Also available on: PS3, Wii, PS2
Genre: Rhythm Action
Release date: November 14, 2008
Nobody could have predicted the success of Guitar Hero when it was released almost three years ago. Rhythm action games were a fairly niche market at the time and a game bundled with a 'gimmicky plastic' guitar didn't look like it would change this. Fortunately for gamers this gimmicky plastic guitar would revolutionise the genre and suddenly wannabe rock stars sprang forth in their thousands. When Harmonix split from Activision to create Rock Band - a game that would utilise drums, guitars and vocals - it looked as though Guitar Hero would be overshadowed. Rock Band however, wasn't perfect. It was close, but it suffered from a few gameplay and manufacturing faults that would have to be addressed if it was to pry away Guitar Hero's army of existing fans. Unfortunately for Harmonix, Guitar Hero has come out of the shadows and World Tour contains a full set of instruments which look as though they've been designed with Rock Band's faults in mind.
Most Guitar Hero fans will probably want to check out the new drum kit first, and safe to say they will not be disappointed. The drums are made up of five velocity-sensitive rubber pads - two of which are raised like cymbals - and a sturdy foot pedal. As soon as you sit behind the drums you will feel like a born-again Tommy Lee. Guitar Hero’s drum kit is definitely one of the most authentic peripherals you will encounter and is why drumming in World Tour is so rewarding. The drum gameplay is exactly the same as the guitar, with the aim being to hit the correct coloured pad in time with the corresponding onscreen notes. The familiarity means that Guitar Hero veterans will feel comfortable getting stuck into the drums without the need for in-game tuition. The only difference is the purple line that appears across the on-screen neck, which means you need to hit the foot pedal. The Guitar Hero drum kit gets one over on its Rock Band counterpart due to its authentic design and sturdier build. The only real flaw with the drums is that to activate star power you must hit both cymbals, which can be awkward and often makes you lose your rhythm.
In terms of the guitar, this latest instalment continues to make additions that positively add to the Guitar Hero experience. The guitar controller is bigger, weightier and bears more than a slight resemblance to a real guitar, helping to create the illusion that you are a rock star as opposed to a grown man playing with a plastic toy. The guitar also has a longer whammy bar, a longer and slightly more resistant strum bar, and a handily placed star power button, although tilting the guitar will probably be the preferred option for long term fans. Another new feature of the redesigned guitar is the touch-sensitive panel further down the neck. The touch panel can be played during some solo sections when transparent notes appear on the screen. When these arrive, gamers can tap the corresponding frets on the panel without the need to strum and can also slide their fingers along the panel to link notes together. The touch panel takes a bit of getting used to but eventually becomes second nature and really makes nailing solos easier and more fun. There are a couple of other minor tweaks in the guitar section, the most significant being the notes that appear during sustains. The guitar gameplay has never really been an issue, so any tweaks were going to be minor and fortunately they do add to the game.
The microphone is probably the least talked-about peripheral, but it is a solid addition to the Guitar Hero world. Lyrics appear either statically or scrolling and you must simply match the pitch and length of each word. For those of us without good singing voices you can get through the songs by carefully matching and adjusting the pitch in your voice, but it's not as much fun as wailing the lyrics badly to 'Living On A Prayer', so the easy setting is probably best for those types of performances. Good singers and non-gamers will have a blast with the vocals, and with 86 songs on offer there is much wailing to be done.
Not only are the songs impressively plentiful, they are also all master recordings. As with any Guitar Hero title, the quality of the set list is subjective. Everybody has their preferences, but Activision should be applauded for securing the licences to an extremely wide variety of songs. Every decade from the '60s onwards is represented, and as well as popular stadium anthems and chart-toppers there are also plenty of alternative numbers from more obscure bands like Mars Volta and Modest Mouse. You can play through the songs by creating your own mini-gigs in quick play, but most gamers will want to nail the songs in career mode first.
Career mode is a bit of a letdown this year. It doesn't make much difference to the gameplay, but there are no cut-scenes except for the intro and conclusion, so it seems a little bit thin on personality. To progress through career mode you must select gigs to play from on-screen posters, but unlike previous instalments where the thrill of unlocking the next set of songs kept you coming back every time you failed a song, this year sees lots of gigs unlocked simultaneously. Not a huge deal, but it does detract from the overall excitement.
If you have finished Career mode and are bored by the set list, you can create your own numbers in the music studio. The studio is simple enough to navigate, but will probably be enjoyed most by those with real musical talent. There is a great deal of depth to the studio, lots of effects can be added to your creations and you are able to use pre-existing drum beats and bass lines to make things easier and quicker. For those who are creatively bereft, making something worthwhile will take a long time and often the results of the studio aren’t worth the time you put in. It's a trial and error affair, but stick at it and you will eventually hit gold. If you are particularly proud of your songs you can upload them online. This is a nice feature that succeeds at increasing the longevity of the game.
Guitar Hero: World Tour isn't cheap, but it does offer good value for money. In essence there are three games here, guitar, vocals and drums. Add to this the music studio plus downloads and you have a game that will last for a very long time. The equipment is as good as it gets and the fact that the 360 and PS3 instruments are compatible with Rock Band means that you'll never need another set of peripherals again. The multiplayer element, which combines all of the instruments, is video game nirvana and when everybody is on form it's possibly the most satisfying gaming experience you can have. World Tour suffers very few faults and fortunately they are only minor issues - activation of drum star power and a slightly dull career mode for example. The music studio is probably the area where most changes will be made, but it is still comprehensive enough to prove a worthy addition and therefore must be praised.
With Activision now working on DJ Hero, it's safe to assume that the rhythm action genre will continue to grow and incorporate more instruments and creativity. Guitar Hero: World Tour has perfected one area of the genre and if you have a few friends, enough money and a penchant for rock and roll, you must buy this game.
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