The Guitar Hero video game franchise is back after a five-year absence with Guitar Hero Live, and it arrives with two major new features that seem destined to give the series a big shot in the arm.

The first thing you'll notice when you pick up the guitar is that you don't have enough fingers. Instead of the five-button, one-row design of the guitar on previous editions, Guitar Hero Live features two rows of three buttons. According to the company's press release, this is designed to make it easier for beginners to get started and harder for veterans to master – and that's actually how it worked out in real life based on our experience. The guitar also feels a bit more sturdy then the old models, though we're not ready to give it the "full Townshend" test yet.

Once you're armed and ready to hit the stage, you'll notice that the perspective has shifted from the old third-person point-of-view to first-person. You're onstage now, facing an actual (filmed) audience in front of you, with a real (filmed) band beside you. This adds a great sense of realism to the proceedings. Our only quibble here is that there aren't enough classic rock songs on the playlist, and that some of the newer artists and material lack in the big-guitar moments that make a game like this.

The other major new twist is GHTV, an always-online mode of the game. It's where the new system truly shines, as gamers play along with an endless stream of music videos. It’s extremely addicting. Every time we'd be ready to set down the guitar, a video would come on that demanded five more minutes of our time. GHTV randomly hops across genres without any input from the user. But that isn’t really a problem since there's always something interesting to play. You can also earn "coins" that allow you to choose your favorite songs from a vast catalog, but the random nature of the standard free playlists should keep most players entertained.

So overall, a big thumbs-up to this new entry. The Guitar Hero franchise is virtually reborn here, and it will be fun to see what they think of next.

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