It's great to see this music band come back after a long hiatus, and many gamers will immediately appreciate its simple note- and chord-matching mechanic, but its flaws hold it back from truly soaring. The new controllers cleverly lay out the buttons in a new but still familiar fashion. GHTV is a fun new mode that lets you play along with a 24-hour music video network. There's also a ton of content to sift through, but unfortunately, you'll need to earn virtual currency to pay for a lot of it or spend real money if you don't have the time and interest to earn it, which may make some players resent this "freemium" approach that many mobile games have today.
GH Live is an interesting twist; it places you on a real stage, with real musicians, in front of a real crowd, in an effort to make you feel like you're really performing in front of thousands of people. Unfortunately, the mode is hampered by cheesy, over-the-top acting by your bandmates, intro sequences you can't skip through, and faulty AI since the crowd seems to only show excitement or distaste. Play well throughout the entire song and the audience goes crazy for you, but hit a few sour notes near the end and they'll turn on you with boos. Perhaps a downloadable update can smooth this all out. Overall, Guitar Hero Live is a fun game -- and, as previously mentioned, an ambitious one -- that gets a lot of it right. But it also can frustrate players with its new freemium model, questionable songs, and overacting in the GH Live mode that reminds you you're just playing a game. That's ironic, since the live-action mode is meant to give you the impression you're really playing in a band. But music fans should still appreciate its high notes.