Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 10/26/08 | Genre: Music
Guitar Hero World Tour is Activision’s attempt to counter the changes that Rock Band brought to the music genre. Instead of only including guitar and bass gameplay, players will now be able to form a complete band and sing, play drums, rock out on guitar, and strum away on the bass. To further distinguish themselves from the competition, Developer Neversoft has updated the visuals, added a touch sensor to the bottom of the fret bar, on the guitar, and created their own drum kit with an extra note. With all the changes made, does Guitar Hero World Tour have what it takes to beat out Rock Band 2?
Visually, Guitar Hero World Tour is a step above Rock Band 2. All of the characters in the game have a more realistic look than Rock Band. No matter what setting, the character models and environments feel much more authentic than the competition. Character models have a much more realistic looking features and don't seem quite as generic as Rock Band. Partially, this could be due to Guitar Hero World Tour using an upgraded game engine and Rock Band using an older engine. The biggest reason for the realism of Guitar Hero World Tour would have to be the customization of the characters. You can easily spend your first hour working on tweaking your character model and your band logo. There are options to select for opening and ending animations, losing animations, and you can customize your character from his head all the way down to their toes. While you can't customize the length of nose hair, that is about the only area location where you can't change the look of your character.
Opening the box of Guitar Hero World Tour, I was extremely excited to get my hands on the drum kit. Being a big fan of the drums in Rock Band and Rock Band 2, I couldn’t wait to see what Neversoft and Activision had in store for players. The kit is much more realistic than the competing platform—with two cymbals, yellow and orange, sitting above the three colored pads, red, blue, and green. Another different with this kit is that the foot pedal is not connected to the device and has a non-slick bottom. I had no issues with the pedal sliding at any point. Finally, the drum kit is a bit top heavy and the legs don’t feel as sturdy as Rock Band 2’s drum kit. This is minor and I never had the unit top over—even when rocking out at full strength.
The issue I did run in to, however, was that the drum kit was missing notes. This occurred when hitting the Red and Yellow notes at the same time during the gameplay. In addition, after a few play sessions, the Blue note was only able to register notes when hitting directly in the center. We were not alone with these problems and message boards all over the tubes of the Internet began to fill up with angry consumers. To give Activision credit, they were able to release a statement and fix for the issue by offering players a free USB Midi kit via Fed Ex. This kit allows users to connect their drum kit to a Windows XP or Vista computer while the drum kit is connected to the music creator mode. After this is done, the sensitivity can be increased for each individual button and foot pedal. Unfortunately, this did not resolve our issue. The drum kit is still missing Red and Yellow notes hit at the same time and the Blue pad is only hitting notes in the middle. All requests to get this issue have gone unanswered and at this point I am still waiting to hear back from RedOctane regarding this issue. I had hoped to have this resolved before this review was published but I suggest to use a different drum kit until these issues are all ironed out.
Speaking of other drum kits, you can use the ION Rocker and Rock Band 2 kits with Guitar Hero. However, the fifth note will not appear and the game will not allow for any drum tutorials. You will also be given a message to use the official drum kit for a more authentic experience. I really want to like the Guitar Hero drum kit but I am willing to forget about the “more authentic experience” if it doesn’t register my hits correctly.
The new redesign on the guitar appears to take all of the good points of the Guitar Hero 3 guitar and add a touch sensitive fret bar at the bottom of the neck. This allows for players to use this part of the guitar during certain parts of songs. Despite feeling slightly sturdier, the biggest drawback of the new guitar is the whammy bar. Being longer, the whammy bar consistently falls down and is always out of your way when you reach for it. Like the drums, the forums all over the Internet have been talking about this issue as well. Several “DIY” fixes have been submitted by users. But should users have to repair their own plastic instruments after spending $200 on an entire band kit?
Despite the hardware issues, the gameplay for Guitar Hero World Tour is very good. A big difference in this title, versus Rock Band and Rock Band 2, is that when you play through single player or with a group, the game has you complete a set list. Some set lists are two songs long but others are three, four, or more songs. After completing the set list, you will be given an encore that you are forced to play. Unfortunately if you have to quit in the middle of a set list, you will have to start it over. There are options to make your own set but this title is focused more on playing like a real band would play. Personally, I prefer mixing set lists with individual tracks—as seen in Rock Band and Rock Band 2.
When playing through the actual songs, I found that the icons and the way the note scroll down the screen were improved over Rock Band. In addition to this, the drum play is much more lifelike and quite a bit more fun than Rock Band. Then again, when you take away the fifth note, by utilizing the Rock Band, Rock Band 2, or ION Drum Rocker drum kits, some of the fun was diminished. But with all of the issues we experienced with the “official drum kit,” it probably isn’t worth the price of admission.
Okay, I admit that I have been a bit negative with the instruments in Guitar Hero World Tour. However, the support for these instruments is virtually non-existent and if customers spend upwards of $200 for a plastic instrument set, they should get some type of support for broken instruments. Regardless of this, not all is bad with Guitar Hero World Tour. There is a music creator mode in the title that allows for players to create and share their own songs. I am one of those players who would love to go grab new songs instead of making them. While this may be the route the majority of players take, Neversoft has included an awesome editor that allows to created any type of song and upload them to GHTunes for others to download. Due to the copyright infringements that are expected to take place, it is still up in the air as to how songs based off of tracks not in the Guitar Hero World Tour music library will be handled.
An issue I have found with GHTunes is the time required to load up individual tracks. Every track that you want to download or preview will result in a loading screen. If you choose to not download the track and go back to the list of available GHTunes downloads, you will be greeted with yet another loading screen. This interface is definitely version 1.0 and I do hope to see an improved interface or faster load times between screens.
Overall, Guitar Hero World Tour is a step in the right direction for the franchise. There are some user interface issues and hardware issues I would have preferred seen worked out before release. That being said, Guitar Hero World Tour features a great listing of songs, is compatible with most other plastic instruments, and can deliver a lot of fun. While I do recommend a purchase, I suggest sticking with your other instruments and picking up the game by itself.
Real Life Ratings
Guitar Hero World Tour is a title that is safe and fun for the whole family. That being said, you may want to monitor some of the lyrics to see if they are appropriate for your family. As a whole, you will be hard pressed to find a game that can be enjoyed by all ages. If your family enjoys music, Guitar Hero World Tour is an excellent purchase. I still recommend you use older instruments until the problems with the current ones are resolved. These instruments can be purchased from other music games and are sometimes even available used at retailers like Gamestop.