Guitar Hero: World Tour is coming October 27 to all three major consoles (Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii), and you probably know by now that “Guitar Hero” now focuses on guitars in name alone. World Tour is a full-band affair that adds bass, drums and vocals to the mix, much like that other game from EA. What, did you think Activision was just going to ignore it?
We recently traveled to Los Angeles to get some hands-on time with Guitar Hero: World Tour, and appropriately enough, the event took place at an actual recording studio. Much like the new song-creation mode in World Tour, this studio had knobs and thingamajigs everywhere. But rather than be overwhelmed, the studio — and the game — impressed us. (Click here for our Guitar Hero: World Tour Wii preview.)
First things first: the song list has already “leaked,” so there’s no use going over the track list in any great detail. I will say, however, that playing Steely Dan and Dinosaur Jr. was one heck of a lot of fun.
If you’ve played Guitar Hero, watched someone play Guitar Hero or imagined what playing Guitar Hero might be like, you probably know what playing this new iteration feels like. Although World Tour adds a slew of new features, it doesn’t reinvent the hard-rockin’ wheel. The new instruments work similarly to the guitar in the old versions, with the basic play mechanic still having players push colored buttons in the right order at the right time. Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t about change; it’s about being a badass … or something.
Just like Rock Band, the drums come closest to simulating their real-life counterpart, as the mechanic is exactly the same. Each colored drum part acts like one of the buttons on the guitar or bass peripherals. The drums on Guitar Hero: World Tour do seem a lot sturdier than Rock Band, though. The game accentuates this fact by offering bonus points for striking “armored notes” harder than regular notes. It’s a neat concept that allows you to both feel like a real drummer and shed some of that existential angst you’ve been carrying around for most of your adult life. Take that, girl who didn’t like me in middle school!
Singing also works exactly as you’d expect: words scroll underneath a pitch field, and you do your best to stay within the parameters of the song’s melody. Again, it’s just like “Rock Band,” but it’s also similar to “Karaoke Revolution,” and to be honest, I can’t think of any better way to do it, so change for the sake of change would have just been stupid. It works fine. The pitch monitor rarely fails, and most importantly, it’s fun. What more could you ask for? I guess it could magically make you sound like you’ve had years of voice lessons. World Tour does not do that. Stop whining and go embarrass yourself.
One minor quip with Guitar Hero World Tour on the Xbox 360 and PS3: None of the journalists in attendance could figure out how to cancel a player on the fly. So, if one of your band members leaves to go call his girlfriend or passes out due to alcohol poisoning, the game forces you to go back to the main menu and start a new session with three people instead of four. It’s only slightly annoying, and it’s very possible we just couldn’t figure it out. Game journalists aren’t rocket scientists, ya know.
Now, on to the new stuff. Besides the new instruments, Guitar Hero: World Tour offers a new skill level so your baby brother and crotchety old neighbor can get in on the act. It’s appropriately called the “beginner” level, and it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever laid hands on. And this coming from a total “Guitar Zero.” You can push any fret button or bang on any drum to get the desired result, sort of like those baby toys that sometimes hang out in doctors’ waiting rooms. But you as a skilled gamer don’t ever have to use this feature, and it seems like a good way to get the advancing horde of casual gamers to stop playing Pogo games long enough to give it a try.
There are some new additions to the peripherals themselves. The guitar features a touch sensitive pad just below the colored fret buttons. This lets you alter the sound of sustained notes and to occasionally forgo using the strum bar. It also has some functionality in the music making mode, which we’ll get to in a little bit. It’s a welcome addition that will go a long way to making it “feel” like real guitar.
Where Activision is really trying to create a “Rock Band killer” is with the “Advanced Studio” mode. This Mode is the coolest thing to happen to the music-game genre in years. It’s not Protools, but it’s getting there. For those in the know, it seems like Garageband, but with a bit less functionality. Granted, I didn’t have hours to tinker with it and make a masterpiece, but the interface seemed easy enough, and before long I had a simple beat with an accompanying riff. People should have all kinds of fun with this mode, and I can’t wait to see people’s songs online.
Graphically, Guitar Hero: World Tour holds its own, but really, do graphics even matter in these games? I mean, so long as it doesn’t look like Atari 2600, I’m cool with it. To that end, it doesn’t. The character-creation process seemed to have plenty of depth, and the options all look good, although to be fair, I didn’t spend too much time with it, because I didn’t want to hold up the line trying to figure out ways to make the most ridiculous looking, out of shape dude ever. Still, World Tour isn’t going to win any art design awards, although the user interface is a lot less cheesy than previous versions. Thank God.
I’ve yet to play Rock Band 2, but Guitar Hero: World Tour seems to offer several evolutionary jumps for the genre. And to those who would cry foul at Activision’s adoption of the full-band stylings of the Harmonix hit, please cancel your message-board accounts. More instruments are always good. There’s a reason there isn’t a “Coffee Shop Folk Guitar Hero,” and it’s probably the same reason you hide your Jewel CDs when people come over for a visit. Not to mention Harmonix lifted more than their share from Activision back in the day. And, most important, both franchises are really just DDR for lazy people. Luckily, I’m lazy as they come. I play DDR with my hands, and even that pathetic amount of movement makes me run for the nearest burger joint. OK, OK…I walk slowly for the nearest burger joint.
Guitar Hero: World Tour has no significant problems to speak of, and in fact, the game managed to wildly entertain everyone at the recording studio, ourselves included. This could have just been the effects of the alcohol, but we’ll probably all be drinking when World Tour ships this fall, so that seemed like a pretty good barometer of the game’s success. See you at rehab, Guitar Hero style.
— Lawrence Bonk