The rise and rise of the music game rolls on. After a somewhat auspicious start, the joint powers of Rock Band and Guitar Hero seem to be slowly taking over the world: the plastic guitars have now been joined by drums and microphones, and hugely popular bands – including the Smashing Pumpkins and Def Leppard – have taken to releasing their singles in the game. Now that’s progress.
The latest Guitar Hero game, dubbed World Tour, is surely the most important in the series’ lifespan. After the emergent threat of Rock Band, with its numerous instruments, Neversoft has struck back by, well, copying them. It’s really the only way they could have gone, though, so it’ll be interesting to see if the original game can reclaim its crown.
Luckily, first impressions suggest that it can. Boot the game up and you’ll be confronted by a mixture of the new and old. The major new feature is the music creation suite, the Music Studio. While it’s not the most intuitive part of the game – it’s the most complex, for instance, but you can’t use the control pad – give it time and it’ll become one of the deepest and most enjoyable. You’re presented with dozens of instrument sounds that run the gamut from folk to heavy metal, and it’s up to you to do with them what you will.
Re-create your favourite song and see how long it’ll take before the mods remove it from the online service, GHTunes, or invest a shred-tastic masterpiece and see it climb the online leaderboards. There’s already a huge number of songs available for download and, if you invest some time in learning about its intricacies, it’s an excellent addition that adds another level of depth and complexity to the Guitar Hero experience.
The career mode is, of course, familiar to most Guitar Hero players. It’s been expanded somewhat, though, with the inclusion of the new instruments and a few new characters to play, as well as an area that lets you craft your own rock star. With 86 songs to wade through, there’s a lot to do: tracks are organised into gigs with between 3 and 6 songs in each, with venues all over the world. You can play the career mode as single-player or as a band, and you don’t have to have a separate career mode for each difficulty now – if you’re struggling with a particular tune then you can simply drop the level down a notch and ace it. It makes progression through the game far easier, but surely robs World Tour of the challenge of practising and finally nailing the song after the fifteenth try. It’ll be less frustrating, sure, but could also be less rewarding.
The quick play mode has seen a revision. Instead of picking individual songs, you can choose a set of up to six tracks and play through that. It’s a better way of doing things than going back to the song list and choosing every time. Another nice feature is variable difficulty levels, If you’re playing with a band, then each player can choose their own difficulty level rather than letting them struggle, making for a more enjoyable experience.
And then there’s the track listing. It’s been well-publicised and will depend almost entirely on your own tastes. What everyone can agree on, surely, is the presence of several stone-cold classics, both older and more recent. Who can deny that Hotel California, Dammit, Mr Crowley, Livin’ on a Prayer and many, many more will be anything but lots of fun to play?
While the changes so far have been somewhat mixed, the career mode is easier, for instance, but the inclusion of GHTunes and the studio are fantastic – playing the game is as good as ever. Old hands will notice subtle differences in the note charts; chords seem slightly more varied but easier to play, although occasionally you’ll wonder why there isn’t a chord in an obvious spot – see The Middle by Jimmy Eat World for what I mean – they’re mostly spot-on. They’re accurate, reflect the music well and represent just the right level of challenge and will prove a huge success with almost everyone.
We haven’t mentioned the instruments yet, and that’s because we simply haven’t had a huge amount of time with them yet. A preview a couple of months ago revealed several things: the guitar is slightly bigger, more robust than the last one, and slightly better to use. And the new inclusion, the sliding pad high on the neck, adds another layer of depth to proceedings. The drums are better laid out than those in Rock Band and, again, far more robust, Pressure-sensitive pads and a better overall feel contribute to a better experience. Belting out vocals is just like SingStar. Neversoft has evidently decided that if it ain’t broke you shouldn’t fix it. We’ll update the review as soon as we can get our hands on the instruments and have an extended session.
Nevertheless, our short time with them – and our longer playtest of the game itself – reveals several things: a stellar track listing, the same fantastic gameplay, the excellent new music studio and a huge amount of potential. Add in the fact that the new instruments – from our limited playing – seem better than its rivals and it’s clear – if you’re going to buy one music game, get this one.