Kick out the jams as we look at Guitar Hero: World Tour!
Rock Band’s formula of playing music with friends has worked for over a year now, and we expect it to only improve. However, Guitar Hero had no intention of staying silent, and developer Neversoft has worked hard to create a respectable alternative that isn’t just a Rock Band clone. And they’ve done a very decent job.
Guitar Hero World Tour is fairly different from Rock Band. From the menu system interface to the instruments, World Tour is a music game unto itself that anyone interested in should try out.
For simplicity’s sake, World Tour’s gameplay is almost identical to Rock Band. Both games have players on the guitar, bass, drums and vocals; both games play music almost identically. The differences are minor, but there are many of them.
Are you ready to rock?
World Tour looks and feels grittier, like a rocker would expect
Most importantly are the actual gameplay additions that World Tour introduces. The updated wireless guitar features a touch-sensitive fret pad, called the slider, which works in special sections of songs (along with the standard fret buttons) to play a string of notes without plucking the ‘strings’, aka strumming. Bass players now have a strum function as a sixth note, where just strumming when shown gives a plucking sound, something that Harmonix considered and turned down. The drums are different with three cans and two cymbals instead of just four cans, though the Rock Band and most 3rd party drums work in World Tour courtesy of Neversoft.
Each of these changes adds a lot of meat to the somewhat drying gameplay, along with a tone of realism. World Tour is not more difficult than previous Guitar Hero iterations, and is made a little more family friendly so that even the kids can play it and enjoy. Simultaneously, musicians or anyone looking to move further into music is now capable of uploading their music into the vast beyond of Xbox Live, the PlayStation Network and Nintendo’s…wireless network interface.
Players can upload and download custom made songs from anyone in the world, then keep them on their consoles to play at any time. A music studio allows for the easy creation of music, and of course tracks can be uploaded through the console via USB flash drive or a home network. Uploading copywritten material is prohibited, but not illegal…it’ll just be removed through moderation, similar to Youtube videos.
Character customization is remarkably deep, but for anyone who just wants to jump right into the game, pick one of the Guitar Hero classic characters.
The progress and how-you're-doing meter is much smaller than the one in Rock Band, so try not to look at it. You'll miss notes if you do!
All of the 85 songs on the disc are master tracks, though several like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” are live recordings, which doesn’t exactly count.
Aesthetically, there is a huge difference between World Tour and Rock Band. Guitar Hero has always lagged behind with last-gen graphics, but now World Tour has stepped it up a notch with fluid, better looking models that provide a realistic, albeit punk feel. Characters move like they would and there is a performance that takes place on stage, with or without one of the many guest appearances made by popular musicians. Whether it looks better than Rock Band is personal preference, though the lack of color in World Tour makes it seem bland in comparison.
Popularity, however, may have gotten the best of World Tour. Most of the tracklist seems to be picked out of a best-of list Neversoft wrote up. While there’s nothing innately wrong with this, the flow of music, and the amount of each type of songs available on the main disc, has been very strictly maintained in Rock Band. In World Tour, it feels like Neversoft just put the songs they liked into the game and didn’t care about the flow necessarily.
This is best expressed as the game’s second largest fault, that being the ‘campaign’. Players, either alone or together in person or online, must complete sets of songs to progress instead of the standard one song at a time. At first this is a non-issue because there are only three or four songs in a set list, but over the course of the game the lists and songs grow longer. Completing one gig can take up to twenty minutes or more depending on which campaign you play through, and for many gamers this is simply too long. There is no choice in gaps, and players must complete the set list or any songs beaten will be disregarded and not saved.
The studio allows players to make their own music, but it'll take some time to really learn how to use. Just like a real music studio!
Like previous Guitar Hero games, you'll earn money, play at different gigs and buy specialty instruments and songs.
There are also various menu settings that make it on par with Rock Band 2, which we found several problems with. World Tour allows changing songs in a set list, but only allows up to six songs in a row (a number I’ve found more than plenty). Difficulty settings can be changed on the fly, not just when you fail a song (though of course, restarting the song is necessary). However, songs are not easier to navigate through or choose and, with no exception, the menus are never more aesthetically pleasing than Rock Band’s.
Guitar Hero World Tour doesn’t blow Rock Band out of the water. It does, however, hold its ground against the current leader in music games and introduces a wide array of new features. Anyone interested in music games owes it to themselves to at least try World Tour, if not picking up a copy with its better hardware.