Last year it seemed like everybody was arguing about which game was going to
be better - Rock Band or Guitar Hero III. While I enjoyed both games, a
year later there is a clear winner in my living room. Thanks to the four
person multiplayer, the drums and the ability to download hundreds of songs,
I cannot deny that for me Rock Band was the better game. That's not to say
that Guitar Hero III wasn't a fun game, but it's hard to compete against a
game that is offering weekly songs and four-player support.
But hey, who cares about what happens in the past? This year the war starts
all over again with the release of Rock Band 2 and Guitar Hero: World Tour.
I was able to spend some one on one time with Activision's newest Guitar
Hero game at this year's Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle, Washington. And
while I still have some reservations about the multiplayer functionality and
the downloadable content, I can certainly say that I came away from this
Despite its name, Guitar Hero: World Tour is about more than just the guitar
this time around. Like Rock Band 1 and 2, World Tour adds singing and
drumming to the mix. On top of the new instruments, World Tour also
includes a deep song creator, a few new gameplay modes and a renewed
dedication to downloadable content. Unfortunately I wasn't able to test out
any of that stuff, but I was able to sit down (and stand up) with the game
for a solid half hour and enjoyed every minute of it.
Seeing as the game is called Guitar Hero, I felt it only natural to spend
some time with the brand new guitar. Unlike the last few fake plastic
guitars, this brand new guitar isn't modeled after a particular guitar.
Instead it's just your average looking guitar, a bit bigger and a little
sturdier, but a generic heavy metal drum nonetheless. The biggest
difference to the guitar has nothing to do with its size, but rather the
strange touch strip thing that fits directly under the five fret buttons.
This strip is used to link notes together, all done without strumming. On
paper that sounds pretty cool, but I found linking the notes to be
needlessly difficult. I also didn't see the point; it was just as easy to
press the buttons. And it's not just easier; it's also more accurate to do
it that way. Maybe if it added extra points or something it would make more
sense, but as it is it feels like it's a novelty that most people won't even
After trying out the new guitar I decided to move on to the drums, which
appears to be where all of the research and development went. Let me tell
you, the Guitar Hero: World Tour drum kit is nice ... easily the nicest set
of fake plastic drums I have ever used (and that includes Rock Revolution's
Lucky Charms drum kit). Instead of giving you a row of four rubbery things
to smack, you get three big pads and two cymbals. I was amazed at not only
how natural this set-up felt, but also how much like a drummer I felt like
while smacking them about. Even on my first go everything came together, I
didn't have to get used to the new equipment or anything. Unless Activision
drastically changes the drums between now and the late October release, this
Guitar Hero: World Tour drum kit is the one to beat.
For the most part everything else is exactly as you would expect it. The
interface looks a lot like that of Rock Band. No, scratch that, it looks
exactly like the interface in Rock Band. Then again, with four different
instruments (guitar, drums, bass and vocals) it's hard to rearrange the
set-up. The music was a nice mix of new and old, including Bon Jovi's
Livin' on a Prayer, Interpol's Obstacle 1, and No Doubt's Spider Webs. Some
of the stand outs included Float On by Modest Mouse and the Foo Fighters'
Everlong (which is also featured in Rock Band 2). All of the music is from
the original artists (and some of the tunes were actually re-recorded for
Guitar Hero: World Tour). The soundtrack was nice; however I still need to
see the rest of the 80 song line-up before I pass judgment on the song
Unfortunately I did notice a few weird quirks that may or may not be major
issues. One thing I noticed is that when one person fails out, everybody
fails out. In Rock Band when one person fails it's up to one of the other
musicians to jump in and perform an "overdrive" move that instantly
resurrects the fallen player. This may not sound like much, but it brings
the players together in a supportive role, which makes you feel even more
like a real band. Unfortunately this is not the case with Guitar Hero:
World Tour ... at least, not in the mode I played.
It was also unclear what kind of story mode there was in the game. The
brilliance of Rock Band is the "world tour" mode, which had you performing
different sets all around the world. While it was a simple mode, this one
feature added so much replay to the overall title. Heck, to this day my
band and I are still working our way through the world tour. I would hate
to see this Guitar Hero skimp on the single and multiplayer story modes.
Nobody wants another boring list of songs that you play in a particular
order, we want to be able to earn fans and customize our characters with the
money we've made from playing gigs. I don't think that a more robust story
mode is too much to ask, especially for a game that is ten dollars shy of
It's far too soon to judge this game, but what I played felt natural and
made me excited about the game's upcoming release. As entertaining as it
was to try out a new drum kit, part of me wants to wait to see what kind of
campaign mode there is and how much DLC support Activision gives us. If all
of this can come together then Guitar Hero: World Tour could just be the
music game to beat this fall.