by Chris Scott
reviewed on X360
War of music games
In just four short years the Guitar Hero series of games has become one of the biggest franchises in the gaming industry, so much so that the name itself is virtually synonymous with music games. However, when you are the king of the court, there will be those that have aspirations for your crown. Former Guitar Hero developer, Harmonix, certainly did that with last year’s release of Rock Band. While arguments can be made that both Guitar Hero III and Rock Band won the last round in the battle, no one can argue that Rock Band did not change the music gaming landscape by introducing both drums and vocals to the mix. Not only did Harmonix land a solid shot to Guitar Hero’s armour but they also hit them again less than a year later with the release of Rock Band 2, which refined a lot of the problem areas the original Rock Band had. Guitar Hero developer Neversoft was tasked with delivering an answer to those salvos and Guitar Hero: World Tour is it.
Band and the instruments
Guitar Hero: World Tour is a band-based music game. Much like Rock Band and its sequel, the game has gameplay for guitar, bass, drums and vocals. For veteran music gamers the gameplay will seem quite familiar but for those that aren’t that familiar with the genre may benefit from the following explanation: Using a specially designed peripheral for guitar and drums, players will attempt to hit a series of scrolling gems, representing notes, that are coming down the screen. Simultaneously, using just about any USB microphone, players will attempt to sing along to the songs as the words scroll across the screen. While the basic gameplay is quite simplistic, each “instrument” has its own intricacies that deserve a closer look.
One of the biggest gameplay, and arguably the most compelling, additions are the inclusion of drums. The Guitar Hero peripheral maker, Red Octane, has crafted a fine piece of hardware for use in the game. Gamers who have become accustomed to the Rock Band set-up may have a harder time adjusting to the Red Octane kit because the Guitar Hero kit has five pads, including a pair of raised “cymbals”, as opposed to Rock Band’s four. However, after a little practice players may find that the set-up just feels more natural and that the cymbals themselves add a whole lot to the overall gameplay experience. The natural feel of the drum kit extends directly to the game design and the “note” charting for the drums. The red pad will almost always be the snare, the yellow pad the high hat, the blue and green pads the toms, and the orange pad the ride and crash cymbals. The placement of these pads in correspondence to the charting just adds to the already great feel of the kit although it isn’t without its problems.
There have been some reports about the kits not working correctly in regards to sensitivity issues. While this did not affect our set of drums, the news itself is a slight cause for concern although not entirely without precedent. The only major complaint that could be voiced about the kit used for this review was that the kick pedal has a tendency to slide a bit on smooth surfaces - otherwise the Guitar Hero: World Tour kit is great and it works just fine in Rock Band 2.
Of course, the game is not called Drum Hero: World Tour but rather Guitar Hero and to coincide with this new release, Red Octane has released a brand new guitar controller, which is a little hit and miss. The new design is solid and it plays like you would want a guitar controller to play but the new addition to the guitar, the slide bar touchpad, seems extra gimmicky, even more so than the Rock Band guitar’s solo buttons. The touchpad has a few uses, although their usefulness is certainly up for debate. The biggest problem with the touchpad is that there is no finger placement indicator on the touchpad, so it is quite easy to lose your placement on the pad resulting in some missed notes that should never have been missed in the first place. Another, albeit smaller, problem is the size of the select and start buttons. Those you like to use the select button to deploy star power will love the bridge-sized select button, but the size has come at the expense of the start button, which can result in some missed notes as you fumble for the button to pause the game. All in all, the new guitar is not bad but it just doesn’t meet the standards set with Guitar Hero III’s Gibson Les Paul and players that have one of those may want to skip the new controller altogether, although it really is a personal preference issue.
No Pros and Cons at this time