Activision is going to bring plenty of excitement to this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) which takes place next month in Los Angeles, California. It’s got several blockbusters coming in for the trip including its recently announced Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the long-awaited sequel Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, and swinging in time for summer The Amazing Spider-Man. But for the rockers in our readership, we're asking the same question: what about a new Guitar Hero?
Guitar Hero History
The long-running music franchise got its start several years ago as a property under RedOctane, which was in turn acquired by Activision by the time Guitar Hero II rolled around. With Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Activision had turned the franchise into a blooming success featuring classic songs and appearances from a number of acts, drawing millions of users.
The game continued on through several sequels including the game-changing Guitar Hero 5 which introduced a variety of modes and special songs fit for audiences. By the time Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock debuted in 2010, the fire had gone out a bit and Activision, losing money between song rights and lawsuits filed by bands portrayed wrongly in the game, decided to place the whole franchise on the backburner while focusing on other franchises like Call of Duty.
This year, rumors are picking up about the franchise’s possible return under the leadership of Neversoft Entertainment, the developer who had been working on it since Guitar Hero III. While Activision hasn’t confirmed these rumors just yet, the timing would be just about right since Harmonix isn’t planning on releasing a new game in its Rock Band series outside of the upcoming action game Blitz which hits Xbox Live and PlayStation Network this summer.
What changes can Activision make to the series to make it vibrant again? Will it rely on the usual party tricks that got crowds interested in it to begin with or could a whole new concept be around the corner that brings innovation to the game, something players felt have been missing since Guitar Hero World Tour in 2008? We’ve got a few ideas of what Activision could possibly do with it.
The Wii U
First, let’s talk about a platform where the Guitar Hero franchise could be pretty ideal – the Wii U. Since the system is able to utilize older Wii controllers, there’s no reason that Activision couldn’t encourage players to use their older Guitar Hero peripherals with the system, or buy new ones specifically made for the new one.
For that matter, the vocalist’s game could easily change as their lyrics could appear on the touch-screen of the main Wii U controller, which can also act as their microphone. That would leave the main game screen uncluttered, allowing players to see their instrument tracks more thoroughly so they can perform like pros.
Seeing as how the Wii U needs as many exclusive games as it can get right now, it’d be a novel idea to see Guitar Hero return specifically for that system.
However, if it needs to go multi-platform, we've got our next big idea…
Courting the Big Bands
Over the years, Activision has lured a lot of big bands to its Guitar Hero franchise including favorites like Metallica and Van Halen who starred in their own individually-licensed games.
Activision now needs to chase after acts that have been in high demand for some time. Pink Floyd immediately comes to mind as a number of its songs have lived in the annals of classic rock halls for years at a time, like “Comfortably Numb” and “Another Brick In the Wall.” Can you imagine if the entire Pink Floyd the Wall experience could be recaptured in a Guitar Hero game?
How about Led Zeppelin? Not all the band members are truly interested in seeing their game revitalized for the digital age, especially guitarist Jimmy Page who feels it’s an improper fit, but getting their songs on Guitar Hero would be a big, bold move for the series.
Take Rock Back To Its Roots
We’ve seen what Guitar Hero does when it goes “off the wall” as Warriors of Rock proved with its transforming superstars. With the return of Guitar Hero, Activision should stick with a “keep it simple, stupid” sort of logic.
Instead of going with a gimmick, it should simply go back to the element that made rock and roll so great to begin with – a humble start. Visit some smaller clubs and just get into simpler tunes, then ramp up with more complex stuff, making you feel that sense of progression as you grow better.
Activision could also offer rewards like a system that gets harder as you go along (but not borderline impossible unless you’re absolutely ready for it) and new instruments that make you feel like you’ve earned some virtual rewards, like Eddie Van Halen’s custom guitar, for that matter.
We want to earn our rock credentials, and we don't need power-ups to make that happen.
Finally, we come to…
Getting Your Free Play On
Some rock games excel when it comes to letting you “do your own thing,” like Ubisoft’s Rocksmith, a solid simulation tool if we’ve ever seen one. For the next Guitar Hero, Activision should consider letting players jam however they see fit with their instruments, implementing the ability to incorporate a real instrument without the need of a costly amplifier or even costlier recording studio. It’d take time, but we feel it’s a feature that would be well utilized.
The ball’s in your court, Activision. You ready to rock?