Guitar Hero Live full game and new controller review

Although the "Live" section of Guitar Hero Live is pretty short, the game makes up for it by being so user friendly and easy to learn. A great party game.

After much anticipation, the revolutionary new Guitar Hero Live has arrived. Activision told fans that they would only bring Guitar Hero back if they were really given a reason to, such as a new gameplay mechanic. They did not lie. The classic guitar has been changed drastically and the gameplay, among other features, is brand new. 

Two Modes

When players turn on Guitar Hero Live they will have a choice to play Guitar Hero Live or Guitar Hero TV (GHTV). The two modes are equally new to the series and offer a lot of differences, though players will most likely be sticking to one over the other. Let's just say, it's not the one you think. 


The "Live" section of the new Guitar Hero game can be considered "campaign" or "tour" or "single player" mode. This is where you'll take to the stage in front of crowds of fans who'll react to your gameplay. 

In "Live," players become the guitarist of ten different bands and play thirteen sets at two venues: "Rock the Block" Boulder City, U.S.A. and "SoundDial" Stoneford Castle in the U.K..

From the "Yearbook Ghosts" to the best-of-the-best "Broken Tide" (no relation), the bands play tunes that are really rocking and the shows are electric. The gameplay in "Live" made me feel like I was playing Guitar Hero for the first time again; I was really having a blast. This section of the game is an experience like no other and really makes players feel like they are a musician performing for thousands of crying fans. When players are really rocking out, the crowd goes wild, and when notes start getting missed the fans will bring out the "You Suck!" signs. Nothing a little "Hero Power" can't fix.

The Live acting from band members and crowds alike is phenomenal and the look and feel of the game is overwhelming. Fans jump on stage and dance while security guards chase them down, band mates tell you to smarten up when you're playing poorly, and when you finish an awesome set, you stage dive and crowd-surf on the screaming audience. It's hard to put into words just how amazing the experience was; winning or losing, a grin never left my face while playing "Live."

Then, "Live" came to an end.

Activision should have considered a more accurate title.

You could imagine my surprise when the game ended within 5 hours! That's right, the "Live" portion of Guitar Hero Live is extremely short clocking in (according to the setlist times themselves) at just over four hours. At this point all 13 setlists are complete and players are urged to begin their "online experience" with Guitar Hero TV. 

A measly 42 songs are all that is included in the "Live" game mode, and tons of genres are missing. Most of the music in "Live" is of the same genre: what you might find on a soft rock radio station that sometimes dabbles in both popular and heavier music. A lot of Neon Trees-Green Day-One Republic sort-of songs with one or two setlists moving into folk or techno.

The final setlist is extremely easy, too. Even on the most difficult setting, ninety percent of the songs in "Live" provide little to no challenge at all. My personal favorite genre of music, metal, which often makes up the difficult portion of Guitar Hero games, barely makes an appearance. Perhaps if more aggressive genres were included, the game could be longer, harder, and more diverse. Not to mention the crazy mosh pits you'd see while playing.

The game was marketed as Guitar Hero Live, and yet, the "Live" portion is the smaller half of the pie. Even though the experience is unlike any other, "Live" seriously needed to be longer. 


Guitar Hero TV is where players can go to battle their friends, or the rest of the world, in one of two never ending randomized playlists or "channels." Activision plans to continuously add songs to GHTV for the duration of Guitar Hero Live's popularity. Songs in channels are always in action regardless of if the player is participating in them or not. Every hour or half-hour the channels change genres and new songs are played. 

GHTV is nicely organized, fairly easy to navigate and very enticing with tons of great songs to play. Guitar Hero Live already features over one hundred songs in genres such as rock, metal, pop, folk, and more. Every song is a "playable music video," including the actual music videos from bands Flyleaf to Darwin Deez.

Upon choosing a channel to play on, players are dropped into a lobby where they play in real time against opponents and compete for the best score. There is no commitment when it comes to playing songs. Players can jump between channels with the press of a button, join in-progress songs, and leave before the songs end (though they won't get match bonuses). 

Of course, if players want to play a specific song instead of whatever random two are on, they can go to the song catalog and find their favorites, for a price. To play any song at any time players need to use "Plays," a currency earned through leveling up their online profile, or through purchase with actual money. The two channels are often very different so players shouldn't have a problem finding an interesting song to play.

GHTV makes for a great party mode offering random song selection, multiplayer functionality (another guitar controller and a microphone can be used in this mode), and enough time between songs to pass the controller if players aren't fortunate enough to have two. The game mode could certainly have more than two channels featuring even more genres at once, and picking a specific song shouldn't cost players.

New Guitar Controller

Fret Buttons

The new Guitar Hero controller is lightweight, seemingly smaller and extremely different than previous GH guitars. Rather than five colored buttons in a line down the fret board, the Guitar Hero Live controller has six smaller buttons located near the end of the neck in two rows of three.

This new controller set up was planned for people playing with smaller or less responsive fingers. A major reason people refused to play difficulties harder than medium in previous games was due to their inability to move their fingers up and down the neck of the guitar. According to Activision, the new controller makes gameplay "easier to get used to, but harder to master."

The buttons are very responsive and add a quality of realism to the game. They do require time and patience for even the most seasoned Guitar Hero veterans to get used to. The developers were relentless when they coded the notes into songs, especially on advanced and expert difficulties.

Most songs features bar chords (ex. both buttons on the first fret pushed in), power chords (ex. one button pushed in on fret one, and the opposite button pushed in on fret two or three), and the worst of them all, combined chords (ex. both buttons on fret one AND one button pushed in on another fret). These chords top the list of most difficult notes, especially when in quick sections, or when players need to alter between different versions of them extremely fast.

Other than chords and switching between the top and bottom "string" rapidly, the three fret system is extremely easy to get a hold of, making the game more of a pick-up-and-play style. 

Still, I find myself wanting to stretch out the ol' pinky finger and slide my hands down the neck in a run of notes rather than moving my hand down.

Strum Bar

While the fret buttons are a leap forward, the strum bar seems less responsive than previous Guitar Hero controllers. Not to mention it is extremely loud. During most of my gameplay I had to crank the volume or wear a headset because of the obnoxious clicking during each strum.

GHTV Button

The most useful and most annoying button at the same time, the new Guitar Hero TV button located just under the strum bar activates, you guessed it, Guitar Hero TV. Clicking it will bring players directly to the GHTV homepage. Unfortunately, its placement is less than lovely for players who use the "Hero Power" button, rather than tilting their guitar. Many times during play I've reached for "Hero Power" and ended up stopping my game by brushing the big round GHTV button.


My opinion of Guitar Hero Live has wavered back and forth throughout the length of this article and rightfully so. The game seems extremely polished in so many areas but, at the same time, those areas are missing so much content.

So be straight with me, do James Franco and Lenny Kravitz actually like this game or were they just payed an obscene amount of money to make that trailer?

Probably a bit of both. Guitar Hero Live features two really fun modes. "Live" is an experience that I guarantee you've never had before... unless you're an actual rockstar. It brings a smile to my face, even if I am forced to replay the very short campaign. There is definitely room for improvement. Future free-of-charge venues should be included with the game. Of course we won't see that so, at the very least, we need to see future "Live" venues available as downloadable content.

We've already been promised future updates on the "TV" side of Guitar Hero Live, now we just need more channels so we can really choose amongst a grand selection of genres.

Future renditions of the Guitar Hero controller should move the GHTV button and quiet the strum bar. Other than that, the controller is aesthetically pleasing and the button scheme makes Guitar Hero Live a very unique experience.

Gameplay is very nice, seemingly more realistic, easier for beginners and pick-up-and-play enthusiasts, harder for experts, and unique if nothing else.

The songs included in "Live" are all similar to one another, but songs in "TV" are extremely varying and super fun to wait in the channels for. Players can go through the song catalog, but keeping the full tracklist a secret can make for some great surprises. There are a lot of songs that have been featured in previous Guitar Hero titles. Learn more about that here

Final Verdict

Guitar Hero Live needs a serious name change or a more enthralling "Live" mode, but makes for an otherworldly party game with its pick-up-and-play accessibility. I hope James and Lenny agree when I give Guitar Hero Live 8 out of 10 stars. 

Our Rating
Although the "Live" section of Guitar Hero Live is pretty short, the game makes up for it by being so user friendly and easy to learn. A great party game.
Reviewed On: Playstation 4


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Published Oct. 22nd 2015

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