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Guitar Hero World Tour Hands-on

16 September 2008

After a whole night of rocking Guitar Hero World Tour at Activision’s press event in Santa Monica last week, I can state with utter confidence that World Tour is shaping up to be the best title in the series thus far. With over 85 songs to choose from, new hardware additions such as drums, and the ability to create your own rockstars and tracks, World Tour brings a whole new level of dimension and creativity to the Guitar Hero brand.

As revealed over the weekend, Guitar Hero World Tour features over 85 songs ranging from modern hits such as "The Kill" by 30 Seconds To Mars to classics like “Hotel California” by The Eagles. Plus there are an additional 15 custom tracks designed by the team at Neversoft. For those of you worried that some of the songs may be covers (ala GH: Aerosmith), Neversoft confirmed that all the songs in Guitar Hero World Tour will indeed be master tracks. In addition, I was also informed that Activision and Neversoft have downloadable content already planned and ready for post-launch, though both companies have yet to divulge any significant details in regards to what tracks and artists will be included.

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Over the course of the night I was able to try out quite a few songs from the playlist, including “Freak on a leash” by Korn, “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne, “Assassin” by Muse, “Parabola” by Tool, and “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol. Overall the playlist seemed solid, with some of the tracks feeling somewhat better suited to a particular instrument than others. Those who favour vocals and drumming will be pleased to learn that there are ample tracks suited to both criteria.

In terms of difficulty, Neversoft has taken steps to change things up a notch, with players now given the option of choosing from Beginner, Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert Mode. With Beginner difficulty, players will only need to strum the pick space. Other modes have simply just been modified; for example, Easy will feature less notes than in past Guitar Hero titles, and Medium-Expert feature slidebar controls.

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Familiar faces come in abundance in Guitar Hero World Tour, with popular artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Hayley Williams from Paramore, Sting, and Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins all having lent their likenesses for the game, both in facial mapping and motion capture. According to Neversoft, there will be more artists added to the list over time, but for now this is all that has been confirmed. When recalling memories of when Ozzy came in for motion capture, lead designer Alan Flores said, “It was an amazing experience working with Ozzy. When he came into the studio he would ask that we get as many guys from Neversoft in the room to cheer…the more people, the more intense his performance.”

For the hardware itself, it’s pretty much common knowledge that Guitar Hero World Tour now features the ability to play two guitars (bass and guitar), drums, and vocals through microphone. Those who have played Rock Band or Singstar will feel at home with the vocals addition, with the microphone and singing feeling virtually identical. With the drums, there area total of six different inputs -- three pads, two cymbols, and a foot pedal. To use the “Star Power” on the drums, players simply hit both the symbols simultaneously. The only problem I see with Guitar Hero’s drum set is that players will most likely go through a few set of drum sticks, as it’s fairly easy to break off the tips when hitting the edges of the symbols. Moving on, the only notable difference with the guitar peripheral is the addition of the “slidebar” and a new button below the pick space for using your Star Power. Players can now choose whether to tilt the guitar for Star Power or simply use their pinky for the button. With the slidebar feature, tracks will have certain areas where notes will be connected by lines, allowing the player to simply slide their fingers along the slidebar to hit the notes. Also, players can utilize the slidebar instead of strumming the pick space, similar to finger tapping, simply hitting anywhere on the sensor area while hitting the appropriate notes on the top buttons. According to Flores, Guitar Hero III controllers are compatible with World Tour, however, players will not be able to use the slidebar feature in either the songs or the Music Studio.

One aspect I did find a bothersome is that all the instruments for the PS3 version are still using dongles as a bridge for wireless play. Why Neversoft can’t just use the PS3’s Bluetooth features is beyond me. Moving on to game modes, users will have access to both familiar game types as well as modes new to the series. Quick Play remains more or less identical to previous incarnations, with players able to perform solo or as a band. However, Career Mode has seen a substantial overhaul, with progression being determined on the “gigs” or venues chosen rather than a forced tier based system. Players can choose from multiple gigs at certain venues, completing the game without having to play every concert.

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As for new modes, Neversoft has added some tools to allow users to customize their Guitar Hero experience, not only allowing players to create their own characters, but also allowing users to lay down their own compositions and download tracks submitted by other World Tour players thanks to the all-new Music Studio option. I wasn’t able to get much time in on the Music Studio. However, from what I saw, there aren’t really any limitations on creativity.

There are three parts to Music Studio: GH Studio, GH Mix, and GH Tunes. In GH Studio, players are allowed to use guitars or drums to record live performances and save them to the HDD. For those who prefer a more precise way to create tracks, GH Mix gives players a sort of Garage Band type of menu, allowing for both live and step recording. Also, a copy-and-paste tool can help recreate sections of a song such as the chorus or second verse. Due to copyright protection, vocals are set by notes using the guitar as a keyboard, so instead of singing to words, players will have to sing to the right notes and pitch. Finally, with GH Tunes, gamers can upload and download other user created tracks through various posted categories. Players can search by genre, recently added, top artist, all time best, hot this week, showcased, and rising star. According to Flores, players will have a default of five songs per user to upload; however, depending on the popularity of the users songs or rating, Activision can increase the number to anything they want (for example, a user who is quickly rising through the ranks online may be supplied with 50 available slots for custom uploads)

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In regards to the online component, the only differences worth mentioning are that players can now team up with their friends online and play band vs. band (four on four). There are still the traditional two vs. two modes as well. Overall, Guitar Hero World Tour is shaping up to be a great entry in the series and should have all the fans excited for its impending launch on October 26. The only glaring disappointment I can spot is the lack of Trophy support for the PlayStation 3 version of the game, though Neversoft has stated that it aims to include them in its future titles on the console.


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