It seems the time is right for a revival of the rhythm genre, after it was milked to death in the late 2000s. Both Activision and Harmonix have announced new titles in their Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, and we got up close and personal with Guitar Hero Live at E3.
There are two big changes for this reinvigoration for the series. The first is the new guitar. It now has six buttons, but instead of being laid out along the neck, they’re all gathered into three rows. The three closest to your palm are ‘white’ buttons while the three furthest are ‘black’, mimicking the strings on a guitar. The easier difficulty modes use just the three white buttons, while harder difficulties will see you using all six in fast combinations.
The new setup may require some adjustment, even for those who are deft hands with the Guitar Hero series. This is the most dramatic change to the way the series plays since it began, and the new layout will add a whole new layer of challenge to the game. The note highway itself now only has three lanes for notes to come down, but black and white notes can appear in all three simultaneously.
Of all the ideas from the previous Guitar Hero games, the one that has survived the journey most intact is star power, which works pretty much as expected, providing you with multiplier bonuses for completing trigger phrases throughout each song.
There is a single player experience with songs you can go through and perfect, just like past Guitar Hero games. The biggest change here is the switch to a ‘first-person’ view that uses live HD video of extras dancing to your performance, cheering or booing you depending on how you do.
Guitar Hero Live shakes up the online aspect of the series quite a lot. Now known as GHTV, it’s designed to be a new take on the DLC of past Guitar Hero games. There are now certain songs available for certain periods, or even certain times of day, that can be accessed for free from the game and streamed to your console. There might be a new album out or an artist being promoted that might be available for a limited time, and there’ll always be something different. It even lets you filter based on your preferences. Of course, you’ll still be able to purchase tracks and passes to access DLC.
We think that It might be fun to revisit Guitar Hero after the series burned itself out with Warriors of Rock, and changing up the controls slightly is a good way to do it. However, it remains to be seen how accessible and usable the GHTV online service is, and whether the new HD video backgrounds will be as repetitive as they seemed on the show floor.