wed 21/10/2020

Guitar Hero Live - better than the real thing? | reviews, news & interviews

Guitar Hero Live - better than the real thing?

Guitar Hero Live - better than the real thing?

The game for inner axe gods is back. Plus 'The Walking Dead' and 'The Slimeking's Tower'

Guitar Hero Live: takes talent (groupies not real, alas)

Guitar Hero Live ★★★★

Guitar Hero Live ★★★★

My first encounter with the Guitar Hero music rhythm games stretches back to 2008. It involved British Sea Power, the Mercury Prize-nominated indie band, trooping into my living room to put an array of plastic guitars and drums through the musical motions. More bemused than amused, the professional musicians, renowned for intricately arranged guitar pop, struggled to hit the correct colour-coded notes in the right sequence as they appeared on the TV.

“It’s great fun, but nothing like making music,” conceded Jan Scott Wilkinson, the front man, as he fumbled his way down a faux fret, trying to hit a tricky colour combo. They drank me out of tea, chain-smoked as if sponsored by Golden Virginia and, after a few hours of never really getting the hang of it, left under a cloud of tobacco smoke and managed expectation; grumbling about this type of stuff being an unnecessary distraction for kids wanting to learn how to play an instrument. Fair enough.

Fast forward to 2015 and after a five-year hiatus from the main stage, the Guitar Hero franchise has achieved a Lazarus-style resurrection, flipping the musical script, dumping the duff notes and offering a fresh repertoire of tricks and treats, just in time for Halloween. Out goes the garish colour-coded axe of the past, replaced by peripheral guitar that offers a more mature approach to simulated musicianship, with six buttons (three white, three black) splitting the frets into two rows of three. The new design means that on harder levels you’ll be playing some authentic chord shapes and using all six keys. It’s a more sophisticated way to play, edging closer to the real thing.

But the star attraction isn’t the guitar, or the 42 songs included on the disc from the likes of Arctic Monkeys, the Rolling Stones, Elbow and, erm, Skrillex. It’s not even the GH Live mode, where instead of playing in front of standard pixelated people you’re immersed in live-action video, as the on-screen crowd or even your band mates will either applaud a beautifully played riff or chastise a succession of mistakes.

No, top billing has to go to GHTV, a new way of delivering in-game content to wannabe rock gods. Think MTV, turn it interactive, double the channels, with the promise of a third shortly after launch and you’re left with multiple stations that continually stream hundreds of music videos that you can play along to.

All you need is an internet connection and the kind of talent that earns enough in-game currency so you can play your favourite tunes on demand. The content is plentiful and there’s a rich variety of flavours to suit most tastes. Get some friends together and use a standard USB microphone for vocals and even add another guitar (purchased separately) to complete the band.

Yes, it’s still a plastic replica guitar game with buttons instead of strings, but it’s a bit less toy-like and a whole lot more immersive, to the casual armchair musician at least. Just don’t tell British Sea Power. Steve O'Rourke

  • Guitar Hero Live (developed by FreeStyle Games, published by Activision) out now for Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3

The Walking Dead: Road To Survival (Android/iOS) ★★

The Walking Dead: Road to Survival is a free-to-play roleplaying game with an emphasis on strategy and resource management. Players must manage a group of survivors through the gloomy world of Robert Kirkman's zombie apocalypse comics (some of which might be confusing to fans of the TV version – eg how many hands certain characters possess).

Teams of three or four characters are sent out on missions, which consist of turn-based battles relying on tactical decision-making and an element of luck interspersed with moral choices that usually have consequences down the line. Back at your base you must spend your gathered and farmed resources on new buildings and equipment. There is some fun to be had for fans of the comics but the player will quickly become aware that difficulty is being carefully modulated to steer you into eye-watering in-app purchases to avoid lengthy wait times. Stuart Houghton


The Slimeking's Tower ★★★★

The Slimeking's Tower is an action Roguelike that is, shall we say, somewhat informed by the Steam indie hit, The Binding of Isaac, although thankfully less out-and-out gross. It sees you attempt to descend through multiple levels of top-down dungeon shoot-'em-up action and destroy the titular monarch of mucus. There are huge numbers of powerups to collect, many different enemy types and tricky boss battles that will unlock the stairs to the next level. You play this game with no save slots and only one life so expect to try and try again. The random level generation and steep challenge should keep you coming back for just one more go. Stuart Houghton

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Top billing has to go to GHTV, a new way of delivering in-game content to wannabe rock gods

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