October 30, 2008

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Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii/360/PS3/PS2)
Neversoft, Oct 26, T

By Glenn "Where's my G.G. Allin" Given production@hippopress.com

There is nothing quite so depressing as playing a party game alone and being beaten by Ted Nugent while doing so.

Guitar Hero World Tour is the next salvo in the peripheral cold war betwixt Developers Harmonix (Rock Band), Neversoft (Guitar Hero) and a number of lesser contenders (Rock Revolution, Ultimate Band etc.). Since both developers have agreed to open standards for their plastic kiddie guitars and toned down Phil Collins kits, the relative merits of each title are mostly judged by their song selection. But there are some important hard- and software differences here. Firstly, the Guitar Hero drum kit is simply superior. Its elevated cymbals give a moderately more authentic feel and the new larger guitar controllers maintain the all-ages usability while eking just outside of the embarrassing toy range. Sadly 360 owners have already begun complaining of drum kit incompatibility with Rock Band 2 and a lengthy swath of lawyer babble “expressly forbids” World Tour from being played with peripherals other than those officially licensed by Activision Blizzard (though I can confirm that RB2s set will work).

In game, World Tour has a number of belt notches to crow about. The avatar creator, swiped from Neversoft’s Tony Hawk franchise, is superbly detailed, allowing players to customize their rocker. Many venues are modeled on real-world concert halls or tours (including Ozzfest and the House of Blues), and a slew of musicians have been licensed to appear. Gameplay remains largely identical to previous entries in the series with the tweak of fretted notes made by sliding your strumming hand up the fret bar while holding a longer note and of open E notes on the bass. The most impressive addition is in World Tour’s Advanced Studio, which “allows” players to create custom music tracks and distribute them online. Of course don’t cut into GH’s bottom line by attempting a cover version of your favorite song, as submissions will be monitored for copyright infringement and vocal tracks have been nixed.

Depressingly, much like actual music writing, the Advanced Studio is frighteningly complicated for the non-composers of the world. The egregious errors in Guitar Hero are the insistence that each song be bested on all instruments (and then as a band) in order to complete the game and the inability to revive flunking bandmates. Setlist-wise? Meh. Rock Band has steadily released impressive track packs online and currently holds the edge, though all 86 tracks in World Tour are Masters, so that has to count for something. Once Neversoft finds an affordable way for owners to upconvert their collection of GH 1-3 tracks they’ll likely pull ahead, but for now the steep group playing curve and paranoid online policing drag World Tour down to a B+Glenn Given