A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Guitar Hero Live is a music-centered title where gamers play along with songs on a guitar-shaped controller. By pressing the correct buttons at the right time, the accuracy of your performance is graded. Users can play with others beside you or compete online in a new mode, although online sessions are unmoderated. But some lyrics might be a concern because of many references to consuming drugs and alcohol. There's also heavy promotion of musical instrument brands throughout the game, and players can purchase additional tracks with real money.
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What's it about?
After a five year hiatus, GUITAR HERO LIVE has returned with ambitious gameplay. Along with single-player and local multiplayer options, this game introduces a new mode called Guitar Hero Television (GHTV), an always-on 24-hour music video network that lets you log on, strap in, and play a continually updated collection of music videos and concert footage. Another mode called GH Live offers a first-person point of view, where you play with a real band and in front of a real live-action crowd that reacts to how you perform in real time. Will they cheer or jeer? More than 50 artists' songs are available in the game’s library, including tunes from the likes of Fall Out Boy, the Rolling Stones, the Black Keys, and others. Guitar Hero Live also introduces a new guitar controller with six buttons -- two rows of three buttons -- making it easier for beginners to play along.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Have you noticed changes in your kids' mood or behavior when they become obsessed with new games? What sorts of physical activities do they enjoy that might be used to balance their time spent in front of screens?
Discuss the return of music games. Are the return of music games such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band because fans wanted it or because the publishers behind these once-popular titles are looking for a new generation of players to sell these games to? Do parents want to buy new plastic controllers all over again? Or do they welcome the return of these franchises, as they’re more appropriate compared to many other video games out there?
Talk about music. Is there an unusual or quirky instrument you’d like to learn to play? How might it fit into a rock or pop band?
- Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Price: $99.99 (with one guitar controller)
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Activision
- Release date: October 28, 2015
- Genre: Music & Dance
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- ESRB rating: T for Lyrics
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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