Earlier this month, Activision announced a new Guitar Hero title was in the works. The first in five years. I couldn’t believe it when I looked to see when we had the last one. And with this news, it brought back all the memories I had of the older games. So much so, I dug out my old black Les Paul controller, blew off the layer of dust and fired up Guitar Hero III. I fell in love with the game all over again and I can’t wait for Guitar Hero Live.
Back when I was a young teenager, I got Guitar Hero II for my birthday and at school it was this unknown entity that no one really knew about. Then Activision came along, slapped Slash on the cover for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, put him and Tom Morello in the game and arguably the best tracklist of any Guitar Hero game and people went mental for it.
Rock Band also came to the fore (helmed by EA) but not only could you play guitar, you could play drums, sing and if you really wanted, play bass and so Guitar Hero upped the ante by doing the same thing. They also gave Aerosmith their own dedicated game, documenting their storied career. However, it always seemed to me that you were firmly in the Guitar Hero or Rock Band camp. For me, it had to be Guitar Hero. The controllers were better made and I preferred the songs on the annual disc. With Rock Band having a more “party game” feel, the initial songs were a bit more audience friendly, more pop but their DLC (downloable content) tracks were where they shone for rock fans. Guitar Hero was the opposite, boasting a killer main set and keeping nothing brilliant for the encore.
Both franchises traded blows with multiple games a year on every games console of the time (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS etc). Guitar Hero spawned spin-offs like an 80s game, a Metallica version, the afore-mentioned Aerosmith and if you really wanted it, Van Halen. And that was alongside the annual regular game. There was also rumours of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queen receiving their own game. Meanwhile with Rock Band, we had a Lego one with family friendly songs, The Beatles and Green Day.
And to quote Batman: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. Both series saw their sales plateau and then quickly nose-dive as the market became saturated with music games offering little innovation between titles. Activision and EA both decided, like bands, they would put their franchises on a hiatus until the time was right. Now, with Guitar Hero Live’s announcement and we know Rock Band 4 is in the works, both have decided instead of annual instalments, to turn them into platforms; one game with an initial run of songs before turning to rolling DLC tracks. And with a new generation of consoles and five years passing, a whole new audience will experience the fun of strumming a plastic guitar or hitting a plastic drumkit.
Guitar Hero seems to be going back to its roots, focusing solely on guitar and puts you in the shoes of a guitarist in a first-person perspective, watching the crowd and seeing their reactions change as you nail or ruin a song. From recent previews, the initial reaction is feelings of exhilaration. There’s not much known about Rock Band 4 except it’s due this year so the “war” between the pair shall resume.
After a few hours with Legends of Rock and World Tour, I was reminded of how fun it was to play some iconic rock and metal songs from the 60s all the way to the then-present day. I’m incredibly thankful for those games. It’s how I discovered the music of Slash and Velvet Revolver, it encouraged me to jump into Guns N’ Roses. I discovered Slipknot, The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It, Black”, an awesome metal version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and Metallica’s “One”. Guitar Hero made me a metal fan. It gave me new songs by artists who previously only existed on “Dad Rocks” compilations. And most importantly, who had heard of DragonForce before the inclusion of “Through the Fire and Flames”? And whilst I can still nail that, I still quiver in fear at Slayer’s “Raining Blood”.
While the initial run of artists isn’t overly impressive on Guitar Hero Live; Ed Sheeran, My Chemical Romance, Skrillex, Fall Out Boy, I did spy in the initial trailer Alter Bridge’s “Cry of Achilles”. I can’t wait to play that. It got me thinking how much new material in the last five years there is to draw on, as well as older material. Put in some of Queen’s heavier songs, Blackberry Smoke, Volbeat, Avenged Sevenfold, Bad Company, Crobot, Lamb of God, Motorhead, Pantera, Halestorm, Rival Sons. I could list bands until I have a beard to rival Gandalf’s.
Which leads me onto my final wish. With the game becoming a platform, it reminds me of Guitar Hero III featuring Metallica’s Death Magnetic as a full download. So you could play each and every track from it if you were so inclined. I want more of that, from albums through the years. Or introduce a service where you upload any mp3 of any song imaginable, today’s technology transforming it into its new version of black and white notes and you can play any song you wish. Imagine playing Slash’s “Anastasia” or a song by your favourite up and coming band or maybe even a song your own band has composed for others to discover it online or your friends to try it for themselves. Obviously such a service would incur a charge but it means you have your own DLC to choose from. Such a concept fills me with excitement.
Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4 are still a distance away and with E3 looming ever closer, I’m sure many gaming news outlets will be getting some time with the new titles, alongside a slew of new information. I can’t wait to discover new bands, reacquaint myself with deeps cuts from my favourite bands, sigh incredulously “They put that song in?” and shed tears at the thought of playing a ridiculously hard song. Welcome back to the stage, Guitar Hero.