Oops, that should be World Tour. Oh well, I guess it’s still applicable; after all, there’s a certain feeling you get within the first five minutes of playing a Guitar Hero game that niggles at your mind. It’s the realisation you’re standing in front of a TV holding what appears to be a Fischer-Price toy, twaddling in time with some notes going down the screen. Any little doubts soon fade away, though, and you enter a period of delusion I like to call “True Rockstar Status”, where you actually become convinced you are an actual Guitar Hero, and even start singing along or waving to your fans. I’ve considered using Guitar Hero as a way to impress chicks, but I imagine it wouldn’t turn out as well as it does in my mind. Anyway, onto the topic of tonight: Guitar Hero: World Tour is the fourth full game to come from the famous series, though not actually the fourth game overall. That doesn’t really matter though. So…
Ever since Rock Band (developed by those scalliwags in charge of Guitar Hero 1 & 2, as well as the Rocks The ’80s expansion) was released, it became clear mere guitars weren’t going to sell games anymore, and thus the arms war of music-rhythm games began. Rock Band got off to a good start, but has been largely ignored in Australia since its release in November of 2007, as the game hasn’t come out in Australia for a fucking year later. I think largely on that I’ll be ignoring Harmonix’s release, and stay happy and satisfied with GH:WT. And satisfied I am, for I can easily say this is the best game in the series to date. I know, I know, as a reviewer I’m expected to say that, but this game really exceeded quite a few of my expectations. Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?
A music game lives or dies based on its setlist. Consumers today expect real songs (not covers) that translate easily onto notes, and also encapsulate the rocker aspect (or in this case, the feeling of being in a band). World Tour seems to carve its niche in all audiences, using a wide range of songs that I’m sure at least one of will appeal to everyone. I did notice, however, a particular propensity for heavy-rock (Or even *gasp* Metal songs!), so if you’re after an easy ride, you’ll be disappointed by the thrasho songs. There are quite a few classics that will no doubt be replayed time and time again, with songs-even-70s-children-will-like including Hotel California or Band On The Run (If you don’t know it, look it up). It’s got quite a few songs that stick to you, from Blink-182′s Dammit with its distinctive riff or Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle, with a chorus that can get anyone born in the 90s singing along. That isn’t even to mention the possible wealth of downloadable content already trickling onto the online store. If you’re a fan of Metallica, you’re in for a treat (or not), as their new album (Death Magnetic) is available for download. Failing that, songs like Jesse’s Girl or even Another Way To Die will keep the party going for as long as you can afford it.
Keeping the arms war analogy, Harmonix and Neversoft must have two different research teams building increasingly more powerful peripherals. Hopefully this will continue until the two companies actually do break out into war, and I think I speak for all of us when I say “I look forward to two geeks bashing each others heads in with plastic guitars”. Anyway, the point is is that the peripherals of World Tour and Rock Band are at times eerily similar, and at others eerily different (right…). The biggest difference in the two setups are no doubt the drum kits. Rock Band was criticised by people with no life for not mirroring a drum kit in perfect correlation, whilst everyone else happily banged along in joyful bliss. It seems the drones at Neversoft have had the chance to learn from Harmonix’s mistakes, and the drum kit packaged with World Tour matches a real drum kit a lot better. You have 6 notes in all on a drum kit in WT: 3… Normal drums… 2 cymbal thingies… and a foot pedal. The whole thing seems pretty sturdy, and is obviously built to take a bit of a beating. Unfortunately, the thing is still riddled with some design bugs, as my cymbals are occaisonally unresponsive. I did a bit of home-tuning this evening though, and they seem to be working okay for now. In any case, having not experienced Rock Band‘s guitar I’m not authorized to comment on the difference, but I can say World Tour‘s guitar is an improvement over GH3. The whole thing feels sturdier and weightier and helps the illusion of playing a guitar, and the widened strum bar is a suprising massive improvement. There is also, of course, the touch bar (I’m pretty sure that’s not its real name; it makes it sound like an awesome tavern), built for even more “Real Rocker” moments. Basically, certain notes in certain songs can be played just by sliding your fingers along the bar, and feeling incredibly smooth whilst doing it. So the guitar and drums appear to be pretty well made. As for the microphone… To tell the truth, there’s no way to fuck up a microphone. I just want to see the next step taken and make the damn thing wireless; something that will help set up my concerts more effectively in future.
There’s a lot of little and not-so-little touches that help the whole World Tour experience. I should mention the fact that this Guitar Hero is not, in fact, sponsered by any one guitar manufacturer. It’s a big change, as it means you’re no longer stuck with the reasonably bland, untouchableGibson designs as seen in the last game. It helps facilitate a great degree of customization, as you now have the ability to build your own guitar. Choose your own body shape, headboard and so on, and go w ild with the designs. I’ve already made a guitar to call my own, and I like to think it’ll be a worldwide-recognised symbol of ROCK. The possibilities truely are amazing, especially when coupled with the Bass and Drum customization options (there’s one for mics, too, but the options are rather… limited). I’ve spent quite a great deal of time making my own axes, and as long as I keep getting designs I’ll keep swapping them around. Ooh, that brings me to another great part of the game. After so long of having to use rockers thinly disguised by having their names changed, you finally have the option of making yourself (or at least, someone you want to be). First you pick an “attitude”, ranging from Rock or Pop to Black Metal or Classic Rock. The changes are purely cosmetic and don’t affect your playing, just what actions your character does whilst onstage. The real fun comes in customizing your clothing or using the extensive tattoo system to deck out your Hollaback Girl (ahem) in some sweet threads with an eagle on her back. Not that I do that, of course. There’s a lot of other little things that keep the game fresh; or at least, not frustrating. I’m not going to give them a seperate paragraph, so here they are: The ability to line up a setlist, so you don’t have to choose a new song one at a time; the changes to your concert venue during encores, which can include accidentally lighting a banner on fire above your band; and last (but certainly not least) the epic – and I mean epic – music creation studio. I mean, this thing is in-depth. Theoretically, you could produce whole new songs on this as effectively as a slightly-crippled guitar, and already people have no doubt started posting knock-offs online. Me, I’m waiting for a recreation of the B-52s’ Rock Lobster. Then I’ll make a red lobster guy with a lobster guitar to play it on.
So yeah, World Tour is pretty good, assuming you have the friends or family to play it with. Although the set list isn’t exactly ideal, there’s a great list of downloadable content already on its way. The peripherals may occaisonally act up, but it’s not something liable to damage your overall enjoyment. That’s not even mentioning the massive creation aspect, coupled with the create-a-rocker/guitar/drum kit/bass facilities. Frankly, the customization options make this game more than just another Guitar Hero or Rock Band knock-off, and help give it wings as a game of its own. And what a game.