E3 2015 – Guitar Hero Live Preview: A Playable Music Network

Plastic guitars are back, and in a big way. Guitar Hero Live is focusing on just the guitar, foregoing drums, vocals, and bass for the full “be the guitarist” experience. Divided into two distinct parts — GH Live and GHTV — there is a lot of unexpected content from a genre that most thought had strummed its last chord.

GH Live is the more traditional side of Guitar Hero Live. This includes the on disc songs and the expected career mode that can be played offline. The big difference this time is the first-person view with crowd reactions that match your performance. There is no fail state in Guitar Hero Live, but if you aren’t doing well, the crowd and your own bandmates will be sure to let you know about it. If you are hitting all of your notes, your performance is rewarded with your band at peak energy and even the crowds joining into the songs.

Gotta Please the Crowd

Many people, myself included, thought this first-person change was a weird move to make, but seeing it in action with the game actually being played really does bring a sense of being on stage with a full band backing your every note and a crowd eagerly hoping you actually sound good. It’s all crafted to make the player feel like a rock star.

There are a variety of venues and different bands that you will play with, and the crowds react accordingly with the genre of music being played. Add to that the incredible sound design for small details like the crowd singing along, the altered mix of the drums as you move about the stage, and the audio having a stage monitor like ambiance to it, and you really seal the deal on living the arcade rock star experience.

The other side of the coin is GHTV. This online mode acts more like a streaming music network. Instead of being able to just play on demand songs, there will be two channels actively playing music videos. At any time, you can jump onto either of these channels and begin playing. When I jokingly made a comment about GH TV being the new MTV, our presenter smiled and quipped “You said it, not me, but I like what you’re thinking.”

While going through the game you will earn plays that allow you to play songs from the GHTV catalog on demand. These tracks can also be purchased fro permanent unlock, but Guitar Hero Live is much more understanding of our current way of consuming music, which is more and more commonly through streaming services than actually purchasing and owning the music (or rather, the licensing to listen to the music, which is a discussion I’d rather not jump into right now). Allowing for both options should appease both sides of the fence.

An Intelligent Music Network

GHTV is a smart system that will learn what the player likes the more that you play. Similarly to your Pandora or Spotify, the game will offer recommendations based on trends, as well as showcasing new music that is added to rotation. There will be hundreds of tracks available at launch, with many more to come as they continue to support the game. This approach of having two channels playing music constantly can alleviate the indecisiveness that you may feel with a vast library of songs and encourage you to try out something new.

For me, the most exciting part of GHTV is the premium channels, which you can either pay to unlock, or access by completing certain objectives. Perhaps there is a premium channel featuring upcoming music from your favorite band. The objectives might ask you to get through three different songs with at least three stars each. These songs may or may not be related to the premium channel, with the example given being “you may have to get four stars on a few Ed Sheeran songs to unlock a heavy metal premium channel.” Completion of the premium channels will net you exclusive rewards like playercards and alternate note highway skins.


Both sides of Guitar Hero Live are offering up new and different experiences to players, with so much possible right from the base game without ever buying additional DLC. The reworked guitar controller makes things easier by removing the need for your pinky, but introduces the complex system of high and low buttons. The return of plastic guitars and arcade rock stars is imminent, and I am looking forward to diving into this playable music network when it launches later this year.