Third Time’s a Charm
Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits is the latest entry in the GH On Tour franchise. Rather than bogging young gamers down with tunes that were laid down back when their father was cool, the developers at Vicarious Visions put together a set list of modern hits that are sure to please. The devs didn’t stop there, however. The beloved Career mode for single-players has been retooled to include a branching progression that will have you bouncing back and forth from venue to venue, in an attempt to keep gameplay fresh.
Of course, streaming tunes between DS handhelds is still an option, as the creators were careful not to incorporate anything that might limit compatibility between distinct versions of On Tour. When all is said and done, this is another excellent addition to the series. If you were expecting something wildly different, you may be disappointed. Nevertheless, new material, improved sensitivity, and an improved Career mode are enough to keep portable shredders happy.
The most important addition to this version of Guitar Hero On Tour is, undoubtedly, the modern set list. The game includes 28 master tracks from artists such as Wolfmother, Coldplay, Modest Mouse, AFI, Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs, and The Kooks, just to name a few. All the tracks have been nicely compressed, and they sound pretty darn good through a pair of headphones. Moreover, the developers have done a great job of creating note tracks that nicely mimic the music; no matter which of the four difficulty levels you choose, you’ll quickly be immersed in the gameplay and feel as if you’re actually doing the rocking.
From a technical standpoint, the touch screen detection seems to have been perfected. As long as you’re strumming the strings between the virtual pickups on the touch screen, you should have no problem hitting every note. This also holds true for the Guitar Grip peripheral. It appears that all of the inputs were consistently registering even on Hard and Expert difficulty. While the On Tour games have always featured tight controls, they feel especially good this time around.
Another update to the title is that of the branching, non-linear gameplay progression found in the Career mode. Instead of just giving fans of the series a glorified set list, the developers tried to mix things up a bit during Career mode. They’ve done this through the incorporation of Opening and Headline Acts as well as Fan Requests.
Rather than just jamming your way straight through the five new venues in a chosen difficulty, players will now have to successfully navigate through three different song types. Play well enough during the Opening Act songs by accruing fans and you’ll open up Fan Request tracks. Fan Requests put specific stipulations on your performance. 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, completing a song with a minimum percentage while on lead guitar, or even attaining a certain whammy bar count. Successfully completing Fan Requests further increases your fan following, eventually opening up challenging Headline Act songs. Headline Acts, in turn, open up additional Fan Requests when successfully completed. Consequently, players will be bouncing back and forth between venues looking for new songs, garnering cash, and upping their fame all the while.
This branching path to stardom is a good idea, but I don’t think it necessarily keeps the Career mode from feeling stale. Fan Requests are indeed challenging and I applaud their incorporation, but in the end they don’t significantly change gameplay. Also, just because I’ve hopped back into an old venue for a new song doesn’t mean I’ve been reinvigorated. At the end of the day, you’ll still just be jamming out with your DS and a pair of headphones, regardless of how the game progresses. As such, make sure you’re getting Modern Hits because you’re interested in the song list, not because you’re looking for a fresh gameplay experience.
The multiplayer glory of the previous titles is still fully intact. As previously mentioned, the developers didn’t add anything new to it because of compatibility issues; the ability to stream songs from DS to DS is a feature they simply couldn’t afford to lose. Pulling of duets and duels is still great fun. Furthermore, the addition of new battle items or game modes perhaps wouldn’t have been particularly substantive anyway. So, I don’t feel as if an opportunity was missed.
The visual presentation, while nearly identical, has indeed been boosted a bit. The character models are sharper, the stages are more vibrant, and the items for purchase in the store are worth browsing for. Likewise, the set list is a strong mix of modern tunes that sound perhaps a bit better than they ever have. (A complete list of the songs found in the game can be seen after the feature.)
Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits is yet another solid addition to the franchise. Players looking for a new experience will have an improved Career mode to look forward to, but the changes aren’t significant enough to be considered game-changing. Really what you’re getting with this latest entry is improved input recognition, better song compression, and 28 new master tracks to jam to while on the go. In other words, it’s a tight package you’ve likely been longing for.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
The visuals have been improved, though only mildly so. 4.7 Control
The Guitar Grip and touch screen are nearly flawless. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The solid mix of 28 master tracks are appealing. Also, they’re well compressed to fit on the DS cartridge without suffering too much in terms of quality. 4.0
The revamped Career mode is nice, but it’s by no means revolutionary. In fact, this game is about as fun as the other excellent titles in the series, only more polished and refined.
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.