Friday, November 14, 2008

VG review: Guitar Hero World Tour

Activision, for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360 and Wii. Rated T for Teen (lyrics, mild suggestive themes), Prices from $49.99 to $189.99.

It seems unfair to accuse “Guitar Hero World Tour” — the latest sequel in the uber-popular video game franchise — of jumping on the “Rock Band” bandwagon.

At the same time, however, there’s no question that it’s taken more than one page from that book. The formerly guitar-only game now allows up to four people to form a virtual band and play drums, vocals and bass as well as lead guitar. Even little tweaks, such as being able to extend your “star power,” seem directly lifted from its competitor.

Unfortunately, some of the things that make “Rock Band” so enjoyable aren’t present here. The basic “Guitar Hero” experience remains intact and fans of the series will have fun, but many of the new additions seem unnecessary or flawed.

Perhaps the best thing about “World Tour” is the excellent soundtrack, which features well-known tunes by folks like Smashing Pumpkins, REM, Jimmy Eat World, the Eagles and many others.

There are a few head-scratchers though. I’ll be hornswoggled if I can figure out what the heck Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” is doing here. Especially when the drum track consists of rapidly hitting the same drum over and over again ad nauseum.

Before I talk more about the new instruments, I should mention some of the guitar’s new features. It now boasts a “slider bar” along the neck, and when special transparent buttons appear on the screen, you can slide your finger up and down the neck instead of hitting the strum bar. It’s not as accurate a method though, and results in a lot of missed notes and frustration.

The drum kit adds an extra two pads to “Rock Band’s” four. They’re nice and feel more like a real kit, but they’re also a bit quirky. I had to hit them really hard to get them to react and they were very, very loud, making it difficult at times to hear the song.

(To Activision’s credit, it has made a drum tuner available for download. Unfortunately for Mac users like myself, it’s PC only.)

There are other problems. The menu interface isn’t the best, especially in the band section. It’s hard to tell when you’re playing with friends how well they’re doing. And you can’t bring other players back from failure using star power the way you can in “Rock Band.”

The most notable addition in “World Tour” is the ability to use the instruments to record your own tunes and upload them to the Internet. Though it offers a rich variety of tools to mess with, the interface is far from intuitive and you can’t record your own voice or lyrics, making the endeavor somewhat lackluster.

Still, “Guitar Hero” offers enough thrills and boasts a strong enough soundtrack to provide enough rock for your buck. There’s little question, however, that “Rock Band” is victor in the battle of the music games. At least for now.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2008


At 12:03 AM, Blogger MegoSteve said...

Rock Band drums have four pads. I thought it was Guitar Hero that only had three...

At 5:35 AM, Anonymous Angelina said...

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At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Angelina said...

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At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rock band has 4 pads for drums. Guitar Hero 4 has 3 pads for drums and 2 upper, elevated pads that act as symbols.

At 8:18 AM, Blogger Chris Mautner said...

I've been meaning to fix that for weeks and keep forgetting. Fixed now, thanks.

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