The gaming world has changed a lot in the past few years. Notably, it's become intertwined with the music industry thanks to the huge success of the likes of Guitar Hero and SingStar. We now have a multitude of companies competing for the rights to license artists' beloved tunes for each of their respective music touting. EA recently launched Rock Band on New Zealand shores - albeit a year after its North American release - so it comes as no surprise that Activision were eager to get Guitar Hero World Tour to our little land as quickly as possible. And whether we like it or not, the two games are both vying for our living room space, and will always be compared.
The next logical step in the Guitar Hero franchise was always going to be adding more instruments, and to its credit, you still instantly recognize this as a Guitar Hero game, but the added musical accompaniments fit in fairly well. The vocalist’s note sheets aren’t the best looking, and the star power and performance indicators are fairly simple, but these are the sorts of things that don’t particularly matter all that much in this type of game. It does feel like a re-arranged Guitar Hero 3 interface, but that’s fine with us.
Guitar Hero World Tour really pushes for you to get some friends together and rock out. Unfortunately, the game makes it unappealing to do so at times, with a somewhat clumsy interface when it comes to creating profiles and managing your rockers. Going through the effort of creating a band name and logo upon signing in for the first time, only then to be playing for the “band” belonging to the leader of the group – the person who pressed the button to go into the career mode – seems a little clumsy. It doesn’t particularly instill a sense of ownership in your characters, or band, as Rock Band does. The auto-save of each profile after every song can become quite tiresome as well.
The core gameplay is what really matters though, and World Tour does indeed rock. The tracklist consists of a good variety of new and old, and as a nice touch, all the tracks are master recordings. The songs offer a mix of those that are incredibly fun to sing, such as Livin’ on a Prayer and Eye of the Tiger, alongside tracks that are more suited to the guitar or drums. It can lead to some performances feeling a little lacklustre for some, but does mean that those songs that are tailored for your instrument really shine.
The Career Mode is similar to the past Guitar Hero offerings, but does feature a shiny new interface to access the gigs you have available. Offered in single player and band mode varieties, the career mode allows you to play through pre-defined sets, usually ending with an encore, and some feature in-game characters of well-known musicians including Billy Corgan, Sting, and Jimi Hendrix. Boss battles with Zakk Wylde and Ted Nugent feature in the single player version of the career mode.
This is a game for the statisticians. True to the previous Guitar Hero games, World Tour again breaks the song into many parts and provides stats for each of the players. Money earned after playing each song is also distributed to the players separately, with those that perform better and on higher difficulties receiving a larger share of the stash.
Another of the new additions that will be sure to please those that love tinkering around and content creation is the ability to create custom songs through the ‘Studio’. The huge amount of options allows you to lay down tracks with up to four people with the exact sound you want. The mode allows you to choose from various effects and keys for the notes, as you record your song directly by playing it, or by placing the notes. Once you’re happy with the result, you can upload the song to GHTunes, a central repository for accessing others’ content. It’s a really nice idea that should keep the game fresh once you’ve played through the set list a few times and tackled the downloadable content.
As mentioned earlier, this is visibly a Guitar Hero game. This is due, in part, to the art direction remaining largely unchanged from the previous titles. The characters we’ve come to know over the years are back, alongside a decently in-depth create-a-rocker mode. Starting with choosing a genre for the base template, the create-a-rocker mode allows you to customise the size and shape of the head, your hairstyles, outfits, and instruments. You can even customise specific parts of the guitar such as the neck and frets.
Guitar Hero World Tour is simply a lot of fun. It has the benefit of being familiar to those who have played previous Guitar Hero titles, and builds in the drum and microphone instruments pretty well. Time will be a deciding factor on the success of both the GHTunes and downloadable content, but the future is looking very good for the Guitar Hero world. Be sure to pick this one up for the holidays if you’re into the music rhythm genre, or are just having a few mates around.