Guitar Hero: World Tour

Accessibility is a key ingredient in gaming, and it's something that Nintendo has, perhaps with some luck, managed superbly well with the Wii. Games that appeal to wider groups of people, and allow many with little or no gaming experience to have fun and get involved, are an important commodity, and one that Sony themselves are very familiar with. The success of the original Playstation paved the way for gaming as a slightly more trendy or acceptable hobby, as opposed to a nerdy pursuit, and on the Playstation 3, Sony are keen to see the release of social gaming titles like Buzz, Singstar and, of course, Guitar Hero to complement the core action titles like Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted. Though not the first Guitar Hero game to appear on the console, World Tour arrives with a few extra features designed to make the world of rock even more interesting.

Guitar Hero: World Tour

A key focus in World Tour is the idea of performing as a complete band, with players able to take part as drummers and singers in addition to the standard guitar or bass roles. With decent multiplayer support, this means that a group of friends can get together to form their very own band, with each person an important part of the team. Though the focus of each song may lean in the direction of a particular instrument (for example, Michael Jackson's Beat It lends itself well to singers, while Motorhead's Overkill might be better-suited to Guitar enthusiasts), there's always something for everyone to do, and the variation in emphasis provides welcome breaks in which players can momentarily relax and watch as their fellow band members take on hard sections of the song for their own instrument. It's remarkable how effective the game is at team building. It might not require the level of cooperation seen in First Person Shooters, but playing as a band generates an undeniable desire for everyone to succeed, which makes a rare change in the world of gaming.

The method of play is very intuitive. Taking the guitar and bass (both work very similarly) as an example, notes travel on a conveyor belt (in the shape of a guitar stem) towards the screen, with players required to strum at the moment the notes reach a particular line. On Easy, only three different colour notes will be passed down, with occasional chords and rapidity dictated by the chosen song. Things swiftly get harder as the difficulty is increased though, with more notes (up to a maximum of five) sprinting down the screen. Watching an experienced player take on a tricky song on Expert difficulty is a true spectacle. That shouldn't put newer players off though, since the learning curve is superbly handled (the hardest song on Easy will prepare players well for the easiest on Medium, for example). The guitar controller might be significantly different from a standard Dual Shock, but it's every bit as natural to hold and use. The guitars are slightly smaller than the acoustic equivalent, and there's no strings, but they are comfortable to hold, easy to use and fun to play.

Guitar Hero: World Tour

In World Tour, the main aim of the game is to take on the career mode and tour around different countries playing various gigs and earning money in the process. The earnings for each gig are dependent on performance, including particular objectives such as making a perfect start, completing long streaks of correct notes or avoiding ever being rated in the red, a situation in which the audience has grown unsatisfied with your music. Quite honestly, the mode is a little clumsy to navigate, especially when you have to choose a rocker, choose an instrument, customize any particular aspects, choose a difficulty and select a country, all in seperate menus before being led off to a gig. Simplifying things and removing any instances of the word "Rad" and "Rip" and "Tear" would make the presentation a lot neater. It's easy to blame overly-complex menus when loading times are slow, and there's certainly too much time taken between the main menu and being able to play a song. That's not the only delay either, since a large number of the songs in the game are kept locked until you've passed particular stages of the game, meaning that the initial choice is somewhat limiting. For a game designed for both expert dedication and also accessibility this is perhaps a small oversight. Once unlocked, everything is good to go, but expect a good few hours of career slog before you get to try out some of the more interesting tunes.

Not dropping the criticism for a moment longer, the band aspects of the game are a great addition, but it's disappointing that only the full drumkit will allow players to experiment with the drums. It wouldn't be as authentic, but there'd be no disadvantage to allowing players to try out the drums with buttons mapped on the Dual Shock appropriately. Given the expense of the guitars and drums, it's disappointing that the control is so restrictive, but perhaps that's the intention, since it forces players to splash out on expensive accessories.

Guitar Hero: World Tour

The core of the game is still the excellent guitar action, and most bundles will feature the guitar and game, setting up players nicely. It's terrific fun to play, especially when on a decent streak of notes in a favourite song. It might not be matched by the visuals, but that hardly matters. A band (with customizable rockers) dance away and mimic the correct instrument usage in the background, on stages surrounded by adoring (if all has gone well) fans. The occasional spark or flame effect is very nice, but there's nothing particularly spectacular going on. The real focus is undoubtedly the audio, with 86 tunes with just enough range to suit most tastes (well, assuming this is only to be applied to people buying a guitar game with a focus on rock). It's tricky to criticize the audio, since every song is brilliantly recreated, with some favourite classics returning an stupendously good form. True audio connoisseurs will no doubt be able to pick fault, but for a party evening there's little to dislike. On the easier modes, it could be argued that some notes don't always align brilliantly with the music, since gaps are left in unexpected places (to make the song easier to play), which may break players' rhythm, but on harder difficulties, every note is churned out for a finger-crushing challenge.

Overall, Guitar Hero: World Tour takes the series in an interesting new direction, with the complete band offering enjoyable multiplayer thrills. The core guitar play in the game has not evolved sufficiently, perhaps, but continues to provide one of the most accessible, enjoyable music experiences on a console. A little less of the cool and rad, and a little more effort on presentation could have made World Tour absolutely essential, but it might be advisable to wait for Guitar Hero 5 instead.

Game details

Game logo

Publisher:

Activision

Developer:

Neversoft

Players:

1-4

Online:

1-8

Release:

2008-11-07

Trophies:

0

Review summary

Gameplay:

Fun, fluid, varied and entertaining with friends

Graphics:

Simple and sometimes too colourful

Sound:

A great array of tunes and excellent renditions

Lastability:

The real lastability lies with the multiplayer madness

8.5

Supernova

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