Guitar Hero is coming back with a new ax to grind

guitar hero live announcement
After a five year hiatus, Guitar Hero is back with a new ax, a new developer, and a renewed focus on making you feel like a rock star.

DJ Hero developer FreeStyleGames has taken up the series for Guitar Hero Live, coming in fall 2015 to PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, phones, and tablets. The mobile version is particularly intriguing, as it promises to be identical to the console release, capable of hooking up to a TV or playing on the go. This will be the first entry in the series since 2010’s Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.

If video games are about fantasy fulfillment, then Guitar Hero’s appeal has always been for nonmusicians to feel like a rock star. In previous games, that experience was limited to the act of playing the plastic guitar in time with songs. The visuals that accompany the oncoming stream of notes to hit were from the audience perspective, showing your cartoon avatar rocking out in your place. The ethos of Guitar Hero Live is to focus on that fantasy, and build the entire experience around feeling like you’re on stage, playing in front of a live audience. Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg said that their starting question was whether the game could give you stage fright.

My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way duels with FreeStyleGames' Jamie Jackson while Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg rocks out nearby
My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way duels with FreeStyleGames’ Jamie Jackson while Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg rocks out nearby. Will Fulton/Digital Trends

Songs are now played from a first-person perspective up on stage. The cartoon avatars are gone as well, replaced by live, filmed bandmates and audiences that respond dynamically to how you play. Before each song you start backstage, walking by technicians and groupies. A stern, bearded roadie places the guitar over your neck and gives you a nod of approval before you step on stage to face the crowd. The experience is much more immersive than previous games, down to details like a positional sound design that alters the mix based on where you wander on stage.

Each song was filmed live, so if you’re doing well then the crowd will be singing along. Miss a few too many notes, however, and the crowd will sour, booing and telling you exactly how much you suck. Your band is no less forgiving — as I completely lost my hand position during a chorus, I turned around to see the lead singer fuming and the drummer shooting daggers. Pay close attention to the video and the transitions between a happy and an unhappy crowd are pretty obvious, but as background it’s fantastic feedback.

Beyond just removing the cartoon characters, Guitar Hero Live‘s aesthetic is more elegant across the board. The multicolored buttons and fiery bursts have been replaced with clean graphics, mostly using black, white, and wood texture, like a classic Fender Stratocaster. The redesign extends beyond the in-game visuals and to the guitar controller itself, which is brand new for this edition of the game, though Hirshberg promised it will remain forward-compatible at least through the current console cycle.

It’s finally time to pick up that plastic guitar that’s been gathering dust next to your TV for the last few years and put it in the attic, because FreeStyleGames has redesigned the iconic controller with which Harmonix blew our minds for the PlayStation 2 original in 2005. The size, weight, and feel are familiar, but instead of five colorful buttons in a row, the neck boasts six wood-colored buttons in two rows of three. The goal of the redesign is to simultaneously lower the bar for entry while also raising the skill cap at the higher difficulties. Many people (the author, shamefully, included) choked in previous games at the addition of the fifth button and never progressed past Guitar Hero‘s medium difficulty. The new system aims to smooth out that curve from learning into high-level play. At the easiest level, only the bottom three buttons are used. Increasing the difficulty first adds in the top row, and then more complicated chord shapes that rely on both rows at once.

Guitar Hero Live
Guitar Hero Live’s new axe

Guitar Hero Live also introduces a new gameplay mode, called Guitar Hero TV. It is a network of playable music videos from a wide variety of artists, divided into genre-specific channels. Compete for high scores against both friends and strangers, locally and online. Hundreds of songs will be available at launch, with the promise of more being continually added to the network over time. For the first time in a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game, players will be able to find new music to play, utilizing social media’s tools of sharing and discovery, without having to purchase expansion discs or download individual songs.

The developer did not reveal too much about what music would be available with the game at launch, since it is obviously still an ongoing process, but promised to support a wide range of genres. A few bands cited as already in the game are The Black Keys, My Chemical Romance, and Fall Out Boy, with the lead singers of the latter two making appearances at the reveal event to fumble through their own songs. More details about the game’s set list will no doubt emerge in the coming months leading up to the fall release.


From PUBG to Apex Legends, this is how battle royale happened

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.

The best of the last generation: Our 50 favorite Xbox 360 games

The Xbox 360 thrived during a generation where games were plentiful. Here's our list of the best Xbox 360 games of all time, including all game genres and even a few special indie hits.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (March 2019)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.

How to sync and troubleshoot your PS4's DualShock 4 controllers

Sony's Bluetooth-enabled DualShock 4 controllers for PlayStation 4 are some of the best on the market, but connection issues aren't unheard of. Here's how to sync them to your console.
Product Review

The Division 2 brings the most fun we've ever had to Washington, D.C.

After 55 hours with The Division 2, it’s clear that Ubisoft has improved on the original in almost every way. The world is richly detailed, the story missions are wonderful, gunplay and enemy design are great, and the endgame content is…

The Division 2 is another loot shooter with a dull story. Does it matter?

The Division 2 has a story to tell. It's not a good story. It's not told very well. But by-golly, The Division 2 is going to make you sit your ass down and listen whether you want to or not.

A new hope is lost as Disney dismisses rumors of a revival of Lucasfilm Games

According to job listings on the Disney website, the company has plans to revive Lucasfilm Games. This comes as a surprise following the shuttering of LucasArts in 2013 and could potentially mean more Star Wars games.

Last gen had some hits! Take a look at the best PS3 games of all time

Choosing the right PlayStation 3 game can be a conundrum, especially when there are nearly 1,500 titles to choose from. Thankfully, we've rounded up the best games to have ever made it to the platform.

Oculus shows off the Rift S, plans to phase out its original VR headset

Oculus plans to phase out its flagship Rift VR headset for its newly created Rift S. The Rift S made its debut this week at the 2019 Game Developers Conference and is expected to be released in spring 2019.

Hook up your Nintendo Switch with these deals on accessories right now on Amazon

The Nintendo Switch is a portable system with tons of accessories. The problem is, hooking it up doesn't come cheap. Every week, we look for the best deals on Nintendo Switch accessories on Amazon so you don't have to.

Epic Games is offering $100 million to game developers with no catch

Epic Games launched a new grant program called Epic MegaGrants. The program will dish out $100 million in funds to developers working in the 3D graphics community, even if they don't use Unreal Engine.

The best PUBG weapons to win you that coveted chicken dinner

Which weapons in PUBG are worth the time to scout out and fit with attachments? Which are going to help you become the last player standing? We've got the answers you need in our best PUBG weapons guide.