Guitar Hero World Tour
Guitar Hero, the little rhythm action game that took over the world with its revolutionary controller and insanely addictive gameplay. How we love you. Recently though you've had a rival for our affections, that sparkly new Rock Band whatsit, the one that comes complete with a fancy new drum kit and microphone to compliment its duel guitars. Thankfully you're not letting this faze you; instead you're looking to beat Rock Band at its own game with your own take on the group music experience, Guitar Hero World Tour.
Probably the first thing you'll notice when you unpack the large box World Tour comes is the new slider bar that appears half way down the neck of the guitars. It's World Tour's version of Rock Band's solo buttons allowing players to slide through certain note sequences without the need to strum, just like a real guitar. This smooth, touch sensitive element makes playing it feel far more organic and natural than you're used to and marks a genuine step forward for the genre's hardware. Other more subtle changes to the guitar includes a slightly stiffer strum bar to help the feel of playing notes as well as a longer whammy bar for ease of use. There's also a new dedicated button to kick off Star Power, although this is optional for those who enjoy lifting the guitar neck like Status Quo.
The much anticipated drums are next for inspection and again they compare very favourably next to their Rock Band counterpart. Five pads, including two raised cymbal's and a much sturdier foot pedal are included and they're noticeably more fun to play than the ones that come with 'the other game'. Their velocity sensitive surfaces give a more natural feel to things that you probably didn't even notice you were missing until you try it.
Last of the new toys is the microphone. It's not wireless, unfortunately, and behaves much like you'd expect with the game marking you on the pitch and rhythm of your vocals rather than the actual lyrical content. Something that comes in handy if you don't know the song too well.
Thankfully, those of us whose front rooms are steadily filling up with various music game peripherals will be pleased to discover there seems to be a standard emerging. World Tour happily will work with instruments from Rock Band (and its sequel) as well as guitars from earlier GH titles. Considering the price of these games when you're buying the hardware at the same time this is welcome news indeed, although you would miss out on things like the slider bar if you used other equipment.
Of course the big new feature on the disk itself is the music studio. As the name suggests this lets you create and share your own tunes from scratch as well as download and play songs created by other players. It's a fairly daunting package for the musically inept amongst us but there's a wealth of tutorials available to try and bring you up to speed as smoothly as possible. Still, even then it's not something you should expect to be mastering any time soon and those unwilling to put hours of effort in may as well give up before they start. If you've got the patience and/or talent this is a fantastic addition to the game and one that would almost be worth the entry fee on its own if it had remembered to let you include lyrics.
The game itself probably needs little describing by now, strum, hit or sing your way through songs in a rhythm action style that's become instantly familiar over the last couple of years. The devil however is in the detail and it's what World Tour does with those basic ingredients that counts. For the single player experience you're given a career mode that allows you to create your rocker, pick an instrument and play in a band over a series of gigs consisting of anywhere between three and six songs of increasing difficulty, with a few encores and celebrity appearances thrown in for good measure. The multiplayer options allows two or more players to do essentially the same thing and to be honest it's a little underwhelming next to the more fleshed out career setup in Rock Band. To add longevity to things there's leaderboards for each song and you're able to setup your own custom setlists easily enough as well as compete online in Battle of the Bands.
There are a few subtleties to proceedings that are worth noting too. There's the inclusion of multi-part extended sustains which allow you to build up chords on the guitars by strumming extra notes while holding down others. On the bass playing side of things there's the addition of Open Notes which ask you to strum without holding down a fret button at the given time. It may sound odd but we're assured its realistic and it feels natural enough. There's no equivalent to Rock Bands Base Groove feature though which is a shame and definitely something to think about for the inevitable sequel. Also, unlike Rock Band, if you're playing with friends you're unable to rescue anyone who fails a song half way through which is a shame and can lead to frustration if you're trying to play with people of wildly differing standards despite the different difficulty setups.
The songs that come on the disk are a varied bunch, 86 of them in total, that includes classics from acts like Metallica, Michael Jackson, Foo fighters, Oasis, Coldplay, Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. This already impressive list is set to steadily grow as new tracks start to become available via DLC, as is the norm these days. These kinds of games live and die by the songs and the plusses and minuses of track listings are matters of fiercely personal opinion. Baring that in mind I'd have to say this is a decent initial selection although there's perhaps a slight over dependency on songs best suited to the guitar player rather than any of the other disciplines. If they get the DLC right this will become less of an issue but it's worth remembering when you weigh up the options.
With the hardware for both Guitar Hero World Tour and Rock Band working with both games there's a fair argument for buying the pair of them, one with the hardware and one just the disk. This way you get the best of both worlds content-wise and don't miss out on any of your favourite tracks that may appear online. On that basis I'd recommend World Tour as the one to get the full set for, its instruments have a nicer feel (in my view) and small additions like the slider bar on the guitar make them worth plumping for. The game too stands that little bit taller with the fantastic if slightly daunting music creator, which you could devote months to if you're that way inclined. If you're looking for a crowd pleasing game for those Christmas parties that will still entertain long into the new year then you can't go far wrong with this; just don't blame us if you've can't get a go yourself.