It’s a Battle of the Bands
When I first heard the Guitar Hero franchise was going to expand their horizons and add new band members to the formula, I was surprised. Until then, I thought everything was about the guitar in Guitar Hero. Even though its fierce EA / MTV / Harmonix competitor had offered players the chance to use drums and a microphone in addition to the already popular virtual guitar, I doubted the original music game franchise would be ticked enough to end up following their very steps.
Apparently, I was wrong, as Guitar Hero comes back this time around with a set of drums, a microphone, and of course, a new and sleek guitar design that is sure to please the masses. If you’re in the process of choosing between Guitar Hero: World Tour or Rockband / Rockband 2, get ready to read, because the decision is going to be difficult!
First of all, the instruments are very comparable. World Tour’s drum set is mostly made of plastic, it’s wireless, and it has a different, color-coded layout. The structure holds three main drum pads and two cymbals, which are already included with the game (as opposed to Rock Band, where the cymbals are sold separately). Even when playing on Easy difficulty settings, players will have to hit all five pads, in addition to the bass pedal. World Tour’s drum set is slightly quieter than its competitor, and it even has a nice nook where you can place the sticks when not using them. The soft rubber material used for the pads is close to ideal because, not only does it somewhat neutralize the extra noise, but it also provides a nice bounce. On the other hand, the kick pedal is not covered with a metallic plate (like Rock Band 2), but we haven’t had problems with it so far.
As far as the guitar goes, players will notice the new guitar has a nice, wood-like finish. It’s not exactly the same style as the one found in Rock Band 2, but it has a certain resemblance, which made me giggle when I first saw it. It’s as if these two developers were at each other’s throats and were using copycat tactics to get back at one another. I don’t have anything against that; I just thought it’d be funny to point that out.
Other than that, the guitar is actually very different. It continues to be a Guitar Hero guitar with the five fret buttons apart from each other, but it also has a newly-added, touch-sensitive slide bar on the neck. This is a nice added feature, but it’s not easy to get used to it. You can use the slide bar to perform “tap strumming” or hit “open notes,” which are notes with a purple line running through them. These notes can also be played with the regular fret buttons, without the need of using the strum bar. Since players won’t be forced to use the slide bar, I don’t think many of them will actually make the transition, but we’ll see. The new guitar also includes a couple of Start buttons and a nice Star Power button in addition to a joystick to be able to navigate through menus easily. The Star Power button is not here to replace the tilt activation. Instead, it comes as an alternative for those who always blame Star Power for making them miss notes. It may not work out for everyone, but it’s nice that the developers gave it some thought.
The microphone, as expected, is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s not even wireless, which I thought was a downside. It’s also quite difficult to become really good at singing in Guitar Hero: World Tour. No matter who was singing, none of us were able to achieve very high scores with it, even when playing on Easy mode. It’s true that none of us are rock stars to start with, but we still expected it to be a bit more forgiving.
On the other hand, playing guitar and drums is as great as always. Players will be able to hop on Guitar Hero: World Tour and play on their preferred difficulty setting without a problem. Even those drummers who are used to the Rock Band drum set will have an easy transition. Guitar Hero: World Tour also provides a calibration tool, which adjusts the game to your HDTV response levels in order to ensure a lag-free experience. We did notice some lag when playing drums on Expert mode in the Wii version, but we don’t know for sure if this will happen to everyone. This issue didn’t exist when playing the Xbox 360 / PS3 versions though, which is nice.
In any case, the Xbox 360 or PS3 versions are, no doubt, the better versions. The crisp high-definition graphics, the ample storage capacity, and the faster loading times make it a better experience all the way around. However, it’s not all bad news for Wii owners. Guitar Hero: World Tour for Wii is almost the exact same game and it’s just as fun! All three systems offer great online play, a music studio, track downloads, deep character customization (not as deep on Wii), the same great song list, the same cutscenes and animations, and more. This time more than ever, the Wii version hasn’t been left behind in terms of features and gameplay, which is awesome – it’s exactly what we were all looking for. Enough with making the Wii look weaker than it is!
Guitar Hero: World Tour includes several classic game modes and a few more. There’s Quick Play, Career Mode for both band and single-player, Co-Op play, Face-Off, Battles, etc. Career mode is perhaps not as complex as the one found in Rock Band, but it’s also different from previous Guitar Hero titles. You’ll have to play different gigs with the only goal to unlock songs and earn some cash. You’ll have to play the songs in a specific order, and you’ll only be able to reach the encore after beating each of the gig’s songs. Also, the tracks are not very well organized. They’re all listed in a random order and can’t be sorted by artist, album, etc. This doesn’t make it a bad game, it just seems like a bad choice, given the amount of songs already included on the disc and the ones people will end up downloading from the store. Another problem is the songs you unlock in different modes will only be available in those modes. Therefore, if you unlock something by yourself and then want to play it with your band on quick play, you won’t be able to do so.
My other (and biggest) complaint is you can’t save people when they’re struggling in band mode. In Rock Band, you can use your own star power to save your teammates. Here, the star power is shared by the whole band, and it’ll be up to the person who’s struggling to use the star power and hope that it lasts long enough to get through that awfully difficult part they’re going through. Unfortunately, this forces everyone to be very conservative with the star power, instead of each of them using it as they wish. Besides, star power is not always the answer, and sometimes the band will be forced to repeat the entire song due to one of the members’ single lapse. Frustrating!
It’s fun to break up from playing songs over and over in order to unlock extra tracks. Once in a while, players will feel like competing Head-to-Head and demonstrating their skills to one another by either playing the exact same track (Pro Face-Off) or alternating play (Face-Off). In Battle mode, you get special items by hitting spiky notes. You can throw these items at your opponent to cause some extra trouble. You can break one of their strings, up their difficulty level, break their whammy bar, etc. Whatever the case may be, the victim will have to deal with it and fix the issue before they can continue playing normally. Guitar Hero veterans should be familiar with this by now and should know how much fun it is.
If you’re not always in company of other people, you can just jump online. You can play any of those modes and even rock out with your very own online band. For the first time, people living in different locations will be able to have their own band and play cooperatively. If you prefer competition, two bands can also compete online head-to-head. All these extra features make Guitar Hero: World Tour really fun, both on and offline. Too bad the game wasn’t structured perfectly. A few tweaks here and there could have made it a real winner.
Another great highlight of World Tour is its soundtrack (of course!). Other Guitar Hero titles included too many older songs, and most often than not, they were rock and roll. Certainly, that’s the music genre of excellence, but most people enjoy other music styles as well. Fortunately, this was taken into consideration by the folks at Neversoft / Vicarious Visions, and Guitar Hero: World Tour sports an A+ soundtrack. There’s a great variety of songs of all ages and genres, including hits like Livin’ on a Prayer by Bon Jovi, Jane’s Addiction’s Mountain Song, Beat It by Michael Jackson, Float On by Modest Mouse, and many, many more. All in all, World Tour is packed with over 85 licensed music tracks, which equal a tremendous amount of entertainment. If you want to expand your track list, you’ll be able to do so as well. The Guitar Hero store will have new additions every week. This is available on the Wii as well, although the storage limitations of Nintendo’s sleek system may leave some players unsatisfied.
In addition, the new Guitar Hero has a nice Music Studio where players can create and edit their own tunes. You can use the guitar and drums to record separate tracks of your own music. You can do this by yourself of with the whole band playing at the same time. Either way, the separate tracks will merge together to create the next big hit. The guitar can even be used as a “keytar”, which is simply a virtual keyboard. There’s also a library full of sound effects and rhythms that will help you add some personality and originality to your songs. What’s more, players will be able to upload these songs to the GHTunes server. They will be able to download and rate other people’s creations as well. This means your Guitar Hero: World Tour library will grow in no time. The Music Studio isn’t very easy to use. Even after doing the tutorial, players will find themselves wondering how to press play, stop, rewind, etc. However, it should be something you get used to after a while.
The Wii version also includes the Mii Freestyle mode. You can select your Mii and rock out at your own leisure. It’s basically a simplified version of Wii Music, where you just choose your instrument and hit whatever notes you want. You can’t really save these tunes though. You’ll have to work on the Music Studio for that.
Finally, the Rock Star creator is also worth mentioning. It offers deep customization options, and it’s very user-friendly. Players will be able to express themselves by modifying numerous facial features, hair, body type, tattoos, etc. You can also dress them up to your liking with available clothes or buy new items with virtual in-game cash. Instruments are also customizable. There are tones of cool guitar, drum, and mic designs, colors, and finishes. To top it off, your band will not only sport a custom name, but you’ll also be able to pick from numerous choices and combinations in order to create your very own logo.
On the whole, it looks like Guitar Hero: World Tour has really succeeded as a rhythm game despite its few flaws. The newly added features like the music studio and GHTunes plus all the online modes make it a purchase worthwhile, as long as you’re willing to shell out even more cash for new plastic instruments (luckily, you can use the old Guitar Hero guitars). If you already have Rock Band or Rock Band 2, there’s not much of a reason to buy yet another music game. However, if you’re trying to decide between one or the other, the decision will probably come down to which one is your favorite “team,” except in the case of the Wii, where Guitar Hero: World Tour really outdoes Rock Band thanks to online play and the music store (Note that Rock Band 2 for Wii will indeed feature online play and DLC as well).
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Rockin’ visuals have the perfect vibe for this virtual band simulator. However, they look a bit fuzzy. 3.9 Control
The lower processing power of the Wii causes a bit of lag when playing in expert levels. Other than that, everything seems to work well. Menu interface is not ideal though. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music selection is awesome. While previous Guitar Hero titles included too many old songs, this one has the perfect balance between classic and modern, which is perfect for band play. 4.6
People who love music video games won’t get tired of this one. Not only does it include standard modes of play, but there’s also co-op, face-off, battles, several online modes, and a very compelling music studio that allows you to create and share songs with the world.
4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.