I felt like a badass for about 5 seconds
Back in my mid-teens I played drums in a hastily thrown together rock band. We mainly played pretty bad covers of other people’s songs, occasionally writing our own tracks that went on far too long and were excessively simplistic. Still, we felt pretty damn cool.
The idea of getting that band to play a show for an audience was always our driving force. We felt cool, and surely having people watch us and cheer would create an even stronger emotional high.
While our band never ended up playing a single live show, playing Guitar Hero Live at EGX made me feel pretty thankful about that.
On a gameplay level, Guitar Hero Live feels pretty new. Gone is the old five-button single row layout, replaced with two rows of three buttons placed next to each other. On screen you’ve got three note tracks scrolling, which will either show a white pick pointing down or a black pick pointing up to denote if you should play that note on the top or bottom row. It’s a switch up that slightly more closely resembles guitar fingerings, and it feels like a new, manageable challenge to learn.
However, what had a far bigger impact on my experience with GH Live at EGX was the impressive integration of full motion video, which is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to living out your teenage rock god fantasies.
Firstly, my fears about modern implementations of full motion video were instantly allayed when actually playing the game. I can logically tell which camera pans are likely being used to mask transitions between videos as your performance rises and falls, but try as I might I could not actually see the seams. We seem to have reached a point where smooth transitions in full motion video gameplay are totally possible, and that’s really reassuring to see.
When I was doing well at Guitar Hero Live, I felt like a guitar shredding legend. The crowd went wild, the pit jumped, the crowd fought to lock eyes with me and everything felt amazing. It’s amazing how much difference the switch from computer animated crowds to real human faces can make, but seeing actual people respond well to your performance felt awesome.
We have not crossed the uncanny valley, and real human faces in video games have a special power to elicit an emotion. The scary thing about GH Live? It can invoke powerful negative emotions too.
Toward the end of my time with the demo, I decided to see how far I could push the limits of the game. I slowly performed worse and worse as the song went on, and my god it got uncomfortable.
First the audience began to look mildly confused. Then, they looked upset, personally let down by me. I glance at the bassist and he’s trying to ask what’s going wrong.
I do worse.
The audience grows upset, confused and angry. I glance at the drummer and she’s freaking out. Mascara is running down her face as she mouths obscenities at me. The singer motions to have the stage hands pull me off stage.
At this point, I quit the track I was playing. I felt terrible. My failure felt real. The anxiety related to letting down fans, the disappointment and the anger resting on my shoulders. I felt it all.
My time playing Guitar Hero Live at EGX convinced me primarily of two things. If you’re doing well, this game is going to be awesome. If you screw up, you are going to be made to suffer for your sins on the guitar.
I think that’s pretty damn exciting.