It’s been a long time in coming but after nearly five years the Guitar Hero franchise, one-time contender for best in its class, is back in its latest greatest incarnation, Guitar Hero Live.
Because it slowly drifted away from our collective attention as we got distracted by more and more first-person-shooters and the occasional Tomb Raider or God of War, as well as a new generation of consoles to play them on, it’s hard to imagine, but the once ubiquitous music rhythm genre was a heavyweight sales leader in the industry. But time marched on, and with graphic capabilities growing by the day those music games begin to feel a little bit worn and out-of-place as they didn’t utilize the sheer eye popping power that the consoles could actually deliver.
It’s a different world since we last saw a new game of this sort, and FreeStyleGames, the studio responsible for the development of Guitar Hero Live made sure this new offering took advantage of the leaps in technology in the outside world since the dark ages of 2010.
Music rhythm games are fun because, like karaoke, they help us tap into our inner rockstar. Guitar Hero Live gives us access to the thrill of playing on stage by bringing us one step closer to the holy grail of a full-on experiential immersive experience. The crowd that you play in front of has graduated from cartoony pixels to an actual audience (really just actors) of real ticket paying people. So don’t mess up, they paid top dollar to see you play. But perhaps its most important step is taking a queue from the shooters which have replaced it by switching to a first person perspective. No longer is it some avatar of you on stage. Now it is YOU.
One of the great things about Guitar Hero and its ilk is that at its most fun it is a social game. It’s always more fun to break it out at a party than it is to play alone in the dungeon of your bedroom. FreeStyleGames and Activision have realized this and as a result have expanded on the online aspects of the console ecosystem with GHTV, “the world’s first playable music video network” which adds even more social connectivity to the experience. “Fans can also play with their friends in the same room and against players from around the world.” Practice makes perfect and now you get to hone your skills against the best.
If you’re an old school fan then you might have realized that your love affair with the games ended not with a bang but with a whimper. And perhaps one of the reasons for the waning popularity of games like this is because of limited access to new music and songs. It’s fun to play with timeless classics, but after the 50th go-around even your favorite diddy began to wear a little thin. GHTV solves this dilemma by allowing for continuous updating of the music catalog of videos “across a wide variety of genres.” Yet another sign of just how connected and free-flowing content is in this day and age, your gaming experience is practically tailor-made and speaks to your personal tastes and preferences, taking on a new quality of freshness and challenge.
Redesigns with aesthetics don’t end with the game play experience either. For what is a guitar hero without their trusty guitar? To further inspire that rock and roll god or goddess inside of you, a newly designed “axe” is waiting for you to to take it to glory. Not quite like the actual playing of a guitar, this new redesigned controller is more in line with “the way people naturally play.” It has two rows of three buttons upping the complexity and difficulty while still making it accessible to the average fan unwilling to shell out for actual guitar lessons.
It’s fun and interesting to see how a developer has adapted a tried and true platform to align with the connectivity of today’s gaming experience. It looks like FreeStyleGames and Activision are on the right track, and perhaps with the success of this outing, the return of other music rhythm genres can’t be far behind.