Giant Bomb News44 Comments
Battle of the (Plastic Toy) Bands
by Brad Shoemaker on
Guitar Hero: World Tour is taking the feature-set fight to Rock Band in a way last year's sequel failed to do. Hurray for competition!
A year later, it seems like World Tour is bringing a much more robust, complete, and likeable package to the table, as if Neversoft took a look at what Rock Band is doing and said (taking a cue from Twisted Sister), we're not going to take this anymore. That's the spirit of competition for you. Pure market forces! The system works!
Vinny and I got to sit down and mess around with a pretty complete build of the game recently, after which he remarked, off the cuff, "That's a quality product." I have to agree; there's a surprising amount of features crammed into World Tour, some that cover bases Harmonix hasn't hit on yet and others that may actually trump what's in Rock Band 2. The character creation system is surprisingly robust, for instance; there are about a million sliders and skin colors and hairstyles and what have you. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em--and do it better. You can also create designs out of basic shapes to slap onto the bodies of your guitars, which is something Rock Band lacks. They'll both let you put together a multi-layered band logo, though.
The music creation and editing system is where World Tour has the real edge. I don't think anyone will be putting together Guitar Hero bands geared toward live performance, because you just can't get all that many tones out of five fret buttons, a strum switch, and a whammy bar (although throw in the accelerometer and the touch-sensitive tap pad and you can do a lot). So there's not a lot you can do on-the-fly. The real value of the song editor in World Tour will be apparent after enough time has passed that the more obsessive fans have spent a lot of time in the sequencer (which RedOctane likened to Garage Band on the Mac), and created some nice compositions that are pleasing to the ear and challenging to the fingers of the Score Hero set. You can map a ludicrously long list of instrument sounds to your guitar, bass, and drums--ranging from typical distortion effects to wacky stuff like sitars and video game sound effects. The proof will be in the pudding of the community's output on this one, but I think the tools are there to make some pretty impressive stuff.
Then again, don't expect to sit down and meticulously plot out the solo from "Eruption" over a period of weeks and upload it to the network; Activision has already said it won't allow covers of copyrighted material, for obvious reasons.
You might not be surprised to hear about my experience with the gameplay in World Tour. Perhaps you've played Rock Band? Yeah, it's a lot like that: two guitar controllers, a drum set, and a microphone all going at once. RedOctane still has the edge on peripherals, though, bringing their years of hardware experience to bear yet again. The drum pads had a nice soft bouncy feel to them that was quieter than the Rock Band kit (although the RB2 hardware has mitigated this issue). They pretty much perfected the guitar controller last year, but the addition of the tap pad for solos certainly doesn't hurt anything. There was no way I could use it mid-song during our demo, though, because that would require me to look away from the song (and probably fail out) to see which pad corresponds to which color. There isn't any tactile reference for the buttons that I noticed, so you're going to need to build up the muscle memory to slide your hand to the right spot without looking. (Hey, just like real guitar!)
World Tour is still way harder than Rock Band, though, which kind of bums me out from a drunk-people-in-your-living-room-looking-to-have-fun perspective. But again, mastering tough songs is what the Guitar Hero audience is about, so you just have to manage your expectations for the difficulty here accordingly.
Lastly, I feel like Tool is worth a mention here. I've seen them mentioned on many a forum post and comment as one of the primary drivers behind the fan base's interest in World Tour, and it's not surprising: Tool is a huge band that's never done this kind of game before. They're also a pretty technical band, using lots of weird time signatures and such (I nearly failed out of the drum track on "Parabola" thanks to its irregular rhythms), which ought to satisfy those Score Hero chaps. Plus, the band got involved in the game by providing ideas for their own venue. Which isn't a venue at all, actually, but more like a pulsating, eyeball-lined birth canal that you're constantly hurtling through as you play. Yeah, why don't I just leave you with that image.