[Please note: this article has been updated based on feedback to better reflect the updated content in each game, and to make the comparison between the two games more clear.]



They say no matter what you do, you can’t fight the moonlight, and yes, the rhythm is going to get you. If you’ve been clamouring for a music fix on your next generation consoles you’re in luck: the reigning royal family of Rock and Roll is back. Guitar Hero returns as Guitar Hero Live, and Rock Band is back as … well, Rock Band 4. Want to know what each one holds?


In this article we will compare the two, looking at the pieces that make them unique, as well as comparing the equipment they use, and the gameplay styles present in each.



Guitar Hero is the legend that started it all, with Harmonix at the helm as gamers were introduced to an incredible new way to play their music. If you’re tuning in for the first time, Guitar Hero put a plastic guitar in your hands, and asked you to play along with an awesome playlist of real, licensed music, (after the first iteration, which famously used WaveGroup Sound to cover hits in the original Guitar Hero) letting you BE the rock star you always wanted to be. As you hit note streaks–which means repeatedly hitting notes accurately without errors–you’d build up a power bar, which could activate Star Power that enhanced your score by rocking out and tilting the guitar upwards. All in all, a very cool concept.


Over the years Activision kept making Guitar Hero games with new guitars and in some cases new bands. Guitar Hero Aerosmith

oined Guitar Hero 2 and 3 in a rapid fire expansion of the series. Gamers seemed to grow a bit tired of the formula, however, and GH games tapered off–but we’re finally at the point where nostalgia has kicked in and people want Guitar Hero back!


Enter Guitar Hero Live, a new game with a new controller. 


Game play


To recap the core gameplay of Guitar Hero: Guitar Hero is a game that uses a plastic guitar controller, connected wirelessly to your gaming system, to replicate the feel of being a real rock star.  When you start a song you will see a guitar fretboard represented on the screen vertically. Notes descend down the screen in the form of coloured jewels. You strum the bar as the note crossed a boundary line at the bottom, and the game will play that note or chord. Easy modes have fewer jewels, with harder modes giving you almost one-to-one representation of the song that you’re playing. Hit more notes, get a higher score.


A microphone can also be used to sing vocal tracks. The vocal mode checks to see how closely your pitch matches the original song and awards you points based on accuracy.


There are two modes to Guitar Hero Live: GH Live and GHTV. Let’s take a look at both.




GH Live


GH Live is Guitar Hero as you knew and loved, but back with more features. Let’s start with the controller: it’s the most realistic guitar controller yet, and it looks cooler than all the old controllers put together. They’ve gone for a “real-world” vibe on this one, with a slicker look and sharp gold finishing touches that really sell the idea that yes, this is the guitar of a rock star.




This is the new guitar. There’s a new button layout that has 6 buttons; they’ve been redesigned to help you feel like you’re actually playing chords. If that sounds intimidating, don’t fret (HA!)–you’ll start off beginner mode using only three of those buttons, moving to the full six as you hit veteran status. The strum bar is back and more responsive than ever, the classic whammy bar has returned for some serious tone-bending action, and (my personal favourite) you can activate your Hero Powers by tilting the guitar (an action you’ll be used to if you played previous games) or by hitting the new Hero Power button to activate it directly. As someone who consistently ended up looking like he was trying to throttle a giraffe when activating star power on the old guitars, I appreciate this feature.










GHTV is a new paradigm where you’ll play along with a live stream of music videos over a series of channels. You can pick which channel you want to play, and earn in-game currency so you can start playing those songs on-demand. You can also use that in-game currency to buy cool cosmetic upgrades like note highways and unique player cards.


GHTV lets you compete at home with two player action, or against other players around the world. Active matchmaking means you’ll play against others of similar skill, and you can level up and earn new rewards that make you hit even harder on the main stage.


The last cool feature? Playing along with Live Concert footage. This one could be a game changer: by levelling up and completing challenges you can jam with your favourite bands. Don’t have time to play? You can use real money to buy access to those songs instantly.


Here’s the breakdown:


Guitar Hero Live Bundle for PS4

Guitar Hero Live Bundle for Xbox One

Guitar Hero Live Bundle for Wii U

Guitar Hero Live Bundle for PS3

Guitar Hero Live Bundle for Xbox 360




So that’s Guitar Hero. The set list from Guitar Hero includes artists such as Pearl Jam, Of Mice & Men, and Pantera, and at launch includes nearly twice as many songs as Rock Band 4. 



Rock Band is Back


For those of us who own a plethora of plastic instruments from Last Gen you’ll be able to bring them over to their respective systems – Xbox 360 to Xbox One and PS3 to PS4, with a unique edition of Rock Band 4 (the Xbox version is a bit pricier as it requires an adapter).


Game play


Like Guitar Hero, Rock Band 4 is a game where you can play a plastic guitar, sing through a microphone, or play plastic drums; it also features a note-streak accuracy bonus to rack up your score, and the goal of the game is to earn fake money for the band that you create by travelling around the world, becoming more famous and gaining more fans. Rock Band can have guitar, bass, drums, and vocals all going at the same time. For fans of the series it should be noted that the Pro Guitar and keyboard modes from Rock Band 3 are not making an appearance in this game.



Some users really like the ability to personalize their avatar and build their own band; it’s a feature that has made Rock Band very popular with a devoted audience.


It should be noted that while Rock Band 4 comes with fewer songs out of the box, there is a library of over 2000 songs available for purchase through your respective console’s marketplace or store. It’s a long list of artists but includes Van Morrison, Paramore, and Bruno Mars.







These are the Rock Band Instruments; the guitar from previous versions is still compatible, and as you can see above was licensed with a look from Fender.


But even if you haven’t, that classic Rock Band play is back, uniting you and up to four friends to play in the band like never before. Build your characters, name your band, and get out on the virtual road to find your stardom by playing the tracks of some of the most famous acts on the market.




It’s your library.


For those who are coming back, it isn’t just your instruments you’ve got access to; Rock Band 4 also includes access to the songs you have purchased, from Rock Band’s library of over 1500 downloadable tracks. The Rock Band store is also back, letting you peruse for hours, picking the perfect tunes for a night of musical mayhem.


image-4 (1).jpg



Online play returns as well, so you can team up across the internet to make it rock.


New Features


Rock Band has a number of new features coming to the table in 2015, including freestyle guitar and vocals. These two options let you put your own spin on sections of songs; freestyle allows you to get creative and do things your own way, stepping outside the usual tune. Craft your own solos to earn points and drive your score up higher.


Guitar Hero’s approach does feel fresh, with a focus on the Live part of the name. The addition of both free and paid content channels is going to make the experience very dynamic.


Here’s a quick breakdown of the overall features:


Screenshot 2015-09-15 19.10.03.jpg






Both of these games have rabid fan-bases, of which I belong to both. Guitar Hero’s focus on guitar play and GH-based technique is a super fun way to challenge yourself, and the addition of Live channels seems like it will make the gameplay interesting and unique.


Rock Band is an unbeatable social experience that has to be played to be believed. If you haven’t played as part of “the band” in the past, now’s the perfect time to get started. If you have, it’s time to dust off the axe, warm up the van, and hit the road.


I’m excited for both. That’s why I have both Rock Band AND Guitar Hero pre-ordered. You should too.


Here’s the Breakdown:


Rock Band 4 Full Kit for PS4

Rock Band 4 Full Kit for Xbox One

Rock Band 4 Guitar Bundle for PS4

Rock Band 4 Guitar Bundle for Xbox One

Rock Band 4 for PS4 – Software only




Graham Williams
Graham Williams is a Canadian tech expert, appearing on CBC and Global BC, as well as teaching a number of courses at UBC in Vancouver, British Columbia. An avid gamer, Graham can be found on Steam and PSN, as well as online as a host of MOMENTOUS.TV


  1. the very  first 2 paragraph (3 actually because one is written twice) is enough to stop reading after that. When you don’t know about something, just don’t write about it


    Guitar Hero 1 never had licensed songs, they were all recorded by Harmonix in-house band.

    Guitar Hero: Green Day never existed, but Green Day: Rock Band instead


    “you can now sing along wtih anyone playing guitar” implies you could never do that before while this is totally incorrect. you can do that since Guitar Hero World Tour in 2008.

  2. Graham wrote: 

    The strum bar is back and more responsive than ever, the classic whammy bar has returned for some serious tone-bending action, and (my personal favourite) you can activate your Hero Powers by tilting the guitar or by hitting the new Hero Power button. As someone who consistently ended up looking like he was trying to throttle a giraffe when activating star power on the old guitars, I appreciate this feature.


    ehhhh?? How did you do it before?

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