[HANDS ON] Activsion’s Guitar Hero Live

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The plastic-instrument video game genre has been fairly quite over the last couple of years, but both Activision and Harmonix are making one last push this year to get you to part with your hard-earned cash to once again make a virtual band.

While Harmonix is releasing Rock Band 4, Activision will be publishing Guitar Hero Live, the next iteration of arguable the grandfather of the music genre games. After a number of hits and misses over the years, Guitar Hero Live aims to shake things up a bit with a new interface, new mechanics and most importantly, new guitar controllers.

At this year’s rAge expo in Johannesburg, visitors to the annual show have the opportunity to get some hands-on time with GHL, and even though there are only three songs to select from in the demo, it is more than enough to get a good feel for the game.

The controller now features six buttons instead of five, arranged in two rows of three – it is essentially three standard buttons sliced in half.

Playing Fallout Boy’s ‘My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)’ on Regular difficulty (because that is what the person before us playing it on and we didn’t want to see me novices) it definitely take some getting used to.

After putting in many hours strumming away with the previous generation of controllers, one’s hand default to the position of spreading all four fingers to cover five buttons. But now, you have to consciously keep three fingers in a tight arrangement to only press three buttons.

It becomes a bit confusing and frustrating when you have to worry about your finger placement, pressing the right notes and strumming on time.

The on-screen fret board now have notes that point up and down – in the shape of guitar picks – denoting if the upper or lower buttons need to be pressed.

While ‘Light Em Up’ on Regular difficulty isn’t particularly technical, we only managed to hit 51% of the notes on time, with a 29 note streak being our best effort at keeping the live-action crowd entertained.

But – we suspect – that as with most games, you will get better with time if you have some more practice. It was fun to pick up and play a new rhythm game again, but whether it will breathe new life into the genre, we are not so sure.

We watched a couple of people before us play other songs, and while some looked like seasoned pros, the majority struggled to wrap their heads around the new layout.

The live-action crowd in the background is a new dimension for Guitar Hero, as the days of animated concert-goers have been replaced with real people cheering (or booing) you along with the tracks. While it looks impressive when you watch other play, there is very little time to pay attention to them when you are strumming away.

In closing, Guitar Hero Live seemed like fun for the four-and-a-half minutes that we had, with the controller feeling sturdy and responsive, but the new layout will definitely take some getting used to – which could be the game’s biggest stumbling block.

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.

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