Best of 2015: Guitar Hero Live

by on December 21, 2015

Like some, the second coming of plastic instruments piqued my interest. Those nights out where we stayed in, got bollocksed on cheap sherry from Tesco and shredded until the early hours, are memories that’ll stay with me forever. But, of course, times change; I can now afford more expensive alcohol. They say you should never go back. They say that it’s best to just move on rather than try recapturing the magic that was once there.

I went into Guitar Hero Live expecting to take the piss, to be honest. Rock Band was foolishly the one that I was looking forward to playing — FMV in 2015 sounded as plausible to me as Brian Conloy regaining his crown as the highest-paid man in television – yet, from the moment the rotund roadie handed me my axe and got me up to speed on this entry in the series, I could see why Guitar Hero came back. They hadn’t just picked a new setlist and made the old, gaudy characters look a little shinier, they’d done something legitimately impressive; they made a music-rhythm game that felt new.

Hammering six buttons across three frets feels weird at first. Barre chords, split chords and the daddy, split barre chords, all take some getting used to as the average guitar game has taught us all to look at the lovely JLS  colour scheme on the note highway. While my opportunity to play Castle Donington fell through the cracks due to sex, drugs and chorizo sandwiches at games industry events, coming into Guitar Hero as someone who can play a tune on a six-string definitely helped. There’s only so much you can do with an approximation of an instrument, but your hand finds itself in positions akin to F, C and G. It’s natural.

The most groundbreaking part of Guitar Hero Live is what I and many others have called for, for years – albeit done better than any of us could’ve envisioned. Guitar Hero TV currently boasts two streaming channels that play music videos 24/7; imagine Indie Hour is on between 11 and half past, then Top 40 begins straight after. It’s all very similar to days gone-by when MTV had a host of options, covering a plethora of genres such as MTV Base, MTV 2 and MTV Hits.

The glorious thing about all this is that you can jump in and jump out of sessions, whenever you like. You can boot up Guitar Hero TV, see that The Haim’s excellent The Wire is on, and join the song in progress. George Ezra’s unique tones then bellow out of your speakers as Budapest begins, but you’re not a major fan of that one, so you change over to the other channel and catch the end of Laura Jane Grace’s sublime vocal performance in Against Me’s Black Me Out – it’s the coolest. While I think the Live playlist is pretty decent, with a few bum notes here and there, Guitar Hero TV knocks it out of the park in every genre and era.

Similar to my worries about the FMV, when I heard about their plan to let you play any of the TV tracks when you like, for a nominal fee, it sounded a bit sketchy to me. However, the frequency in which you get GHTV cash means that I am yet to spend a single, solitary penny on the game, and I don’t foresee myself having to do so, either. Only last night, I used three of my song tokens to play Left Hand Free, Drive and Cult of Personality, and still had loads left over. I found myself dipping into one of the channels and just staying there, rather than using my tokens all of the time — easy to do when you’re on a roll and ending high on the leaderboards. While playing every song, you’ll see a scoreboard on the left of the screen, which will show the current high-score position of people who are playing simultaneously, along with some already saved scores. It’s an exceptional idea to include this asynchronous competition as I had to catch myself, on occasion, calling  “N0Sc0P3eRXXX” a bastard for merely being better than me at Girls Not Grey.

I legitimately didn’t care about Guitar Hero Live and why would I have? In the lead-up to release, we saw Lenny Kravitz battle yer man from 127 Hours in their front-room (I’m guessing they house-share), the cringe-inducing live action contained more cheese than the Laughing Cow factory, and they were taking the band aspect away, deciding to embrace their name and only focus on the guitar – a brand new guitar with different buttons and unfamiliarity. Thank God they did.