And the Songs Keep Coming
May 8, 2009 – Activision was kind enough to send us an advanced copy of their upcoming handheld music title, Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits. After blazing through the preview code, portable rockers will be happy to know that Modern Hits is every bit as addictive and satisfying as its predecessors, but it serves up a heaping helping of contemporary tunes that are sure to please the target audience.
If you’ve played any of the previous versions of On Tour, then you’ll know exactly what you can expect from Modern Hits. If you haven’t, let me give you a quick tour. The Guitar Hero On Tour titles are played by inserting a nifty fret board peripheral into the DS or DS Lite’s GBA slot and turning the system on its side (sorry DSi owners, these titles are not compatible with your shiny new toy). The On Tour controller is quite satisfying to use even though it only sports four buttons; this makes the game significantly less challenging than its console cousins, but it does a remarkable job of replicating the Guitar Hero experience on the go, nonetheless.
Like any other Guitar Hero game, notes stream along in time to the music. Players have to correctly depress the buttons while strumming the touch screen with their standard stylus or the built-in guitar pick stylus. Players can play either alone or with friends via DS Wireless Play. Both play modes are extremely fun and work exceedingly well, whether you’re working on a lead guitar solo, transitioning into a bass line, taking on a buddy in Battle mode, or getting together and perfecting a duet.
Armed with that knowledge, know that Modern Hits seems to be nearly identical to its predecessors. There are a few areas that do represent a significant departure, however. For starters, button and strum inputs seem to be much more readily recognized this time around. We’ll have to wait and see how this ends up in the final copy, but if the preview code is this good, the retail copy should be flawless.
Also, Vicarious Visions has mixed up the single-player Career just a bit. Now, instead of just hammering through songs to get to the next venue, players will also have to complete fan requests. The Fan Request mode can be considered a series of side-challenges. For example, just getting through a song isn’t good enough. You’ll have to meet specific fan challenges such as attaining a certain note streak while jamming through the bass line, or completing a song with a minimum percentage while on lead guitar. This addition is supposed to vary play, but I found it to be a bit tiresome. However, I’ll reserve judgment until given the completed copy. As you might expect, players will be rewarded with an ever-growing group of fans for performing well on the set tunes and then completing at least a handful of the fan requests. Once you’ve reached the fan quota for a certain venue, you’ll then be able to move on and up to a bigger, more challenging stage.
Finally, the greatest difference in Modern Hits is alluded to by its name. The game sports a set list that contemporary gamers are sure to enjoy. Unlike the original On Tour and Decades, Modern Hits focuses squarely on tracks cut within the last few years. Featured songs include Wolfmother – “Dimension;” Coldplay – “Violet Hill;” Lenny Kravitz – “Where Are We Runnin'” Evanescence – “Sweet Sacrifice;” The Strokes – “Reptilia;” The Bravery – “Unconditional;” Fall Out Boy – “This Ain’t a Scene;” Weezer – “Everybody Get Dangerous;” The Kaiser Chiefs – “Ruby;” 12 Stones – “Adrenaline;” Tenacious D – “The Metal;” Atreyu – “Falling Down.” The entire set list will include 28 songs in all. Streaming play between multiple DS systems is still available, so if you or your friends own the other games, there is the potential to access up to 80 tracks.
Unfortunately, though multiplayer will be a big part of Modern Hits, the preview copy we received had this portion of the title locked out. We’re not sure if the coding is sharp enough yet, or, more likely, if there are a few hidden surprises Activision is not quite ready to reveal. Nevertheless, I can tell you that the visual presentation appears sharper than ever – the developers are really getting a hang of the DS. Additionally, and more importantly, the fidelity of the songs is extremely sharp. Of course, a punked-out squirrel still gives players the proviso that the experience is greatly improved with headphones, but I was surprised at just how crisp and loud the tunes were out of my DS Lite’s speakers.
All in all, we had a solid first impression with Guitar Hero: On Tour – Modern Hits. We found there to be a bit too much repetition due to the inclusion of Fan Request mode, but the presentation and contemporary tact should outweigh any shortcomings. Check back with CheatCC for our full review of the retail version of the game before it hits store shelves on June 9, 2009.