Battle of the (Plastic) Bands: Guitar Hero Live vs Rock Band 4

Have you heard? Plastic instruments are all the rage again!

Following the release of Rock Band 4 earlier this month, Guitar Hero Live hits shelves today. But which of the legendary faux-instrument simulators is best? There’s only one way to find out…

The instruments

Let’s face it: this is the most important bit, isn’t it?

Rock Band 4 boasts all of the standard instruments, including a guitar, drums and a microphone. Guitar Hero Live, meanwhile, goes back to basics and only includes a guitar. There aren’t even any bass parts!

That instantly makes Rock Band 4 the better co-op game, although Guitar Hero Live’s battle mode is incredibly fun too.

In terms of the actual style of the instruments (hey, plastic instruments still need to look cool), Guitar Hero takes the battle. The garish colourful toy of the past is gone, and has been replaced by a slick realistic model with a full fretboard and a convincing body. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the real deal (apart from the lack of strings, obviously).

The presentation

Guitar Hero Live has had a full makeover, replacing the cartoon characters of previous titles with live actors and audiences in a gig environment. When you’re doing well, your band mates will give you the thumbs up and gurn at you, while the crowd will cheer and generally fall in love with you. If you mess up, the crowd turns and so do your band members.

The scrolling fretboard has been reinvented too, with a realistic fretboard and guitar picks replacing the colourful backgrounds and buttons of previous titles.

If realism isn’t your thing, you’ll be pleased to hear that Rock Band 4 sticks with the tried-and-true cartoon characters and colourful scrolling fretboard formation. It doesn’t quite feel as epic as Guitar Hero Live, but you probably won’t even be paying that much attention to the background action anyway.


Both games have the same basic premise: hit buttons on your faux-instrument in time with the on-screen cues (and, in theory, the music). The way they approach it, however, is quite different.

Guitar Hero Live’s guitar boasts a new button formation, with six buttons aligned in two rows of three (rather than the traditional 5 buttons in a row). This means the game throws up some new chord patterns, as well as more intricate solo patterns. It’s a fun innovation that makes the game a lot more challenging than before.

Rock Band 4, on the other hand, sticks pretty closely to the gameplay of previous iterations, with colourful buttons flying towards you in time with the music. There’s a lot more focus on multiplayer than GH Live, with the quick tour and freeplay mode offering lots of fun for four players.

Freestyle solos are perhaps the biggest innovation, allowing players to shred out lead sections by hitting any button they like. The game offers suggestions but you don’t have to listen and it won’t negatively affect your score, which is great news for those of us who think guitar solos consist of hitting as many high notes as quickly as possible.

The playlist

Guitar Hero Live goes for an eclectic mix of songs, some of which don’t really even include that much guitar (which is kind of the point really): Charlie XCX, Skrillex, Eminem and MGMT are among the less ‘rocky’ tunes (although they work quite well).

There’s still plenty of rock aficionados to get their fretting fingers stuck into though, including Alter Bridge, Royal Blood, Avenged Sevenfold, Green Day and Rage against the Machine. You can find a full list here.

Somewhat controversially, most of the songs on the playlist are only available through Guitar Hero TV, a streaming/on demand service that layers the game over music videos. There are over 200 songs to choose from, but you have to pay to play them using either in-game currency or real money.

Luckily, there’s a free GHTV channel, although you have to play whatever song the game throws at you. It’s bound to upset some players, but you can apparently raise enough free tokens and currency without digging into your pockets.

Rock Band 4 stays fairly rock-centric, with tracks from The Black Keys, Foo Fighters, Jack White, Judas Priest, Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down and more. There’s also Uptown Funk. In addition to this, you can get access loads of DLC songs from the previous games. Check out the full list here.


Guitar Hero Live costs a hefty £79.99 for the game and a guitar on Xbox One. It’s slightly cheaper on 360 at a still not inconsiderable £74.99.

That’s nothing compared to Rock Band 4, though. The game and a guitar will cost you £119.99, although you can get the game and a ‘legacy instrument adapter’ (which lets you use your old instruments) for £74.99. If you want the whole band set up, you’ll need to fork out £229.99!

If you need extra cash to buy either game, remember: you can sell games on musicMagpie and we’ll pay on the same day we receive them (with the cash ready to spend the next working day)!

Which of the plastic instrument titans are you planning to buy? Let us know in the comments!