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Home > Reviews

Guitar Hero World Tour


VGbeat score:
6 out of 10

Positives:
  • Some fun exclusive songs
  • Open notes for bass charts
  • Instrument/character creators
Negatives:
  • Lots of soundtrack overlap with RB
  • Terrible full band gameplay
  • Poor interface

Guitar Hero: World Tour marks the Guitar Hero franchise's first foray into the full band genre, a year after Harmonix put out Rock Band and launching beside the follow-up, Rock Band 2.  With that said, this game inevitably invites comparison to those games and while there are some things that it does well, much of it falls short of the standards established by the Rock Band franchise.

The Soundtrack 

Obviously, one of the most important features in any rhythm game is the track listing and if you've spent any time playing Rock Band you're likely to run into a serious case of déjà vu.  Of the game's 84 tracks on-disc, more than a quarter of them are available to play in Rock Band (including 9 tracks that are on the Rock Band 2 disc).  All of the songs are master recordings and despite the overlap there are some decent tracks in the setlist.  Michael Jackson's "Beat It," live renditions of "Purple Haze" and "Sweet Home Alabama," Filter's "Hey Man Nice Shot," and a trio of songs from Tool were the standouts when I played through the game.

Since the game's launch, Activision has generally copied Rock Band's approach to DLC, offering weekly downloads (usually of a 3-song artist pack) that can be purchased either in a pack or separately. There have been a couple of full albums (from Metallica and Oasis) but the track packs generally fall into the category of more songs from on-disc artists (Steely Dan, Motörhead, Hendrix, and Silversun Pickups) or region-specific packs (Europe & Australia).  However, none of the DLC that you have from GH3 will be available in GHWT and with one exception (Metallica's Death Magnetic) it appears that none of the DLC will carry over to future Guitar Hero games.

Gameplay 

If you've played previous Guitar Hero and Rock Band games then the gameplay here will be mostly familiar as not a whole lot has changed.  The standard round note gems from earlier Guitar Hero games are used for guitar, bass, and drums, and like Rock Band a horizontal line is used to indicate the kick pedal notes - the line is colored purple as opposed to Rock Band's orange line, though, which can result in it blending into some of the fretboard backgrounds.  A new addition to bass gameplay is the use of "open notes" where a horizontal line is used to indicate that you should strum while not holding down any frets; this essentially adds a 6th button and adds some variety to the bass charts. Some guitar charts now have progressive chords, where you start out by holding down one held note and then either strum or hammer on to other notes while keeping the first note held down. 

The guitar charts also sometimes feature see-through notes that are connected by purple lines - these can be played with the new guitar peripheral's touch pad (or on a Rock Band guitar can be played by just tapping notes without any strumming needed).  Unlike Rock Band's solo sections, though, these sections of notes often appear without warning and with what seems like no rhyme or reason - sometimes they appear for a tiny group of four notes and sometimes (but not always) they're used for an entire guitar solo.

The drums have an extra pad added compared to Rock Band's 4-pad drum setup - 3 drum pads and 2 cymbals.  If you use a Rock Band drum set, though, the note chart will automatically be merged down to 4 pads so you can play it with no trouble. The only other changes compared to Rock Band's drums are the star power activation and the addition of "freestyle" sections - when there are no drums in a song there might be some wavy lines on the track and you are scored for mashing on the drums.  It's somewhat annoying that it encourages you to fill otherwise empty sections of the song with a cacophony of drum hits, but you can ignore it if you want with no penalty.  Unlike Rock Band's drum fill method of activating overdrive, in GHWT star power is activated by hitting the two cymbals (or the yellow + blue pads on a RB drumset) simultaneously.  On the one hand this allows you to activate star power anywhere without having to wait for a predetermined fill section from showing up, but on the other hand hitting the two pads and not breaking your streak can be a very difficult task.  On many occasions I was able to hit both pads only for the game to think I was hitting extra notes, breaking my streak and not activating star power.

The vocals look very similar to those in Rock Band or Karaoke Revolution - the lyrics as well as the pitch you need to sing at scroll from the right while a marker on the left side of the screen measures what pitch you are currently singing. When you are hitting the correct pitch, the trail left by your marker will highlight in yellow.  At the end of a phrase, if you have hit enough of the pitch correctly then your streak will continue.  However, this is where frustration can set in - there is no sort of gauge or indicator as to how well you are doing in a phrase, so you will often find your streak breaking for no apparent reason.  Additionally, your percentage score at the end of the song is not based on what percentage of phrases you hit, but what percentage of all notes that you hit.  This means that if your pitch is off for a fraction of a second it's impossible to get 100% on a song - good luck getting those "100% a song in a full band" achievements.  Talky parts (like the entirety of the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep 'Till Brooklyn") are highlighted in red but instead of hiding the pitch for those phrases it is centered in the meter which can be confusing.

So, that is how all instruments play individually - fine on guitar, bass, and drums, and frustrating on vocals - but how do they come together in a full band?  Not good at all.  When playing in a full band, you have one strike before you're out - if any one member fails, the whole band fails and you don't get a chance to save them.  It's very difficult to figure out how you are doing in the song, since the only measures of your status are a tiny gauge in the upper left corner of the screen and the fact that your board (and your board alone) will flash red immediately before you fail.  Additionally, star power is pooled together for the entire band so you'll run into situations where you get to a hard part in the song and go to deploy star power to save yourself, but whoops! The bassist already used all of it up and you don't have anything left to use.  If all of this wasn't bad enough, you're forced to select your difficulty BEFORE picking any songs, so you have no chance to adjust it if somebody picks a song that's too hard (or too easy) for you.

Presentation 

Gone are the days of progressing through the game by playing one set at a time until you've played through all of the songs.  Now, you progress through the game by playing your choice of several sets until you've played through all of the songs in the game.  Yes, the game progression has not changed much from earlier Guitar Hero games other than the fact that you generally have several sets of songs to choose from at any given time.  All of the solo careers (including a bass career) and the full band career are identical in this respect - apart from shuffling the song order around for each instrument to match their difficulties.  Unlike Rock Band 2's more focused solo tour challenges, which cut each instrument down to just the songs that were fun to play on each one, you'll have to play through all 84 songs in the game on each instrument if you want to beat those careers.  Have fun playing through Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" on solo drums.

Each set takes place at a different venue, which are rendered in a somewhat cartoony style similar to previous GH games.  You'll play in some standard locations (a frat house, a nightclub, a recording studio) and some goofy ones (on top of an aircraft carrier, Valhalla), with some real-life venues thrown in for good measure (Ozzfest, the House of Blues, Times Square). In-game advertising is extremely prevalent, with dynamic billboards that update with new ads if you're connected online, and product placement in the various venues.  It's surprising that Colonel Sanders isn't a hidden character, seeing as how much product placement for KFC there is in the game.  In one venue there is seriously a giant bucket of KFC just sitting out in the middle of the crowd for no apparent reason.  Heck, the final venue, Times Square, is essentially a venue constructed entirely out of advertising (as true to real life as that may be).  One venue of note is the Tool venue (the only place that any of the Tool songs can be played in) which eschews the traditional "band playing live" setup and replaces it instead with trippy visuals using art inspired by the band.  All in all it's a very cool change of pace though it can be somewhat annoying that you have to play all of the Tool songs there.

The characters in the game include classic GH characters (including the return of Clive Winston!) plus unlockable real-life rockers and the ability to create your own characters.  You get more flexibility than Rock Band in adjusting facial features and you can buy different clothes to dress your characters up with.  Honestly, I didn't feel the need to create my own characters though because come on, you can already play as Clive Winston and you're not going to be able to create a cooler character than that.  The unlockable characters include Ozzy Osbourne, Travis Barker, Sting, and Billy Corgan, who all show up to play their songs that are included in the game.  

The characters' animations and on-stage antics are decent but compared to Rock Band's use of camera angles and filters it can look somewhat dull.  The drummer - while magnitudes better than the animatronic drummer from GH3 - still doesn't match up exactly with the drums in the song.  Additionally, each song uses pre-canned animations and camera angles, so the presentation of each song is going to be exactly the same the next time you play it.  It's amusing to see the singer moonwalk and dance around on stage when you play "Beat It" but you're going to see the same thing every time you play that song.

The on-screen HUD is similar to Guitar Hero 3's in that it still uses the same stupid "bulbs for star power/streak" method of conveying information.  It's still hard to see exactly how much star power you have at a glance, though it is nice to be able to see exactly what your current streak is at any given time.  After beating a song, the "You Rock!" animation that plays gets old after the first time you see it.

Other Stuff 

One major feature touted for this game is "GHTunes" - a recording studio-like feature that lets you record and upload your own songs for others to download and play.  This is novel in concept but falls flat in several places.  First, you can't record any vocals (likely due to copyright and file size issues).  The interface is incredibly complicated, so anybody other than the extremely dedicated player is going to have a very difficult time recording something that sounds halfway decent.  Finally, regardless of what you record, thanks to the samples it uses everything ends up sounding like a bad MIDI ringtone. Unless you're the kind of person that enjoys playing (or recording) MIDI reinterpretations of Final Fantasy music you'll just fiddle around with this for a few minutes and then go back to the regular game.

Online multiplayer is included with several modes - One-on-one guitar, bass, and drum battles, band quickplay, online band career, and "band vs band."  Good luck playing that last mode, though, because the matchmaking for any of these modes is so poor that the likelihood that you'll be online trying to join a game at the same time as 7 other people (all with the correct instruments so that each band has all of them) is slim to none.  

Closing Comments 

Guitar Hero World Tour is very disappointing.  There was a lot of potential here that is ruined by bad decisions and poor gameplay.  Honestly, the game does so many things wrong that Rock Band does right that you'd be best off renting this, playing the fun exclusive songs by yourself, returning it, and going back to Rock Band 2 for your full band & party needs. 

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