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Guitar Hero World Tour

 

Guitar Hero World Tour

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Category: Miscellaneous
 
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Developer: Neversoft Entertainment/Vicarious Visions
Publisher: Activision

Features

1-4 Players
Online (1-4 Players)
Wireless Guitar Support
Wireless Drum Support
Microphone Support
Downloadable Content

The Guitar Hero franchise has become a household name and a mega-hit for Activision. I was a little late to the party as I never caught Guitar Hero mania until I played the third instalment of the franchise. I had my doubts at first, but after a few songs and a bit of a learning curve I was addicted. One year after the successful release of Guitar Hero III, Activision has released Guitar Hero World Tour. In addition to the standard guitar and game bundle Guitar Hero freaks have become accustomed to, Activision has kicked it up a notch by introducing a set of drums and a microphone into the mix. I had the opportunity review the Wii version of World Tour as Activision was kind enough to send us the complete band bundle to check out. After a few days of drumming, strumming and whaling away I would have to say I am once again impressed. Those aspiring rockers looking for the complete Guitar Hero experience need look no further as World Tour will once again prove to be one of the most sought after games this holiday season.

Graphics

Overall World Tour for the Wii looks solid, but obviously not as good as it does on the more powerful consoles from Microsoft or Sony. But given the limitation of the Wii hardware World Tour is a slick looking game and the trademark appearance of the franchise is back better than ever. The games colors are bright and the characters have more animations than before. I even got a kick out of some of the Michael Jackson trademark moves during the song “Beat It”. It’s definitely a vibrant game and everything is certainly over-the-top with some of the crazy effects which occur just before the start of nearly every encore. There is a sense of artistic freedom in World Tour and it definitely shows.

When you first fire up the game the menus look very sharp and keep to that authentic Guitar Hero look. When you start to play a song you will notice the scrolling notes look clean and crisp. The notes themselves run quite smoothly which is critical in the game where timing is essential to how well you perform. Located just behind the scrolling notes is your band. The characters are easily recognizable as Axel Steel, Judy Nails, and Johnny Napalm are present from past Guitar Hero games. Overall, the characters look decent considering the limitations of the hardware.

As for the technical side of the visuals, the game runs in 480p and supports a 16x9 widescreen mode. I played my review copy on a 52 inch JVC HDLA and it looked quite sharp. Again, it was not as not as sharp as other HD versions of the game and I did notice some ‘jaggies’ due to the lower resolution. Nevertheless the game runs silky smooth as there is no slowdown of any kind, even when you have two or three sets of musical notes scrolling on the same screen at once. The stages, characters and environments once again look spectacular and are a strong point for the franchise. That being said, you don’t really have a chance to watch the goings on around you anyways as your focus will be on the scrolling notes falling towards the bottom of the screen. Overall the visuals were well done, but I did find myself wishing that the Wii could display a higher resolution because there is no doubt that this game looks better in HD.

Sound

There are a lot of songs in World Tour. Bottomline, 86 songs is frickin’ impressive and that is what you get included on the disc. In addition to the lengthy set list, the variety of the music found in this game is by far some of the most impressive in any type of game of this nature. It has taken four instalments but this is the first Guitar Hero game to feature 100% master recordings spanning over 40 years of music across many rock genres. There is truly something for everyone. From 311 to Steely Dan, World Tour’s set list is impressive and is by far the best set list for the genre to date. Sorry Rock Band, but Guitar Hero has got you beat in the song department. I would list all the songs but the list is just too damn long and you will have to play it to experience it.

In addition to the outstanding set list the music sounds good even by Wii standards. The songs sound rich and have a way of hooking you on the game. Even tunes which you may have not necessarily cared for when you were younger seemingly sound great in Guitar Hero: World Tour. The in-game sounds of the guitar and drums also pretty effective. It’s impressive enough that it forces you to focus on your gameplay. While the sound does sound great in my media room it may not sound as good in your entertainment room and you should really keep in mind that the quality of the audio depends on what you are using for a sound system. All in all anyone will be happy with the whole audio package offered in World Tour, from the available music tracks to the crowds and the special effects (e.g. pyrotechnics on stage); it is all worth the price of admission.

Gameplay

This is Guitar Hero’s second appearance on a Nintendo branded system. This fourth true sequel (not including expansion packs) is being released on all current systems, including the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. The core of the gameplay in World Tour remains unchanged from the other games in the franchise. That being said, it goes beyond the core guitar-based gameplay by introducing a set of drums and a microphone. Additionally World Tour supports the ability for up to four players to play together in a virtual band. Sound familiar? Yes, it does but lets not forget who copied who when Rock Band first arrived on the scene last year.

For those who don’t know what this game offers, it is a rhythm based game where you hit falling notes that are represented on-screen as coloured discs. When playing with the guitar you must hold down the corresponding coloured fret buttons in timing with the colored discs while strumming to beat. As you manage to hit successive notes you increase your bonus multiplier and rack up your score. Similarly with the drums, as the on-screen coloured disks drop you need to bang on the corresponding colored drum or cymbal with your drum stick or push the foot pedal for the kick drum. The microphone works similar to other rhythm based games such as SingStar and Rock Band as it uses a system which gauges your pitch. The pitch level you are required to sing is displayed via horizontal bars and these bars correspond with the lyrics of the song. Your pitch is compared to the pitch of the artists singing the song. The better your singing abilities (e.g. the better your pitch and timing) the better your score. Everything that I just described is the essence of World Tour in a nutshell.

When I first received the game and took everything out from the rather large World Tour box I was amazed at how easy everything was to set up. Within minutes, I had the drum kit set up and the guitar snapped in place. Synching up the guitar and drums was hassle free given that you use a Wii Remote in each instrument and in no time flat I was ready to jam. I am not much of a singer, so the mic had to take a back seat for awhile. I spent the majority of my time in career mode, so that is where the bulk of my experiences are based.

The career mode, where the majority of Guitar Hero maniacs will spend their time, can be played either as lead guitar, bass guitar, drums, or vocals. The only downside here is that once you choose an instrument you have to stick with that instrument throughout your entire career. If you say want to use the guitar at the mid-point of your drum career, you have to start from scratch. This was a bit of a disappointment; however the set list is so good I did not mind having to replay some of those stellar tunes. That being said most may not think the same way I do, and wish for the ability to change instruments in mid-career (a-la Rock Band). When you start your career mode you create a band, a logo and a name. I went with the ‘Burning Loins’ for my bands name. You can also customize a character and design your own instruments. Once you select your character and your instrument you are ready to rock. You are then presented with one of several gigs, arranged in difficulty based on the selected instrument. Each gig contains two to five main songs with the trademark encore songs. The drums and vocals do not feature boss battles however the lead guitar gigs feature boss challenges with Zack Wylde and Ted Nugent. These boss challenges are different this time around as the need to attack your opponent via power-ups is gone. Instead, World Tour features a call-and-response mechanic similar to the existing Face-Off mode. All in all I find the boss battles much more enjoyable and it was nice to not have to constantly jerk my guitar around this year.

In addition to the career mode, there is also a self-explanatory quick play mode, and the Battle Mode from Guitar Hero III is back. The Wii version also includes a special "Mii Freestyle" mode that allows players to use their Miis as their on-screen characters. The Mii Freestyle mode also allows players to improvise songs on the fly via the guitar and drum controllers or using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. It works quite nicely and is incredibly fun to play, especially for the kids. Co-operative gameplay is also obviously present and where the game truly excels.

One of the biggest additions to this latest instalment of the Guitar Hero franchise is the
innovative new Music Studio that lets you express your musical creativity by giving you access to a full complement of tools to create digital music from scratch utilizing the redesigned touch-sensitive guitar controller and an authentic drum kit. You can then play your compositions in-game and share the recordings with the entire Guitar Hero community through GHTunes™ where other gamers from around the world will be able to download and play their original tracks. I have to say that by surfing the new GHTunes™ feature I was somewhat amazed with what people are doing with this music tools included in the game.

World Tour features the normal four difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert) for each song and instrument. A new addition which is a great for the little ones is a fifth difficulty level called "Beginner". Clearly aimed at those who cannot play or get Guitar Hero whatsoever, notes are generally simple straight lines in time with bass drum beats, and only require any fret button to be held while the note is strummed (for Guitar and Bass), any drum to be hit (for Drums), or any sound to be made (for Vocals). This difficulty level was fantastic for my 6-year old daughter as all she had to do was focus one thing and one beat. Playing along side my little one in the games co-op mode was truly rewarding.

Another slick addition to this years franchise is the new venues included in the game. World Tour features virtual recreations of real-life arenas such as Ozzfest, Amoeba Music, Live Nation’s House of Blues, Sunset Strip and San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Simply put, they leave you wanting more. Perhaps next year we can see Radio City Music Hall, Wembley Stadium or The Gorge Amphitheatre.

Before I close out this review I want to briefly touch on some of my likes and dislikes with the games instruments. For starters the guitar is fabulous and I have no complaints as I see it as much improved over last years Les Paul Guitar. The guitar is a little bigger this year but it is now that much more realistic looking. The guitar has a longer whammy bar for better access, and the strum bar is quieter and longer, and it has a Star Power button right at the end of the strum bar for those who don’t want to tilt the guitar to activate it. Of course one of the highly touted features of the new guitar is the new touch sensitive section of the fret bar. Here you can link up some pretty cool note combos. If there is any weakness to this new touch bar it is that it takes a lot of patience to learn to use it effectively as you have to gauge where on the bar the actual colored frets would be. Overall I love the guitar and I am sure you will as well.

The World Tour drums are decent and my only complaint was with the placement of the drum stick rests. Of course I left one of them sticking up and it snapped in half as I accidentally ‘whacked’ it. In any event, World Tour features a wireless six-piece drum kit, with a kick drum pedal and five velocity-sensitive pads for snare, two toms, and two cymbals. The set is impressive looking and certainly not an eye sore. A cool feature to the drum set is the MIDI port in the back. This allows players to connect any drum kit, drum machine, or other compatible device. The Wii version of the drum controller includes a slot for the Wii Remote to fit into as well which essentially allows it to become wireless.

The World Tour microphone is pretty standard and features no real bells or whistles. In the end it managed to sound good and that is what counts. My actual voice may have not but the clarity of the mic did. I should mention the official microphone used for vocals uses a USB connection. Wireless would have been nice but I guess we cannot have it all.


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