• The new guitar has two adjacent rows of three buttons

  • The songs being played are often by well-known superstars - and the crowd reacts as such

  • GHTV is an entirely new mode. It’s essentially a playable music channel

  • DJ Hero’s genre-hopping mash-ups worked because of the nature of the game

  • The career mode is technically amazing, but GHTV feels like the mode you'll spend most time in over the long-run

There are two kinds of reunion tours: The Stone Roses Approach, where a band triumphantly returns to the stage amid huge nostalgic expectation and plays only old songs, and The Blur Approach, where the nostalgia is augmented by a whole load of new stuff.

Neither approach is ‘right’, but where Rock Band 4 is Ian Brown and co, Guitar Hero Live hopes to replicate the same rave reviews that Blur’s comeback record received earlier this year.

F**k Buttons

The new guitar has two adjacent rows of three buttons

The biggest change to the way Guitar Hero Live plays will be apparent as soon as you pick up the redesigned axe. Rather than a single row of five coloured buttons, the new guitar has two adjacent rows of three. The concept, however, remains unchanged: as notes flow down the on-screen ‘highway’ you have to hold the corresponding button on the guitar’s neck and hit the strum bar as the indicator passes through the bottom.

As before, on lower difficulty levels what you play is so simplified that you almost have to ignore what you hear in order to hit each note, otherwise you find yourself trying to play what’s not there. It doesn’t help that the indicators can be a little confusing at first and even the slightest lapse in concentration can see you strumming away at the wrong row before realising your rookie mistake.

But once you get into it you’ll realise that they new axe does a much better job of representing the neck of a real guitar than the old Fisher-Price efforts. Previously, once you nailed reaching the orange button, all the game could really throw at you to make it harder was more notes. With the buttons split across two rows, however, there's a whole extra dimension that provides a significant new challenge to master, even for Guitar Hero veterans.

Pairs of buttons can be held to play rudimentary barre chords, while on higher difficulty levels you’ll sometimes be required to contort your fingers in order to hold multiple, non-adjacent buttons on different rows. Despite having more buttons in total, though, they occupy a smaller space on the neck, which makes it tougher to visualise what your fingers should be doing.

Once you’ve attached the neck of your guitar, it can’t be removed - which should hopefully help to prevent the loose connections that often plagued the old controllers.

The biggest issue with the game’s previous guitars remains, though: the noisy strum bar. Unless you’ve got the telly jacked up to neighbour-bothering volume the clack-clack-clack of the strum bar can cut right through whatever song you’re playing, which rather spoils the illusion.

Oh well, you never liked Graham and Trish next door anyway, did you?

The Set Pistols

DJ Hero’s genre-hopping mash-ups worked because of the nature of the game

Music games often live or die based on what songs they allow you to perform and GH Live offers a mixed bag. This, of course, is entirely subjective but in Live mode its scope is just too wide. One minute you’re playing a Bring Me The Horizon tune, the next it’s Skrillex’s 'Bangarang'. That suggests the makers don’t fully understand the culture of guitar-based music and a number of songs feel out of place. 'Bangarang' isn’t even fun to play.

DJ Hero’s genre-hopping mash-ups worked because of the nature of the game, but trying to unite so many styles here feels like a mistake. In GHTV it’s less of an issue - you can just play the channels you like - but it means completing the career-oriented side of the game can become a bit of a slog if there are whole sets of songs that you don’t like.

That’s not to say they shouldn’t have been included at all - as part of a GHTV channel they’d make more sense - but festivals succeed because they allow their audience to choose what bands they see, not insist that you visit every stage for a minimum of three songs.

With a more focused idea of what it wanted to be, GH Live could’ve worked much better, but making all sets compulsory feels counter intuitive.

Guitar Hero Live verdict

The career mode is technically amazing, but GHTV feels like the mode you'll spend most time in over the long-run

Trying to be all things to all people is often problematic, but a game of this type probably has very little option. How else do you appeal to the greatest number of people? Reduce the price and just sell track packs, allowing players to decide which direction they want to go? Perhaps, but some of the most enjoyable tracks to play on GH games have come from unexpected places. Indeed, Katy Perry’s 'Waking Up In Vegas' is far more fun to play than much of the angsty white-boy rock to be found here.

While Rock Band’s return feels like a remastered special edition, GH should be commended for trying something new. In hardware terms it’s entirely successful and while it means buying new guitars, the changes are a resounding success.

While we have some reservations about the songs chosen by Freestyle Games to appear on Guitar Hero Live, its GHTV mode should provide the longevity that normally only DLC can provide, especially if new songs are added as often as promised.

Considering that’s all free, it makes the initial price tag easier to swallow, and the lack of any meaningful local multiplayer a little less important.

Stuff says... 

Guitar Hero Live review

Setlist aside, Guitar Hero Live’s redesigned axe gives the series a new lease of life
Good Stuff 
Redesigned guitar is a revelation
GHTV should extend lifespan
Bad Stuff 
Noisy strum bar
Hit ‘n’ miss track list

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