Whoever thought music games would come back? Not only that, but both of the big players? Harmonix announced Rock Band 4 earlier this year, and today Activision announced Guitar Hero Live.
Where Rock Band mostly just wants to get the band back together, making old songs compatible and attempting to make old instruments usable, Guitar Hero Live is rethinking some major elements of the franchise.
The first thing is the guitar.
Shown in the gallery above, the guitar looks at first glance like it has three buttons – much less interesting than the usual five, right? They’re actually three rows of two buttons. It looks like it could be simpler, but it should make the feel of switching between different string fingerings more realistic, even though the player’s hand will stay in the same place. On the one hand, this is a really cool change up to the guitar game formula. Personally, I’ve never been able to play with all five buttons, so this is appealing. But I also have 3 plastic guitars in my closet. Assuming they work with Rock Band, I’d still have to buy another one for Guitar Hero. It’s enough of a change that it doesn’t feel like a cash in, but many fans will be disappointed.
Also new to Guitar Hero is Guitar Hero TV. This might be the most interesting element of the game. GHTV is 24-hour mode that you can jump into at any time that has new releases across a variety of channels. It sounds like the Pandora to Rock Band‘s iTunes. More music with less choice.
The most important part of a guitar game is the music, though, and that’s what has me the most concerned about this game. Here’s what the press release has to say about the playlist:
Music variety is at the heart of the game. Guitar Hero Live takes the approach of the modern music festival, with rock, folk, EDM, hip-hop, country and pop acts sharing the same stage. The game will feature hundreds of playable songs from a diverse array of artists, including The Black Keys, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Gary Clark, Jr., Green Day, Ed Sheeran, The War on Drugs, The Killers, Skrillex, The Rolling Stones, The Lumineers, Carrie Underwood, Pierce the Veil and Blitz Kids, with many more bands to be announced in the coming months.
This list of artists just isn’t that exciting for the most part. It provides something for everyone, but not much for anyone. Classic rock tracks in previous games had a wide appeal thanks to how ingrained they are in American music culture. Music games have, to some degree, a bit of a Nick at Nite problem: If you dig through the back catalog long enough, you’re going to run out of back catalog. It’s hard to tell if that’s what’s happened here, or if it’s just a straight up attempt at wide market appeal.
Guitar Hero Live has some interesting ideas, and we’re looking forward to hearing more about it as we get closer to its Fall 2015 release.