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Guitar Hero World Tour Hands-On Preview
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 02:52pm 05/09/08 | Comments
AusGamers went hands-on with Guitar Hero World Tour at both E3 this year and Activision's annual Activate Asia media conference. Read on for what we thought...

There's a lot of commotion about this new "rock act in your lounge" thing progressing in the games world, and because EA really missed the boat here in Australia with Rock Band, Activision Blizzard's Guitar Hero World Tour is in a very prime position to own the Aussie living room for band prac.

Trog and I got to see this under embargo at E3, but the recent Activate Asia retail/media conference offered me a far more extensive option for hands-on, and believe me, I took full advantage.

It's also worth noting that while EA's effort hasn't seen the light of day here, I do have the Wii version sitting in my lounge and have been hosting Rock Band parties for the better part of the last month, so justifiably I'll be comparing the two throughout. There's a lot on offer from both, but I will say right off the bat I'm a lot more interested in Guitar Hero World Tour, if not for a far more robust and sensible drum kit, then for its forgiving nature, better axes, the GHTunes music studio and its incredible track list.

We also had Brian Bright of Neversoft with us, running the whole group through pretty much most of what the game has to offer. What's instantly cool about World Tour is it's both immediately accessible for the mainstream gamers out there, but also packs in some of the craziest depth I've ever seen in this type of game.

From character creation (which is kind of important, because when you release tracks online or play a battle of the bands, your created character will be your avatar), to GHTunes (which is essentially a program like Reason or Protools, only in-game and easier to use), the customisation and user-created media elements of Guitar Hero World Tour make the price of admission almost worth it alone.

But at the core, both games are about being able to play your favourite classic and modern tracks as a band with friends from your living room. Rock Band succeeded in doing this in the first place, but with a few things I have found not so fun. For one, the drum kit is pretty flimsy. It feels almost like a Fisher Price toy, and while initially the pad placement is easy to use, it's not as intuitive (or realistic for this type of product) as it should be. Moreover, the guitars just feel less responsive and too rigid. The neck design is cool, and I like having the solo buttons halfway down, but I didn't feel a need for them to be any different to the normal buttons (they're much smaller).

Finally, while it's a minor gripe – Rock Band just doesn't look as flash or professional as Guitar Hero. I realise it's likely on purpose, and you're not really all that worried about what's going on in the background while you're playing, but this is a party game, which means you've usually got more than one person around you.

There are things it gets right though, even against World Tour. I found singing in Rock Band a lot easier that Guitar Hero, and I also like the individual progression bar on the left (to see who's letting the band down). World Tour has something similar, but it's a much smaller and less obvious (with good intention I presume, but I prefer Rock Band's meter).

At Activate, I slogged it out on a number of tracks including "Everlong" from Foo Fighters, Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz (these were my favourites to play). Ultimately, if you've played Guitar Hero before, you pretty much know what you're getting; however, there are a few new additions to how to play the game. For example, the new guitars (that aren't required to play the game, you can still use the old ones) have a touch panel to use during solos or to tap when playing bass. There's also a vertical button at the base of the strum button used to palm-mute when playing in the studio, and can also be used during the game to activate Star power. There are no pitch or octave changing buttons, however, in the studio you can use the guitars inbuilt velocity sensor to go from high or low pitches as well as countless other options.

In fact, the studio has so much on offer anyone with even half an idea about recording music is going to find a ridiculous amount of value in it. Bright promised it would be easy to use and navigate, but I'm still a little intimidated by it all.

Getting back to the other meat of the game – the changes that have been made for guitar and bass are pretty cool. It actually feels like you're playing the respective instruments through the implementation of slap bass and the linked solos on the touch-pad. These are moments that pop up on the freeway that look slightly differently. Sliding on the touch pad during a solo feels really cool, even though it's kind of odd – I much prefer this over Rock Band's smaller buttons for solos.

Singing on the other hand is a lot harder (at least it was without some Dutch courage coursing through my veins). I just felt it was more difficult to maintain notes and picth. It could be that there was a lot of noise going on around me or that the World Tour system is just much harder than Rock Band, I'll just have to wait and see with the final product.

The velocity sensitive drums are the real cream here, and I can't stress enough just how solid this kit feels. Having the cymbal pads where they are (and slightly adjustable) just makes perfect sense, and you feel like a drummer when you get in the groove. Unlike some of the other instruments, the kit is far more spot-on in terms of notes and playing, and so drummers with experience are probably going to be able to play the game on Hard almost immediately. The bass pedal is super solid, while testing the velocity sensitive pads (ie the harder you hit, the louder the note) was hella fun and allowed you to play a *slightly* modified version of your chosen song.

The only thing that ended up being ultimately annoying about the game was we couldn't play any of the newly announced tracks (I'm pretty keen for The Living End's "Prisoner of Society") and that beyond the tracks mentioned earlier, the other stuff was kind of boring (we only had about seven songs in total though). None of that has swayed my enthusiasm for Guitar Hero World Tour though, and with a price-point and release date clearly stamped, it's looking more and more likely this will hit before we even see Rock Band 2 in Australia.

For more on the game, don't forget to check out the AusGamers Guitar Hero World Tour game page.

Latest Comments
Posted 01:51pm 06/9/08
Nice write up, Steve. What system did you play this on? I'm curious how hardware on the PS3 version will be, because I didn't find the GH3 wireless guitar very responsive (compared to my old PS2 wireless).
Steve Farrelly
Posted 07:07pm 06/9/08
Played on 360, which is the version I play at home on GHIII. Very responsive, not sure how it'll roll on PS3 tbh
Posted 08:25pm 06/9/08
"Hugely popular alternative metal band Tool, known for their epic, intense musical arrangements and killer visual arts, will also soon be known for their contribution to the upcoming Guitar Hero World Tour. Guitar Hero fans from all over the world will be able to rock out to Parabola and Grammy-award winning Schism from Tools critically-acclaimed 2001 album Lateralus in addition to Vicarious from their 2006 Grammy-award winning album 10,000 Days. The game will also feature an all-new venue designed in collaboration with the band and highlighting the art style that has become a staple in their music videos, live shows and album artwork.
Posted 03:11pm 07/9/08
This game is looking more and more like a winner. Especially after reading that write up about it. Not to mention the play list is pretty damn impressive.
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