Powers. These allow one to do things like increase the multiplier, level up or down part of a song, and become invincible (think Star Power in the old game).

What Guitar Hero Live doesn’t have, and apparently will not have, is DLC for purchase. The current plan is to make new music available via GHTV shows, and to make it available for free rather than forcing folks to buy new track packs.

Multiplayer isn’t just online either. Up to two people can play local multiplayer. Not only that, but you can go to a friend’s house and as long as you log your controller into your PlayStation account you will have your Guitar Hero Live user unlocks and bonuses available to you.

That all is what the game is, the bigger question is what does it feel like. The answer there, perhaps no surprise is like Guitar Hero, but with some minor tweaks. For example, the new guitars don’t have four colored buttons for you to press, there are three black buttons and three white ones,guitar-detail4 with each color opposite the other so only three fingers are needed to reach all six buttons (see image).

It definitely takes some getting used to, particularly at higher skill levels where sometimes you need to be hitting the black and white buttons at the same time. I was okay when just trying to play at one color button difficulty but was soon out of my depth at two. Perhaps that’s because it was a Chili Peppers song, but it was probably my skills or lack thereof which made it hard.

Easy or hard (and obviously there are multiple skill levels, including one my four-year-old could succeed at), it is fun, and while it definitely feels like Guitar Hero, it also feels new. Lots of things are still unknown or up in the air, like how long after launch new songs will keep being added to GHTV, but we are still a ways from release and assuredly just as the tracklist keeps growing, new information will be released.

Priced at $99, it also remains to be seen whether the franchise has been away long enough to return to its former glory. After the brief taste I got today though, I am definitely excited for it to be coming back.  Guitar Hero Live is scheduled to launch on October 20th.

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by ‘deftly’ he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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