New Guitar Hero Game Announced: The Return of the King, or a Sad Attempt at a Cash Grab?

2006
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Some of you may have heard, but recently a new Guitar Hero game was announced: Guitar Hero Live. Kinda Funny Games took a look at the game, playing (and humorously near failing) a couple songs to demo the game and show the world what the new Guitar Hero is about. First, let’s address the positive things I have to say, since I’m going to go on a rant here in a bit and I do want to identify the cooler new parts of the game that deserve praise.

Guitar Hero Live isn’t joking when they say it’s live. When you start up a new song, you don’t start on a stage with your chosen cartoon rock stereotype. The song opens with you in a real backstage room with real band and crew members preparing to go on stage. The crew leads you to the stage, you and your band members pump each other up, a crew member hangs your guitar around your neck for you, then you and the band run out on the stage to a live audience. What is impressive is the huge amount of live audience members you run on stage in front of. I can already hear you saying “But Randall Thor, anyone can hire a bunch of extras and put them in front of a camera! That’s easy!” Here is where the live audience comes into play and makes the game truly impressive. If you start to fail, as the guys in the video did at first, the audience reacts to how well or how poorly you play the song. Seamlessly the audience transitions from wild applause and cheering to booing you, giving you thumbs down and making quite visceral their disapproval of your shoddy playing. As the camera follows your musician around, your bandmates look at you confused, mouthing “come on man” among other things, also making their disapproval of your failures quite clear. As soon as you get into the groove, seamlessly the game transitions the audience and band members from disapproval, to nodding, to wild applause and rocking out again.  Very cool!

Another change from the previous entries into the series is a new layered fretboard. Instead of having have adjacent buttons to use, you now have two rows of three, which are represented by white and black guitar picks in the on screen fretboard. This is a bit closer to playing real guitar than ever before, and a welcome improvement. Open strumming is still a part of the game, represented by a bar going across the on screen fretboard. Gameplay seems to be as tight as ever, which is extremely important in a rhythm based music game.

So the game is definitely an upgrade for the Guitar Hero franchise, with its new impressive features like the live audience and the improved fretboard. There are bound to be a couple more surprises for us in the coming months. Here is the important question: Who actually wants a new Guitar Hero game?

I have quite a bit of history with the Guitar Hero games. I was in love with them. I spent countless hours perfecting my playing, and was able to play every song on expert. I beat the Buckethead song Jordan on expert on Guitar Hero 2, as well as all the Satriani and Dragonforce songs on Guitar Hero 3. I was a legend among my friends, and never played against someone better than me in person. Online play in Guitar Hero 3 was, of course, a different story, and much more entertaining and challenging for me (I once was beaten when I got 100% on a song and the other player got 99%, due to star power usage). I jumped to Rock Band for the drums, and although I didn’t spend as much time with it, I thoroughly enjoyed and destroyed those games on all the instruments. I used my skill in the games as a social crutch during my early months at college, since people wanted to see “the guy who can beat Jordan on expert on Guitar Hero.” I still have a ton of love and respect for the games’ places in the history of music and gaming.

So why am I so jaded about the idea of a new Guitar Hero game? Shouldn’t I be thrilled about the return of one of my high school and college joy rides? I’m not. I’m sad because I believe this will flop. I don’t want to see the franchise marred by an ill-fated attempt to return to public attention after already reaching its potential and riding its popularity into the ground.

Even before the arrival of Rocksmith, Guitar Hero and Rock Band were both losing traction. Their popularity was fading simply because the idea was no longer new and exciting. When Guitar Hero 2 came out, the original Guitar Hero had already paved the way with a unique and interesting idea, and they were able to smooth out the issues the original game had to provide a compelling and fun experience for players. Guitar Hero 3 improved on this, giving players more challenging and more rewarding songs to play. No one had ever done anything like this before, and the games gave both casual and hardcore players alike something to have fun with and play together. I could sit there on Dragonforce on Expert and play with my novice friends on easy and we could both have a great time without having to switch controllers, switch off between each song, or the other player being embarrassed by the vast differences in ability. Guitar Hero let us play together regardless of skill level, something games do not often provide. We had our fun with the Guitar Hero games until Rock Band came onto the market.

Rock Band upped the ante by giving us essentially a full band karaoke machine. Vocals, guitars, bass, drums; all of them were now playable. Before we could lose interest in the music rhythm game, Rock Band gave us what we wanted next, and it was even more fun. Now four of your friends could play together on a song, no matter you level of skill, and continue having fun while making fun of how bad whoever the unlucky singer was. But even by the release of Rock Band 2, the magic was beginning to fade. Though it was an improvement – with more songs and more features – none of it was new anymore. The discovery of a new, wonderful form of entertainment had passed, and we were no longer interested in pretending to be musicians. By the release of Rock Band 3, most had moved on, leaving only the most die hard fans to enjoy it.

The problem with a game based on pretending to be a musician is players will realize that they either a) want to become a real musician, or b) don’t want to be a musician. Once they realize that the only way to get better is hours of practice, players have to choose whether that’s worth their time. Dedicated players will eventually realize the time they spent putting into Rock Band or Guitar Hero could have better utilized learning to play real guitar or real drums (although the transition from Rock Band to real drums was far closer than guitar). At this point, the only way to really garner new fans is to somehow bring players closer than ever to the true experience of playing a real instrument. Enter Rocksmith.

Although Rocksmith never achieved the insane levels of popularity Guitar Hero or Rock Band had, dedicated fans of the music rhythm genre instantly saw great value in the game. Rocksmith is played with a real guitar or a real bass guitar. There’s no plastic controller, and you can use any instrument you own via a USB cable. The game is constantly updated with new DLC packs of new songs with varying difficulties. The difficulty is automatically adjusted based on how well you are doing, increasing or decreasing the difficulty as you play along. The game gives recommendations based on your performances on what you should practice or play next, and comes packed with lessons, tutorials, technique guides, and fun drills to hone your skills on a real guitar that can be played outside the game. Since you are playing a real, and therefore, much more difficult instrument, it never became a party game like Guitar Hero, and was destined to a smaller cult following. I can attest that playing with other musicians is incredibly fun, especially the trash talk, but I wouldn’t invite my non-musician friends over to play, since they would fail miserably. Simply put, Rocksmith is the end of the path for the music rhythm game genre, successfully marrying real learning and playing of a musical instrument with a video game.

So what? I’ve already demonstrated that casual players are much more open to an “easy” experience with games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, why do I think Guitar Hero will flop with their newest endeavor? As I stated earlier, the magic is gone. The games are old, the discovery is gone, and players who are interested can buy the old games and guitars for much cheaper and get the exact same experience. Music rhythm games do not rely upon gameplay and graphical improvements like other games do, so even a technically “dated” experience is the same today as it was in 2007. Many players who enjoyed the old five adjacent button guitars will have to learn an entirely new toy guitar, which goes back to my point about non-musician players not being willing to put in the effort of learning to master the game or the instrument. There’s a chance the music selection may be able to pull in quite a few casual players to try out the game, but considering the incredible classics on the old games and how much fun they were to play for fans of all genres of music, I have my doubts.

I do believe if Activision had waited a few more years, they could put together a much more exciting revival. Right now, there isn’t enough nostalgia or demand for a new Guitar Hero game, since most of its players are still tired of it. Another five, even ten years, and a completely different generation of young gamers could be introduced to the series in an exciting new way with songs that relate to them. The combination of poor timing, over saturation of the market, and the existence of Rocksmith spells disaster for the new Guitar Hero game.

 

(Image via, photo via)

  • Speaking of returning of the king, if your opinion is not my opinion, this fate awaits you http://fantasy.mrugala.net/Michael%20Whelan/Michael%20Whelan%20-%20Elric%204.jpg

    • That is some incredibly sexual imagery right there.

      Joe was telling the truth!

    • Maik Beninton

      Is that a guy or girl?

    • CyberneticOrganism

      “Feel my long, hard steel invade your body… surrender to the milky white magic flowing from its end… remember how I wield it inside you”

    • Big Poppa Penis Pump

      Getting stabbed by the albino from Venture Bros.?

  • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

    This could be a good idea if it was like Rocksmith but from what it appears it is just another Guitar Hero game. It’s going to be sad to see this on the clearance racks for 10 dollars.

  • Goat of Dank desires

    Does anyone else here “In the shadow of your throbbing phallus” on here? Or is it just me? https://youtu.be/NQCjsohPmkk?t=1m30s

  • Shrimp ov Whatever

    Guitar hero <<<<<<<<, I'll stick to Stepmania

  • Guacamole Jim

    This is the best article I’ve ever read about Guitar Hero. I’ve played, and enjoy the game, but honestly don’t give two shits if they’re making another version. If a buddy buys it, there’s an off chance I might play it at a party or something, but otherwise, there’s no interest from me. But I’m probably not who they’re marketing at, since I play few video games as it is, and always feel that my time could be better spent playing actual musical instruments. But it’s great to see another article from Randall Thor, and I’d probably agree with his prediction that it’ll fail.

    #banrandall

    • KJM

      That’s why I bought Rocksmith. I figured it would be fun and I’d actually learn something at the same time. I was correct.

      • Guacamole Jim

        I’d never even heard of it before this article, but the idea sounds really good.

        • It’s fun, I put a good 40 hours into it but I’ve had so little free time that I haven’t played it at all. Bass notes can get picky just due to the low range

          • Guacamole Jim

            It doesn’t pick up the notes as well?

          • It’s still really good but guitar, with its higher pitches, seems to pick up a bit better

    • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan

      atchilly guitars can have different tunings if you just believe in yourself

      -lespaul1010, 2 years ago, in reply to Brandon .Marsh

      • I want this tattooed on me.

        • The God Emperor of Mankind

          I’d get “just believe in yourself” tattooed on my backside.

          • CyberneticOrganism

            I’m getting a tattoo of my butt on my butt.

      • Maik Beninton

        What are atchilly guitars?

      • CyberneticOrganism

        THAT’s why I can’t tune my guitar, I just wasn’t believing in myself.

      • CyberneticOrganism

        how do i toon this believing in myslef not working plz hlp

        http://www.edroman.com/featured/images/Gretsch%20Doubleneck.jpg

  • Tyreeva Green
  • Reichsmarschall Dean von Steel

    Guitar Hero was a popular pregaming activity within my circle of friends in college, rivaled only by darts and fist fighting.

    Tangent: It’s amazing how often dudes can get in physical confrontations with each other and still be friends. One minute someone gets choked out, five minutes later the guy who got choked out is high fiving the guy who choked him out for making The Allman Brothers Band song “Jessica” his bitch. Hahahahaha.

    • Totally a huge college thing for me too, but more of a “please be friends with me, I have value look at me” kind of way

      • Reichsmarschall Dean von Steel

        Mine was definitely a “I will alay “Madhouse” and “Cliffs of Dover” before funneling my next Milwaukee’s Best Ice” experience.

    • Big Poppa Penis Pump

      Sounds like when I was in military school, but it was more of a “fuck it, I gotta live in the same fucking building as you, so might as well suck it up” sorta thing.

  • Tyreeva Green

    I’m trying to watch my figure, but I think a gas station sub is going to have to suffice for today’s lunch. Maybe a bag of cheddar popcorn and a diet Mountain Dew go with the gut carnage.

    #Staysexy

    • Reichsmarschall Dean von Steel

      Fuck. Almost nothing can wreck a lower intestines quite like some gas station grub. Hang in there, buddy.

      • Tyreeva Green

        Wrecking this 2 dollar Italian hoagie now. 2:30 I’ll most surely be on the toilet cursing my very poor lunch choice.

        • Reichsmarschall Dean von Steel

          At least you went with a sandwich. Never go with the rolling meat (the bloated sausage things spinning on those rollers). The rolling meat is certain death by diarrhea.

          • Tyreeva Green

            Dude, they have those roller hotdogs. They have one that is caked in corn batter and looks pure fucking death. I’ve always wanted to buy one just for the fuck of it, but have been surprisingly smart enough not too.

        • Tyreeva Green

          Oh boy, I think I’m going to have to make a trip to the toilet here.

        • Big Poppa Penis Pump

          And I’m betting that thing is drier than styrofoam.

      • Akerskronks ov Steele

        If ya are ever on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kona side stop by the Queen K Tesoro and you will shall forever preach the wonders of Hawaiian Gas station grub. Here’s a teaser: spicy Musabi

    • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan

      go buy a fifth a whiskey and handful of xanax’s and big fat sack of meth and ur heart will be mended or u’ll be to fucked up to notice either it way it should help

      -guinea shaw, 3 weeks ago

    • FeelTheDarknesses

      Sheetz run

  • WELCOME BACK, RANDALL THOR. MIGHTY WARRIOR OF THE FREE KINGDOMS AND DESTROYER OF POSERS!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edPckSU41g4

    • Reichsmarschall Dean von Steel

      Link bringing the Cirith love! You’ve done real good, kid.

      • I have a couple of level more with this months ToH discussing 😉

  • I never got into Guitar Hero. My coordination with my hands is so terrible, I could never do anything meaningful in the game. I had to quit taking piano lessons because I couldn’t play different things in each hand.

  • On the article:

    I have high memories of GH. A lot of music were thrown at young poser Link Leonhart I in that new music journey.

    But in this one new installment, the hispter aesthetic bothers me a lot: v-neck shirts, vintage filter, the people. The cartoonish look was a spot-on because we just wanted to have fun and was jsut a game. With this aesthetic I think they want to be a middle product between rocksmith (more serious and musical) and rock band (not so serious).

  • Reichsmarschall Dean von Steel

    Saw this on NWN! forums and figured I’d share it for anyone looking to buy some stuff:

    The US based label/distro Mandarangan Recordings is offering a closing sale. 60% off if you use the discount code “ANGRA-MAINYU” They’ve got a bunch of good shit for sale. I would probably place an order if I weren’t already neck deep in new purchases at the moment.

    http://manrecs.storenvy.com

  • Pagliacci is Kvlt O)))
    • Big Poppa Penis Pump

      Hah, puny Americans and your attempts to speak the Supremiest Language!

    • But ‘rr’ instead of ‘ll’ is a Japanese thing. If you’re going to post racist macros, could you get it right?

  • Maik Beninton

    Meanwhile on game blog everyone is complaining how the game is easier because they didn’t read that the article says there is 6 buttons and not 3.

    • J.R.

      I dunno man. I feel like sliding your hand up and down the neck to hit that extra button really provided a “cooler” more “rock and roll” feel then moving my fingers up and down will do. And then it looks cooler when you shred through 5 lanes of “notes” compared to three.

  • RepostedAvengedSevenfoldFan

    Synyster Gates is the worst guitar player ever

    …said Jesus on opposite day.

    – roni wijaya, 1 year ago

  • Akerskronks ov Steele

    I’d play if said concert was this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83hMPN-1oos

    • Tyreeva Green

      This video rules. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this concert.

  • Mother Shabubu III

    Hello and welcome to the…

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Band members look like outdated crabcore douchebags. Pass.

    • Tyreeva Green

      “In my body, where the shame gland should be, there is a second awesome gland.”

      http://12most.com/2012/12/11/quotes-from-barney-stinson/

    • CyberneticOrganism

      COCK

      • old_man_doom

        This guy looks far too fucking stoked for his own good.

      • Vriezen

        The gaping mouth only makes me think of what’s going through his head

        “I am what I eat…”

  • so excited to see the return of @disqus_9CmX83EGqz:disqus, and to see an excellently-written article about some of my favorites games!!! though the magic of said games has worn off over the past decade or so, i still love getting friends together and drunkenly playing them.
    i would not play a game with such punchable faces doe….
    unfortunately i cannot agree with: “players who are interested can buy the old games and guitars for much cheaper”. last year i paid $280 for the Guitar Hero World Tour collection of hardware and software (used). hardware in good condition is amazingly hard to find, and therefore costs a pretty penny these days. having said that, worth every penny.

    • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

      I have a lot of the old guitars for that and Rock Band.

  • I’M ON VACATION!

    I’m still waiting for a Dance Dance Revolution revival. I’m ashamed to admit just how good I was at those games.

    • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

      I was good at them too.

    • Big Poppa Penis Pump

      Lol, me and my friends would get drunk as fucking balls and go over to Dennis’ Place For Games (long gone arcade back in Chicago) and play that. Many many near injuries ensued, as you can imagine.

      • I’M ON VACATION!

        Drunk DDR sounds treacherous; I’m surprised no one was crippled.

  • Ahmed Johnson The Reef Eater

    The only way I would buy this game is if they decide to have a ton of good, difficult songs from bands like Rush, Yes and King Crimson that aren’t DLC. Throw in some Hendrix and I’ll most definitely buy this.

  • OldMetalHead

    Nice article! I think this could do well if they target the Nintendo audience, which makes the increased difficulty of the new guitar pretty unnecessary. There’s plenty of kids in that age group that probably have never played a music rhythm game. For the PS4 or XB1, not so much.

  • JamesGrimm
    • CyberneticOrganism

      Bit of a disconnect having “freeway” in your name and making a Ren Faire video

  • JWG

    I could never understand the excitement people had for Guitar Hero games.

    Maybe that’s because I don’t have close friends with whom to get invested in it. Maybe, like South Park implied, I’m too old to get it, and much more inclined to want to play those songs on an actual guitar (though I never learned how to play that either).

    …I’d play the crap out of “Ukulele Hero”, though.

    • Big Poppa Penis Pump

      I’m holding out for Cowbell Hero, Sandblock Hero, and Spit Jug/Washboard Hero.

  • J.R.

    For he shall come like the breaking dawn,
    and shatter the world again with his coming, and make it anew

    Missed you man