Guitar Hero Live Preview
You had to assume Guitar Hero would return eventually. After grossly over-saturating the market with multiple entries and continually overpriced bundles, the franchise's fall was precipitous and perhaps inevitable. But it would be wrong to say the music/rhythm genre was merely a fad, simply because the plastic instrument craze shot through the roof and then collapsed. Interacting with music in new and interesting ways will always be intriguing, especially when developers take the time to retool and innovate. Enter Guitar Hero Live, a new effort for a new generation, with an all-new philosophy. No annualization here, folks; just build on the base concept.
The changes are fresh and appreciated, and put a huge spin on the previous Guitar Hero experiences. But let's start with something familiar, so long-time fans of the series feel a little safer: Hero Powers are very much like Star Power, but the revamped feature will only be available in the game's new online-oriented Guitar Hero TV (GTTV) Mode. You can enjoy this mode either single-player or with others. To take advantage of a Hero Power, you simply tilt the guitar or hit the "Hero Power' button on the freshly overhauled guitar controller. Akin to a loadout idea, before you play a song, you can choose which Hero modifiers to use and when activated, that Power will last for a certain amount of time. Here's the Hero Power list:
Clear Highway - Removes all immediate notes from your note highway instantly. The notes are counted as hits, which adds to your score, score streak, and score multiplier.
Double Multiplier - Your score multiplier will double for the duration of the Hero Power.
Dial Down - Temporarily reduces the frequency of notes that appear in the note highway. This is especially effective during difficult portions of the song to maintain a big score multiplier.
Dial Up - Temporarily increases the frequency of notes that appear in the note highway, therefore giving you a chance to increase your score.
Score Chaser - Maximum score multiplier is temporarily doubled.
Safety Net - Holds your multiplier and score streak at its current value.
Invincibility - Temporarily hits all notes, and missing notes do not register.
That new controller, by the way, features six buttons this time around, and is designed differently. Check out a behind-the-scenes video featuring that controller, along with developer Freestyle Games explaining how they plan to immerse the player into this rock star experience.
With the use of FMV and allowing the crowd to play a much larger role, we can finally feel as if we're really on stage before thousands of adoring fans. This will really encourage you to focus on your performance, because you're going to want to hear cheers, not jeers. Revolving around it all is that massive and hugely ambitious GTTV, where music is curated based on your song preferences recorded when playing. This is an "always-on, 24-hour playable music network."
There are multiple ways to experience GTTV and that includes the demanding Premium Show. That's when you play a list of songs at a certain time and there's no pausing; if you don't perform on cue or you wish to quit, the music video will continue to play in the background. This might give us an idea of just how demanding it is to put on a full concert. Of course, this is only when in the Channels part of GTTV (the Channels act like TV stations and are constantly running); if you want to put on a Premium Show outside of this, you can still pause the gameplay. As you can see, there are numerous ways to enjoy this revamped music experience, and you'll be greeted with "hundreds of songs" on GTTV right out of the gate.
Now, I know what you're thinking: "Is there a fee?" The answer is no, there's no subscription fee, but you can fork over real-world cash if you want to bypass certain challenges. You can always earn plenty of in-game currency on your own, but this microtransaction concept has really taken off. And why? Because people use them. A lot. Anyway, there's no doubt that GTTV seeks to revolutionize the genre, and the new-look guitar controller adds another level of innovation. It's great to see so many different kinds of music, too; you can try everything from heavy metal to country to pop in the first few minutes, which makes for a diverse, all-encompassing virtual stage tour. I just wonder if the fans change based on the music...a Pantera crowd will likely look a little different than a Carrie Underwood crowd.
Guitar Hero Live will launch on October 20 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Harmonix's Rock Band 4 will beat it to market by a couple weeks (it will release on October 6) but right now, it seems Activision's IP might have the edge... Whaddya got, Harmonix?
7/8/2015 Ben Dutka