With the recent announcement of Guitar Hero Live, the battle of the plastic instruments returns to gamer’s living rooms once more. The interesting part about this round though is for the first time it appears that both it and Rock Band 4 are approaching it from different viewpoints that have the potential to mark out their own territories.
Of the two, Guitar Hero Live is the one that could be considered a true reboot by making a clean break from the previous titles in both hardware and content. It’s also back to being a guitar only game and the controller has a new button arrangement that’ll take some getting used to.
Songs from the previous games aren’t going to work here because the content itself is delivered either as semi interactive full motion video (FMV) or through streamed videos. Now, initially you may think this to be a step back from what Activision have done before but new developer Freestyle Games might have actually struck on an idea that will make this game a great fit for the casual market.
If you could say there was a problem with earlier games in both franchises was that for casual observers it didn’t appear all that attractive. Sure there was an animated band playing in the background but it was usually obscured by the note highways which the players would be trying to copy. Using FMV makes the game a lot more visually appealing and brings it closer in line to a karaoke machine or games like SingStar. If you like watching the game, you might want to try it. I think as a result this will make it the perfect game to play when you are entertaining friends.
Now Rock Band 4 on the other hand is not trying to do anything too different. In fact it’s going to be EXACTLY what you’re expecting from a game in the series. All of your existing music purchases (with a handful of exceptions) are going to be transferable though restricted to platforms and the gameplay mechanic will be same as before. Microphone, drums, guitars… they’re all in it.
In addition, the developers Harmonix are planning on supporting controllers from the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to allow owners to continue using their old instruments which is an extraordinary level of support that is rarely done at this level. In addition their publisher Mad Catz are producing new controllers so no one will be without an instrument to play on.
There’s bound to be more to it than that with the game as this time it’s being pushed more as a platform than a numbered release so this may be the last numbered Rock Band game we see for some time but it’s all in the name of longevity. Those players who have invested in songs and controllers over the years are going to be wanting to get their band back together and relive old times. And this is the game that will give that to you.
2015 may be signalling the return of the music game genre in full force and this time it may be for the long term thanks to each product aiming for a different market.
Guitar Hero Live is wanting to attract new users with its more casual approach and interest existing fans via the new controller. Rock Band 4 is giving its fans the easiest transition possible and making sure no one is going to waste their past purchases on their new consoles. And for those who think they are too good for either, Rocksmith is waiting for you.
There’s still much to learn about both games and it’ll be interesting to see where they are heading. Odds are good that the first stop on that journey will be at E3 and we’ll be packing away our air guitars in the months following.