Published on December 6th, 2015 | by Patrick Garde0
Guitar Hero Live Review
It’s been a number of years since the last iteration of Guitar Hero was released, yet finally, on October 20th, 2015, the franchise finally saw its latest addition: Guitar Hero Live, developed by FreeStyleGames and published by Activision. This time around, however, the franchise decided to bring its great music to the iOS platform, as well as consoles. Whether that was a good decision or not will show itself in just a moment.
There’s a very key word in the Guitar Hero franchise that gives the game away the minute you hear it: “guitar.” The staple of the Guitar Hero games was all down to the fact that you got to play with a little plastic guitar, tapping away at colorful buttons to appease the rock star in all of us. That privilege was only ever for consoles, but with this new iteration there comes an exception to the rule, and that’s the advantage to play Guitar Hero on your iOS device, using a Bluetooth enabled guitar.
What that means for all the players out there is that whatever platform you pick up Guitar Hero Live on, you’ll be getting the exact same experience, whether it be on a TV screen, or on your iPad. Where that’s a giant step towards what people want, it’s a giant step back when you treat the iOS version the same as a consoles. The problem with Guitar Hero Live on iOS is that it starts out as a free-to-play game, but in actual fact it’s just a trial. They give you access to two songs to play, and whenever you finish one, they ask for you to purchase the full game, and that full game is the exact same price as a brand new copy on consoles. I appreciate the fact that both versions of the game share features, almost down to the very core, but there are very few people who would rather purchase and play Guitar Hero on a phone, over a giant HD TV.
Moving on from the somewhat ridiculous price, I’m going to focus on what really makes a game, and that’s the gameplay itself. Gameplay in Guitar Hero Live (without the guitar) is basically the Tap Tap games, but rebooted. You have four lanes on the board, and from the top a number of notes will make their way towards the bottom of the screen, sometimes in pairs, sometimes on their own. You must tap the note the moment it reaches a certain part of the board for it to count and for your score to go up, along with your multiplier. If you miss, then your multiplier resets and your score will not be as high as you might like it.
Notes have seen some changes from the previous iterations of the Guitar Hero games. Most notably, they removed all the colorful notes from the iPhone game, and just went with a plain color for all the notes to share, unless in certain circumstances. A couple of these circumstances is when a series of notes glow blue, which if you manage to hit all of them without messing up, you’ll get your “Star Power” that doubles your multiplier for a few seconds. The other special note is a yellow one, which indicates that you’ve reached a note streak milestone once you’ve hit it, be it 50 or 100.
I must admit, I do like having the new note that shows you when you’re about to hit a new milestone. Reason being is that it both feels good when you come across the note, and secondly, you’re given the chance to prepare yourself for it. Sometimes when the earlier games congratulated you on your note streak it may have come a bit sudden, which can throw the player off if they’re trying their hardest to keep focused and concentrate.
Aesthetically, in this iPad game there’s not too much to talk about. The user interface is nice and easy to navigate from one song to the other, and it’s all made clear on how you need to play from the very start. Background videos for Live and TV mode look good, but considering it’s just a repeating video every time you play the song, you’re going to get pretty bored of the backgrounds fairly quickly. Backgrounds aren’t all that important, it’s all about the fret board when in-game, and it’s not difficult to wrap your head around within a matter of seconds, as you’ll just be tapping away to the song before you take much time looking around.
Music has and always will be the crux of this franchise, mixed with the gameplay. Thankfully, the songs are of good, high-quality audio throughout, so you have nothing to worry about when it comes to the developers messing up one of your favorite songs. Guitar Hero has always been a franchise that revolved around rock music, so if that’s not your type of thing, then you’re probably going to want to steer clear of this one.
As someone who has played Guitar Hero numerous times over the years, tapping away on a screen is nowhere near as fun as the guitar you can get your hands on. Guitar Hero Live is still fun, but not having that main peripheral that really makes the iPhone game what it is, just makes it feel kind of lacking, and almost as if it wasn’t a Guitar Hero game at all.
Personally, I’m very happy to see Guitar Hero come back after all these years, but I don’t feel they know their fan base at all. They’ve changed so many key features from the original franchise, like the notes that used to be colorful, are now somewhat dull at all the same color. Instead of having the fun, arcade-like feel the previous iterations had, it’s taken a step back and gone towards the approach that players want to feel what it’s like up there on the stage, in front of thousands upon thousands of people. At first it sounds and looks cool, until you realize that there is no variations when it comes to playing a song. There’s no change in stage or quirky band members to look at; it’s just the same-old video played on a loop every time you restart the song.
It’s good to see the franchise back after all this time, but they’ve taken a step back in a number of areas, and the iOS version that is supposed to be identical to the console versions, shouldn’t be treated like one, though. Price-range for the full version of the iPad game ($49.99) is way too high in comparison to every other app on the App Store, and if it’s the same price, it just begs the question: why not buy the console version? It doesn’t hurt to give Guitar Hero Live a try for yourself, as it’s only a free trial, but this really is a game you’ll want to play on a big screen, that you can’t argue.
Summary: It’s fun to give the trial of Guitar Hero Live a go, just to see what they’ve done to the franchise and to see how they’ve changed it, but I can’t even begin to justify the price they ask for on an iPhone and iPad game that is more suited to consoles.