Welcome to the first installment of Drinking and Gaming, where I review games that I played drunk and then proceed to review . . . also whilst drunk. Of course, it would only make sense to drink only local Minnesota craft beers, and for this installment I chose to play Guitar Hero Live while drinking Surly’s Furious. Why? Because this game made me both surly and furious.
Note: This review contains language that may be considered offensive to those with weak sensibilities and people who don’t like potty language from obnoxious drunkards.
After nearly a five-year hiatus, Guitar Hero has returned with an all-new installment, Guitar Hero Live. Because . . . who gives a shit, that’s why.
For those of you who are not yet versed in what Guitar Hero is, it’s pretty much a music rhythm game created back in 2005 by Harmonix and published by RedOctane. Somewhere down the line, however, Activision came along to publish the game, while Harmonix stopped giving a shit and created a better game, Rock Band. Anyway, the entire premise for the game consists of you standing in front of your television set like a fucking mental patient with a plastic guitar, hallucinating that you’re in the largest cover band in the world as you play to sold-out arenas across the world and hope not to get booed off stage. Keep in mind that you’re doing that all while trying hit the buttons on the track with the buttons on the neck of your guitar (frets) corresponding to the notes of the music.
What’s new about this particular iteration of Guitar Hero is that they redesigned the guitar. This new guitar has done away with the five colored buttons and has implemented six new buttons that better mimic an actual guitar than its predecessor.
So if you’ve been playing Guitar Hero for the past ten years, prepare yourself for one hell of a new learning curve. But although this guitar is much harder to master than its predecessor, it is a massive improvement on the game’s mechanics, allowing you to feel like you’re actually playing the guitar.
That is, until you start playing the game.
When you start the campaign, the game throws you immediately into your first gig, where (unlike in previous Guitar Hero games) you are about to play with live-action footage of a band alongside you in front of a live-recorded audience. This footage is, of course, shot from a first-person perspective as you enter the stage to play one of the most epic guitar-tracks known to all of mankind . . . I’m kidding. It’s Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ’Em Up).”
That’s right: Guitar Hero starts you off as a band known mostly for their vocalist, Patrick Stump, and their bassist, Pete Wentz. But instead of playing as either of those two, you get to play as what’s-his-face from the band, in a song that that’d be better suited in Harmonix’s new (and better) game, Rock Band 4.
And that’s only the start of the shitshow that is otherwise known as Guitar Hero’s campaign track list. From there you get to shred along some of music’s most hardcore rock acts, such as that guy who played in the background of Katy Perry’s song “Waking Up in Vegas.” Or how about that time you really wanted to shred out to that other song, Rihanna’s “California Dream Bed”? Not only that, you finally are also given the opportunity to become a Guitar Hero like Eminem and, for some fucking reason, Skrillex. That’s right, you know, the guy who plays guitar live during that one song “Bangarang.”
Of course, while there are a few redeemable tracks to Guitar Hero’s campaign (Halestorm’s “Love Bites (So Do I),” and Pearl Jam’s “Mind Your Manners”), the majority of the tracks make about as much sense as Common Core math and are rather questionable . . .
Kind of like the choice of having a previously live-recorded audience to cheer you on as you play. While that, in concept, sounds incredibly innovative, it comes off as awkward and unwieldy as your character just wanders the stage aimlessly, giving zero shits. It’s almost as if everyone in the band actually wants to be there, except for you. In fact, there are scenes when your character looks like he’d rather be anywhere else but where he is right now, as he keeps staring offstage, hoping to get a phone call that his pet cat died or some shit, so that he can get the hell out of there.
Mix that with the fact that you have to play a live show at the re-created European equivalent of Coachella, the music industry’s Hipster Douche Capital of the world, where you can see several white people misappropriating Native American regalia for their entertainment. I think it’s also a point worth noting that said headdresses were given out to the participants of these live shows as props, whereas several festivals have started to ban the use of “Native American” headdresses.
The only amusement I honestly could take away from the whole campaign experience was from the fact that the guy, who’s job it was to photoshop the signs, likely has never been to a concert a day in his life.
Now with the campaign as a complete and total clusterfuck, the online aspect of Guitar Hero Live must at least be salvageable, right?
Sadly the answer is no. While Guitar Hero Live has created an innovative way to play online and compete with both online and offline players, the execution falls flat thanks to the removal of the free-play of songs (as well as the removal of all downloadable content music) in favor of pay-to-play for the songs you actually want to play in the form of microtransactions. The concept is that the online portion, known as Live, is a way for you to play against other players to a scheduled set of music videos. Those music videos are chosen by genre, which alternates every half hour. You are given the option to play between two preselected channels, which run like a 1980s MTV (or 1990s MTV2), and in doing so, you’re able to level up and slowly unlock tokens that you can use to play any of Live’s 200-plus song set list. Whereas the campaign set list is an absolute abomination, Live’s setlist makes up for that tenfold. Click here to read the entire set for Guitar Hero Live.
The problem is that with such an expansive library of songs, and with each genre being alternated nearly ever half-hour, you’ll be forced to play through almost everything and rarely get to play anything you’re actually interested in playing . . . unless, of course, you’re willing to pay or use those magic unicorn tokens you get for leveling up.
Gone are the days where you could purchase downloadable tracks to add to your library, where you could repeatedly play a song to master, as in previous Guitar Hero iterations. Instead, you must purchase “Hero Cash” to play songs outside of the campaign. That’s right: after dropping $99.99 on a game to play music, you’re then asked to spend around $6 daily to have unlimited free play for any song in the Live Library. After those 24 hours are up, you are no longer able to play those songs unless you unlock the tokens or purchase the Hero Cash.
In closing, even despite Guitar Hero Live having improved the mechanics to the franchise with its best guitar yet, Activision has found a way to turn the entire experience into one massive clusterfuck—from the lackluster campaign tracklist and its implementation of a pay-to-play system with the inclusion of microtransactions on a nearly $100 game to the complete racial insensitivity by catering to the hipster-douche crowd of a Coachella clone atmosphere. In short, Guitar Hero Live is a mess best avoided.
Final Score: Fuck This Game out of 10 (3.5)