We say “kind of” because unlike a real band, you only ever feel like you’re a cover band since you’re playing the hits of other people, though in the Guitar Hero Live universe, you’re no cover band and are the original, which is all that really matters.
Some context quickly, though, because you’re not playing pub gigs and instead are playing these hit and known songs at festivals around the world. There are songs from the likes of Soundgarden, Kasabian, OneRepublic, The Black Keys, Jack White, Pearl Jam, Of Monsters and Men, Munford & Sons, Paramours, The Rolling Stones, Rise Against, and Arctic Monkeys, among others, as well as some artists that you’ll question quite quickly “are these actually rock, and is there even a real guitar in them?” such as Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Skrillex.
But for the most part, you’re playing rock, alternative, metal, or blues, and you’re pretty much always thrust into it, with the notes appearing on an on-screen fingerboard in quick succession coming at you to adapt to super fast.
When you’re done with the set, you’ll even get a quick verdict on your performance by one or two commentators at the festival you’re at, and to complete this simulation, there are even hashtags that will appear on screen, because obviously it’s not real until social media has documented you.
Overall, it’s a very cool attempt at simulation, even if it’s one that forces you to play music you might not otherwise agree with.
What’s perhaps most interesting about the title is the invigoration you get, and that’s probably from the videos more than simply the playing of the game. Instead of a computer-generated player and a CGI crowd, the full motion videos that adapt to your performance make the game feel that much more real.
People cheer and shout, holding placards up for you, screaming your name. You walk out above them, look down into their eyes, and you accidentally make a several mistakes and they begin to turn. You sweat, the lights blink, and everything starts to go horribly wrong.
Luckily, you can recover and it won’t be too bad. Hey, there might even be a guest performer coming up next. Awesome.
Outside of the festival part of the game — the one that simulates being a rock star — you’ll find you can play to songs you like in music video form, and you can buy points to play these whenever you want, or tune into a more MTV-inspired portion of the game: Guitar Hero TV.
With an internet-connected console, you just merely need to start this up and you’ll be able to join in on a constantly running multiplayer session with songs picked by the system. It can be fun, though again, if you don’t like the music, it can feel a bit draining, hence where the whole “buying points to play whenever you want” logic comes into play.
The controller is interesting too, and we started this review not terribly enthused by its bunched up controls only to have it grow on us. Some of the combinations can be a little fussy to get right, and depending on how the game is synchronised to your sound system, it can even go out, making it difficult to get the combinations right, but overall, it’s a nice change from the colourful guitar options.