Guitar Hero World Tour
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9  |  Rock, Defined.
Dezoris , 11/2/2008 11:26:30 PM

At long last there is a musical “party” game that hits the Nintendo Wii without being devoid of features and fun. Guitar Hero World Tour delivers hardcore tunes not only for casual fans, but for the most avid rockstar. Although it is not without flaw, chances are you’ll find this is one of the best band experiences short of the real thing.

Gameplay: 8/10

The biggest appeal of any music game is its soundtrack and World Tour doesn’t disappoint. The full track list has been publicly available for some time now, but it was still fun to play through the career mode and see what gets unlocked next. The extensive variety of music ensures that there is something for everyone and even if you aren’t playing your favorite genre of rock more likely than not, you’ll still have a blast. Four words….Eye of the Tiger. In addition to the packaged songs, Wii owners now have the exciting opportunity to download additional content from Activision as well as the entire World Tour community. This, along with a complete recording studio, means that purchasing World Tour ensures an almost endless variety of new songs to jam with. But hundreds and hundreds of songs aren’t worth much if the game isn’t fun to play, so lets focus on the bare bones of Guitar Hero’s newest installment.

The full band experience is the other huge draw that catapults World Tour beyond the Rock Band realm. You can sing, play guitar, bass, and drums…all at the same time if you can scrap together a band. And don’t worry about cramming all those folks into your basement or living room because there is a vast online community that lets you form a band across the country. Guitar Hero makes finding people to play with almost effortless, so we can all focus on what matters…eternally rocking out! And in order to do this, you’ll have full access to a variety of customizable characters and instruments. In fact, you can spend hours tweaking nearly every detail of your musician and each of their four instruments choices. From entrance animations, to the knobs on your guitar, you’ll definitely walk onto stage feeling like yourself.

But choosing your band can still be an important cooperative decision because you’ll all need to perform well in order to succeed. Unlike Rock Band, star power in World Tour is actually collective amongst your band mates. At first, this sounded like a big problem, particularly because if one of your comrades does poorly enough to get dropped from a song, you cannot save them by using star power. Instead, the entire band will immediately fail the track. Again, this seems like a harsh and awkward way to put a damper of the fun and free-styling atmosphere of previous musical party games, but when you think about it, this actually makes sense. If one of your band mates sucks, you wouldn’t keep pulling them up during a performance...hell, you wouldn’t even let them in the band in the first place. It’s important that everyone carries their own weight and contributes to the success of the band. That said, you aren’t completely on your own in World Tour. Remember, star power is collective, so it means anyone can draw from it when the appropriate level has been achieved. Using this power strategically will prevent you from dropping out of a song and can really boost your performance when you start trailing behind. So rather than giving members the ability to be revived, World Tour encourages a more forward-thinking team-based strategy in which bands can benefit by giving star power to their weakest member (which will vary drastically from song to song) in order to maintain their performance.

The third biggest spotlight that World Tour has boasted with its new online community is the addition of a full recording studio and remixing interface. Although the learning curve is a bit steep, and the controls are harmed by oversimplification, the ability to lay down entire tracks with full instrumentation means that you’ll never run out of user-created content to download and share. However, along with this amazing opportunity, comes one of the biggest negatives World Tour has suffered from. It has been known for some time that vocals would not be included in the World Tour recording studio, presumable for copyright reasons, but just days before the games release, Activision confirmed that any attempts at cover songs would be immediately removed from the online community. This left many fans scream “WTF!?!?” But despite the apparent attempts at ownership and copyright protection, it seems like the only way you’ll be able to get some cool covers of your favorite bands is by exchanging SD cards and/or Wii systems in person. I’m not sure where this decision originated from, but shame on whoever the party may be because they obviously let Metallica get to them.

As mentioned in the introduction to this review, World Tour is not without issues. Although many of them are probably too small for the casual gamer to care about, a few seem like real noodle-scratchers that prevent World Tour from achieving that close-to-perfect rating. Perhaps the most noticeable is the overall HUD design. It feels a bit amateurly done and is laid out less intuitively than Rock Band, though not by much. Looking for star power is a chore because its no where near your line of sight while you feverishly hit notes whizzing by at 200 mph. Rock Band puts this information directly below your colored indicators which makes it almost appear as a sixth-sense for when you have it available. Granted, this isn’t possible with World Tour’s new collective star power engine, but you’ll find yourself relying on that lightning strike more often than you should. Taking your eyes of the fret board is often times too costly; and that’s a big UI issue. 

A second quirk is the difficult levels. Guitar Hero kicks Rock Star square in the whammy bar when it comes to more challenging gameplay. In fact, the most challenging medium track in Rock Band barely stacks up against the mildest easy track in World Tour. That’s not to say each and every song will follow that pattern, but more often than not I’ve become bored on the almost lame note progressions in Rock Band. World Tour simply will not give you that problem. In fact, you’ll experience the opposite because you’ll be too busy missing notes to wish it was more challenging. But that also leads us to the issue with World Tour…many of the songs seem to vary greatly within a single difficulty. Some tracks will literally have you playing twice the number of notes as others and often cause you to wonder if you somehow accidentally selected a different difficulty setting in between tracks.

Controls: 9/10

I’ll assume you’re all familiar with the basics of the Guitar Hero franchise, so let’s dive right into the new mechanics and instrumentation. All the band positions are fun to fill, though vocals seem to be the least attractive to a majority of players.

The new drum kit is solid and very satisfying to wale with its rubber-coated pads and dual high-hat cymbals. The only concern is that many of the songs will use a similar pattern of notes, regardless of the original track recording. Because of this, you’ll find yourself frequently hitting a cymbal when you should be alternating between two drum pads. I understand that the difficulty mode can play a factor in note selection, but even on Medium you’ll have to use all five pads and the foot pedal at some point. So iseems weird that they throw in two rare green notes when the rest of the song is bashing red and yellow. This common problem also puts the player into an uncomfortable trance, particularly in longer tracks, and makes it much more likely that you’ll miss those few renegade notes. 

The new guitar is nicely sized at about 25% larger than previous instruments. It has a longer, less-clicky strum bar as well as an extended whammy bar. These all make playing a little more pleasant and lend to the satisfaction of rocking out on stage rather than holding a toy controller. A new star-power button is included where you would normally rest your hand to palm mute, though the tilt-to-activate ability is still much more intuitive to use. Still, it’s nice to have the choice for both. The other new feature of the updated guitar controller is the tapping bar located directly below the standard five color buttons. This lets you tap during designated parts of solos and doesn’t require you to strum. This sounds a little cooler than it is because a lot of the songs happen too quickly for you to make a comfortable transition between the standard buttons and the tap bar. Nevertheless, with a little practice, this is definitely a sweet addition to the new controller.

Replay Value: 10/10

World Tour gives a new depth to downloadable content with their upcoming track releases and fully original online community content. Although there doesn’t seem to be a cool way of pulling in old Guitar Hero tracks like Rock Band offers, you probably won’t feel gypped because of all the new content that is available. And heck, even if there wasn’t any DLC, just being able to hook up and play online with friends makes for a nearly infinite number of good times.

Graphics: 8/10

Granted, the Wii version of World Tour suffers in the graphics department. But, if you are so shallow as to consider graphics a pivotal part of this series, I encourage you to hold the power button down on your computer for five seconds until this evil review disappears. And, in actuality, the Wii version of World Tour still looks amazing. Framerates never drop, edges are crisp and easy to look at, and the component cable will definitely be worth the money in the case of playing on a high definition television.

Music: 10/10

Song selection in World Tour is very satisfying and ideally will leave you excited to add more from selection available online. But even if you choose to never connect to the Nintendo WiFi, you’ll still be kept company by close to 100 unlockable songs that span nearly every great genre and musical decade.

Conclusion: 9/10 

I’m amazed that I could pull myself away from World Tour long enough to actually write this review. It truly is a fun experience solo or with up to three friends. And best of all, now those friends don’t even need to be in the same state. Although the price is hefty, if you haven’t purchased a musical game yet, or if you own a Nintendo Wii, Guitar Hero World Tour is absolutely a must-own.


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