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Guitar Hero: World Tour

This may seem a little abrupt but I want to start this review by talking about the instruments you’ll receive with Guitar Hero: World Tour, the fourth instalment in the ever growing music franchise. Their quality won’t come into the final score in any shape or form since they aren’t necessarily required to play the game – if you wanted you could use the Rock Band instruments or any of the guitars from previous Guitar Hero titles – I just figured it was common courtesy to at least tell you about them. It is, after all, quite a lot of money to spend on one game.

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This is the first time that Guitar Hero has opted to include more than just the guitar. Obviously Rock Band from Harmonix – previous developers of Guitar Hero – have had success building on the music game genre by incorporating drums and a microphone, and now Neversoft have followed suit on World Tour.

First up is the new guitar; an improvement over previous editions. Straight away you’ll notice it’s the largest one yet, more closely resembling the size of a real guitar. The button layout is also much improved with the star power button being located under the strum bar, along with the start and back buttons. The big new addition, however, is the touch-sensitive pad located on the neck below the normal fret buttons. In context-sensitive situations you can use the touch pad to play notes by either tapping the coloured note – like you would with the normal fret buttons – or by sliding your finger across it. You can also use it to strum, simply by tapping it when necessary. It adds a new dimension to play but it’s not really something to get overly excited about. It can take a while to get used to, and since the pad is flat, with no bumps, it’s sometimes quite hard to tell where your fingers are located. I preferred just playing normally and using the pull-off and hammer-on techniques when playing in these context-sensitive situations, but it’s all personal preference really. It’s a nice new addition to match Rock Band’s solo buttons, but it could do with some work.

Next are the drums. Of course the two big new features here are the additions of cymbals and an extra pad – making it five, along with the bass pedal. The two cymbals are placed higher than the three other pads making the drum playing experience a lot more realistic than what we’ve seen before. It’s great fun crashing down on them and I severely missed the orange pad when using the World Tour drum kit on Rock Band. The bass pedal seems pretty sturdy, although sometimes the sensitivity on the other pads is all other the place; one time you’ll have to hit them as hard as you can to get a note out, whilst other times you can gently touch them. But other than that this is a quality piece of kit. It’s easy to assemble and then fold away again for storage, and the cymbals definitely make this the best kit out there.

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And lastly we have the microphone. There’s not much to say about this, it’s what you expect. The only downside to it is that you need to connect a controller to use it in order to navigate menus, and so forth. It would have been much easier if they added buttons to the actual microphone; but this is a small gripe really.

But now, let us move away from the instruments and get into the meat of this review, the actual game. Guitar Hero: World Tour maintains the excellent gameplay we’ve come to know and love over the years. No matter what difficulty you play on there’s buckets of fun to be had here; it’s as good as it’s ever been. No, actually, scratch that; now it’s even better. Add in the full band experience and it’s improved ten-fold. But, of course, you already know that; there’s no way they could go backwards. It’s the new features that define it.

Guitar Hero: World Tour maintains the excellent gameplay we’ve come to know and love over the years.”Firstly, World Tour has moved away from the monotonous old system of playing song after song until you unlock a new tier of more difficult songs to play. Instead it’s opted for a gig approach, making you play two or more songs, along with an encore, to complete the gig and unlock more. But, once again, it’s a monotonous process. Obviously it’s still fun playing all of the songs and working your way up, but there’s nothing here aside from that. There are no randomly selected special challenges, or even anything that involves an actual band. Instead the only interactivity you have is naming the band and then playing the songs. Sure it works, but it’d be nice to see a little more variety.

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To spice things up, however, there are a few cameo appearances from well known figures in the music industry. From Hayley Williams of Paramore fame, to Ted Nugent – and his buffalo – and even Ozzy Osbourne. It’s a lot more entertaining playing the game when you have these personas on screen perfectly realised along with their brilliantly motion captured signature moves. They do, however, look a little odd when compared to the other cartoon-like characters on stage.

The character creation is a useful tool though. There’s a lot of depth to it that we have yet to see in a music game, allowing you to go in and edit things like the size of a nose, or the look of someone’s eyes. Apart from that though, there aren’t too many hair style selections, and the clothing range is a little limited – if you want normal clothes anyway; the place is chock full of crazy, spiked metal spandex if you’re into that kind of stuff. It’s fun to play around with though, it’s just a shame you can’t create a whole band when playing solo.

But the complete band experience is mainly what the game’s here for, and the set list represents that. There’s a nice variety of different music for fans of all genres, and they showcase songs that are fun to play as a band or when playing alone. There’s the tracks full of gut busting guitar solos and slick bass lines to mesh with the frantic drums, along with those that are specifically there just to make the single player more enjoyable so that you don‘t need a whole band to get the most out of it. It’s a good mix of the two that doesn’t compromise one over the other.

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“There’s a nice variety of different music for fans of all genres, and they showcase songs that are fun to play as a band or when playing alone.”It’s not as strong as it could be though. It’s great that every song is a master recording, but there are a lot of forgettable songs in there, and the choice of foreign music is a strange decision. Normally this would be fine if it was just a guitar game, but obviously World Tour also has vocals, and trying to sing a song you don’t know that just so happens to be in a different language is a tough task. On the other side of the spectrum there are also some legendary additions. The fact that they managed to get Jimi Hendrix is a major coo, especially when the video game alliteration of Jimi appears on stage as well. It’s definitely a jaw dropping experience. Add to that songs from Metallica, Motorhead, Dream Theater and even Michael Jackson, and you’ve got a good mix of stand-outs as well; there just aren’t as many as one might hope for.

The presentation also favours the downside. Most of the menus are pretty boring, and I wish the songs in quick play were sorted by difficulty, like it used to be. I can’t falter the looks when it comes to playing the game though. Everything looks very similar to Guitar Hero III with some subtle changes here and there to make things easier to read; although the same cannot be said when playing with a band. You can’t tell if someone is failing unless you actually look at their highway, and it’s difficult to see how much star power you’ve all accumulated. There’s also no way of rescuing someone if they fail, everyone just fails. And with no way of turning on a ‘no fail mode’, it can’t always be the friendliest of games.

And the same can be said for some of the songs on higher difficulties. You always expect them to be challenging, and that’s not a bad thing, but Guitar Hero has a habit of adding notes where there shouldn’t be any; making things overly difficult. It’s a gripe only music purists will notice, but it is there and can seem a bit harsh, and even disrupt the otherwise enjoyable, loose way of playing the game.

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Guitar Hero: World Tour is a solid effort. New additions like the tap-pad and slap bass for the bass guitar – a single line across the highway where you only strum – add a new way to play, and, more importantly, add a new challenge for those who think this genre might be becoming stale.

“Playing in a band creates a whole new party-atmosphere-experience that you must try if you haven’t already.”The impressive sounding music studio is a bit of a disappointment – being overly complicated and only producing ringtone-type songs – but a decent set list, enjoyable, and improved, guitar duels and a wealth of celebrity appearances make this a complete package. And I know I’ve avoided comparing World Tour to Rock Band 2, but at this point I don’t think I can last any longer. The simple fact is that World Tour tries to do a lot of things that Rock Band 2 simply does better. They’ve got the fundamentals down, so hopefully we’ll see Neversoft build and improve upon it in the future. But in it’s current state World Tour is still a good buy; the gameplay has maintained its rock star status, and playing in a band creates a whole new party-atmosphere-experience that you must try if you haven’t already. I hate to end on a cliché but it‘s too tempting.

For those about to rock, we salute you!

8 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @richardwakeling.

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