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Guitar Hero is a series of music rhythm game video games first released in 2005, in which players use a guitar-shaped game controller to simulate playing primarily lead, bass guitar, and rhythm guitar across numerous songs. Players match notes that scroll on-screen to colored fret buttons on the controller, strumming the controller in time to the music in order to score points, and keep the virtual audience excited. The games attempt to mimic many features of playing a real guitar, including the use of fast-fingering hammer-ons and pull-offs and the use of the whammy bar to alter the pitch of notes. Most games support, single player modes, typically a Career mode to play through all the songs in the game, and both competitive and cooperative multiplayer modes. With the introduction of Guitar Hero World Tour in 2008, the game includes support for a four-player band including vocals and drums. The series initially used mostly cover versions of songs created by WaveGroup Sound, but most recent titles feature soundtracks that are fully master recordings, and in some cases, special re-recordings, of the songs. Later titles in the series feature support for downloadable content in the form of new songs.
Guitar Hero was created from a partnership between RedOctane, then their own company that produced specialized video game controllers, and Harmonix, a music video game development company who had previously produced Frequency, Amplitude, and Karaoke Revolution. RedOctane was seeking to bring in a Guitar Freaks-like game, highly popular in Japan at the time, into Western markets, and approached Harmonix about helping them to develop a music game involving a guitar controller. Both companies agreed to it, and went on to produce Guitar Hero in 2005. The title was highly successful, leading to the development of its successful sequel, Guitar Hero II, in 2006. While the original controllers for the first Guitar Hero game were designed by Ryan Lesser, Rob Kay, Greg LoPiccolo, and Alex Rigopulous of Harmonix and built by the Honeybee Corporation of China, subsequent iterations and future controllers were developed inhouse at RedOctane, with development led primarily by Jack McCauley.
In April 2015, Activision announced a new entry in the series, titled Guitar Hero Live. The title was developed by Activision's internal studio FreeStyleGames, who previously had worked on the DJ Hero spinoff titles. FreeStyleGames were given free rein to reboot the Guitar Hero series for next-generation consoles. One of their first innovations was to drop the standard five-button guitar controller, ultimately designing a six-button guitar controller, with two rows of three buttons each, allowing them to mimic actual guitar fingering. Guitar Hero Live was released with both a career and an online mode. The career mode used full-motion video taken from the perspective of a lead guitarist underneath the note highway, to create an immersive experience to the player. The online mode, called GHTV, discarded the previous downloadable content approach and used a music video channel approach to stream playable songs to players, adding new songs to the catalog on a weekly basis. The game was released in October 2015.
The original Guitar Hero was released on the PlayStation 2 in November 2005. Guitar Hero is notable because it comes packaged with a controller peripheral modeled after a black Gibson SG guitar. Rather than a typical gamepad, this guitar controller is the primary input for the game. Playing the game with the guitar controller simulates playing an actual guitar, except it uses five colored \"fret buttons\" and a \"strum bar\" instead of frets and strings. The development of Guitar Hero was inspired by Konami's Guitar Freaks video game, which at the time, had not seen much exposure in the North American market; RedOctane, already selling guitar-shaped controllers for imported copies of GuitarFreaks, approached Harmonix about creating a game to use an entirely new Guitar controller. The concept was to have the gameplay of Amplitude with the visuals of Karaoke Revolution, both of which had been developed by Harmonix. The game was met with critical acclaim and received numerous awards for its innovative guitar peripheral and its soundtrack, which comprised 47 playable rock songs (most of which were cover versions of popular songs from artists and bands from the 1960s through modern rock). Guitar Hero has sold nearly 1.5 million copies to date.
The popularity of the series increased dramatically with the release of Guitar Hero II for the PlayStation 2 in 2006. Featuring improved multiplayer gameplay, an improved note-recognizing system, and 64 songs, it became the fifth best-selling video game of 2006. The PlayStation 2 version of the game was offered both separately and in a bundle with a cherry red Gibson SG guitar controller. Guitar Hero II was later released for the Xbox 360 in April 2007 with an exclusive Gibson Explorer guitar controller and an additional 10 songs, among other features. About 3 million units of Guitar Hero II have sold on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was released in late 2007 for the PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, Microsoft Windows, and Mac OS X platforms. The title is the first installment of the series to include wireless guitars bundled with the game and also the first to release a special bundle with two guitars. The game includes Slash and Tom Morello as playable characters in addition to the existing fictional avatars; both guitarists performed motion capture to be used for their characters' animation in the game.
Guitar Hero World Tour, previously named Guitar Hero IV, is the fourth full game in the series and was released on October 26, 2008 for PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii. Analysts had expected that future Guitar Hero games in 2008 would include additional instrument peripherals to compete against Rock Band; Guitar Hero World Tour was confirmed as in development following the announcement of the merger between Activision and Vivendi Games in December 2007. Activision's CEO Bobby Kotick announced on April 21, 2008 that Guitar Hero World Tour will branch out into other instruments including vocals. Guitar Hero World Tour includes drums and vocals, and can be bought packaged with a new drum set controller, a microphone, and the standard guitar controller. A larger number of real-world musicians appear as playable characters, including Jimi Hendrix, Billy Corgan, Hayley Williams, Zakk Wylde, Ted Nugent, Travis Barker, Sting, and Ozzy Osbourne. Guitar Hero World Tour also features custom song creation that can be shared with others.
Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, the sixth main console game in the series, was released on September 28, 2010. It is the last game in the series developed by Neversoft's Guitar Hero division prior to its dissolution, with Vicarious Visions assisting on the Wii version with added Nintendo DS functionality. The game has been described as returning to the roots of the Guitar Hero series; while it still allows for full band play, the soundtrack's focus is on rock and roll music and an emphasis on guitar \"shredding\". The game introduced a career-based \"Quest Mode\", narrated by Gene Simmons, that guides the players to complete songs to unlock \"warriors of rock\" to join them in saving \"demigod of rock\" and his guitar from his imprisonment by \"the Beast\".
Following a five-year hiatus, as described below, Activision announced Guitar Hero Live for release in late 2015 on most seventh-generation and eighth-generation consoles. Live was developed to rebuild the game from the ground up, and while the gameplay remains similar to the earlier titles, focusing primarily on the lead guitar, it uses a 3-button guitar controller with each button having \"up\" and \"down\" positions, making for more complex tabulators. The game uses live footage of a rock concert, taken from the perspective of the lead guitarist, to provide a more immersive experience.
Guitar Hero Smash Hits (titled Guitar Hero: Greatest Hits in Europe and Australia) was released in June 2009. It features full-band versions of 48 songs from earlier Guitar Hero games that only used the guitar controller. Unlike the previous versions, each of the songs is based on a master recording that includes some live tracks. The game follows a similar model as Guitar Hero: Metallica, and was developed by Neversoft and Beenox Studios for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, and Wii.
Guitar Hero: Van Halen was released on December 22, 2009, though customers that purchased Guitar Hero 5 under a special promotion received a copy of the game early. Like the other games oriented around a specific artist, Guitar Hero: Van Halen mainly uses songs by the band Van Halen, including three guitar solos by Eddie Van Halen, in addition to guest acts such as Queen, Weezer, Blink-182, Foo Fighters, The Offspring, and Queens of the Stone Age.
Guitar Hero: On Tour was released on the Nintendo DS hand-held system on June 22, 2008. The game includes a peripheral, dubbed the \"Guitar Grip\", a rectangular device that fits into the second slot of the Nintendo DS or DS Lite. The peripheral only features the first four fret buttons and a strap so the Nintendo DS can be held sideways comfortably for play. The game also includes a guitar pick shaped stylus for use with strumming in the game, which players move across the touchscreen. Guitar Hero: On Tour was developed by Vicarious Visions, who also ported the Guitar Hero games to Nintendo's Wii console. 59ce067264