previews\ Jun 19, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Guitar Hero World Tour - WII - Preview

As the opening strains of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” rippled through the House of Blues in Los Angeles, a new chapter was heralded in the Guitar Hero franchise.

Neversoft took over control of the franchise and churned out Guitar Hero III, which was a solid hit. But the company that brought the world the Tony Hawk franchise was not about to sit on its laurels and began work on a more ambitious version. That version was shown on the 360 during a media event hosted by Activision. The features described here may work differently on other platforms.

Get ready to lose a lot of sleep – Guitar Hero: World Tour is an open-ended musical game that builds on the foundations of all that has gone before. What that means is a game that brings multiplayer gaming to the fore like no GH title before it. World Tour will add a new guitar controller to the mix, drums with responsive silicon heads based off the Roland B drum heads, and a weighted Logitech microphone for vocals.

Let’s get to the good stuff …

The guitar is a bit bigger, with a back button that can be used for star power (in addition to the accelerator sensor that will activate star power by tilting the guitar neck), and a touch slider that can be used to sustain notes, slide guitar or can be tapped instead of using the strum bar.

The drum kit is wireless and the arrangement mirrors the configuration of an actual drum kit. There are three drum pads, for the snare, high tom and low tom, and two cymbal pads set above the three heads. Not only do the heads have a nice bounce back, but are velocity sensitive, allowing for accent hits.

But the fun does not stop there. Included in the package is a Rockstar Creator, a deep design tool to allow players to create their own in-game persona, with a host of facial tweaks, a color wheel for adding a spectrum of hues to skin, hair and makeup, as well as a layered composite to put on face paint and tattoos.

Not only can players custom create characters, but they will also be able to create customized instruments. For guitars, players can change the headstock, pick the overall shape and finish, pick the guitar bridge and even change strings (though the latter is purely aesthetic in nature). The same can be applied to the bass and even the drum set has different shells, finishes and skins.

There are five careers in the game: lead guitar, bass guitar, drum, vocals and online band career.

Players will be able to earn achievements and there will be online leaderboards and a “Super Tracker” Web. Neversoft, in an effort, to give the game broader appeal, has added a new difficulty level, beginner, which does not require hitting the color-coded hotpads, but rather just strum on the guitar. The career path is not linear, but players can bounce through gigs around the world. The dev team from Neversoft estimated that about 85 songs will ship with the game, and they will all be master tracks from “A list bands.” Neversoft dev members said it recognized that GH III was a little too hard, and have worked on that element while still providing a challenge. For those who like the online element, there will be both a battle mode and versus mode online.

While all these elements are terrific, the crowning achievement has to be the Music Studio. Using the studio, players will be able to create their own songs and then upload them to the GH Tunes sites for download by other players. Each songwriter will be limited to five songs, unless deemed a super user.

The studio has a wizard that contains musical loops, from bass lines to drum runs. There are a lot of drum kits to choose from and players can combine loops, with the game cross-fading from one loop to the next seamlessly. In addition, each drum kit has a unique percussion bank.

Players can use the guitar controller to lay down drum lines or use the drums. You can record your tracks (all but vocals and lyrics), and can even syncopate guitar notes to the drum rhythms. Line 6 has come onboard and gives players the option to use amp models. You can play a rhythm guitar riff or utilize the keyboard bank to play melodies. Players can even go into the scales and change the root notes. For those who want to take the mixing further, there is the GHMix, which is a “hardcore” midi editor.

World Tour is definitely an exciting and robust addition to the genre, creating not only a great game experience but going a bit deeper with the Music Studio. Look for a fall release on this title, spanning all next-gen platforms.

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