Guitar Hero World Tour - PS2 - Review
Of all the new games introduced in the last five years, none have achieved a higher degree of mainstream appeal than Guitar Hero. It’s synonymous with in-store kiosks and average Joes who don’t game often and can’t play a real instrument but are obsessed with Activision’s hit series. Real musicians love it too, as do most age groups, which is why Guitar Hero has been able to reach audiences as dedicated as the hardcore gamer but as desired as the mainstream; when you get both, your game is a goldmine.
One had to assume that, after hearing Activision brag about Guitar Hero’s continued success, another developer would eventually try to compete. In 2007 someone finally did. Harmonix, the studio responsible for bringing Guitar Hero to life, had created another heart-stopping property: Rock Band. Using a guitar, USB mic and drum kit, Rock Band allowed players to form the first virtual rock band – all for under $200. Add a second guitar (to be played as a bass) and you’ve got the full band experience.
Rock Band is important because, without it, we may be playing a different kind of Guitar Hero sequel right now. Eager to one-up the competition and maintain their fan base, Neversoft (the developer who took on GH after Harmonix left) created Guitar Hero: World Tour. Ported to PlayStation 2 by Budcat, World Tour is a true sequel with its own unique drum kit (and USB mic, of course). There are more than a few similarities between this and Rock Band, but the game offers several features – most notably the recording studio – that ensure players won’t be easily persuaded by the competition. If they can afford it, they’ll want to own both.
Drumming Up Something New
Before touching the new guitar or turning on the game, there was one thing I had to know: how does this new drum kit feel? With three drum pads, two cymbals and one foot pedal, this kit not only looks good but is closer to that of a real electric kit (Yamaha makes one that is very similar). But how does it respond without the game? Does it have the right bounce and proper resistance? Are the cymbals loose or stiff? These may seem like trivial questions – why would you care about the kit without the disc? But World Tour isn’t your average music game – it’s the first one to offer real-time music recording. And the only way that feature could be fun is if the drums can stand on their own.
All that anticipation was met with a kit that is 90% of what it should be. The bounce is excellent, the pads are quiet and feel very sturdy, and the cymbals are on par with real kits that use a wedge instead of a full rubber sphere. While recording music, players have several different note options – 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, etc. – as well as a precise feature designed to pick up every beat. When testing a really fast song, it was impossible to tell if every hit was registered in the game. But it seemed pretty close, creating a ridiculously long and precisely woven list of beats that is all but impossible to re-play. Sure, it can be done while recording, but try to perform it in-sync as the beats scroll across the screen and you may be stumped.
Like Rock Band, World Tour’s kit is velocity sensitive but cannot differentiate between one stick hitting a pad or two sticks hitting the same pad at the same time. Depending on your floor’s surface, the pedal – which does not lock onto the drum kit (as it does with Rock Band) – may slide around a little. There is also the issue of unintentional cymbal detection. Occasionally, when the blue and green drum pads were hit simultaneously, the right cymbal responded on screen. This caused all three to show up, hurting your point total, game rating and star power.
World Tour’s guitar comes with one new addition: a touch pad for playing long notes. The pad is divided into five sections, just like the buttons, but is completely smooth to allow players to slide their fingers up and down its surface. The idea is that, when the proper, semi-transparent long notes appear on screen, the player can shift to the touch pad (located on the neck of the guitar just below the five buttons) and hold one finger on the first note. The following note(s) will come immediately after the first one; to continue the effect, simply slide your finger down the touch pad.
The touch pad can also be used to strum, though it doesn’t serve much of a purpose. It also seemed to have a whammy bar effect when sliding a finger across it while holding a long note. But that too is rather pointless.
Will You Be My Recording Studio?
Rock Band owners may not be willing to shell out another couple hundred to get the full World Tour set, but there is one distinct feature that could change their minds: the ability to create music. The process isn’t perfect, nor will it allow you to compose the next Top 40 hit. But it does offer a ton of variety, several pre-recorded sounds to use as a starting point, the ability to record music using your Guitar Hero peripherals (drum or play a note and it will be recorded and show up on screen), and provides numerous tutorials to explain how it all works. Be patient, practice a little and you will love this feature. Rush through the process and your music will suck. In either case, the sound quality won’t blow your mind, as this is a music-mixing machine, not a dedicated synthesizer. But it is a blast when you take the time to use it right.
All Together Now
Whether you’re intrigued by one particular feature or in love with all of them, at the end of the day, World Tour will either impress or disappoint players for how well it plays when experienced with a group. Are you jamming? Or are you bored? Does it feel like you’ve just formed a new virtual band or is it merely a time-killer like the music games of yesteryear?
For the most part, World Tour is a really good time. The extensive drum kit and precise requirements (you’ve got to hit the notes more precisely than in Rock Band) create a steep learning curve, even for those of us with a lot of experience playing music games. Thus, you may find it difficult to keep the band playing (when one member fails you all fail) if the drummer falls behind. The guitar portion seems no more challenging than the previous iterations, and the vocals are at about the same level as every other music game. As far as the soundtrack is concerned, Rock Band 2 may be the leader in variety but World Tour has the better selection of rock hits, old and new.
Review Scoring Details for Guitar Hero: World Tour
The unique drum kit is a blast, the music studio freshens the experience and the old guitar mechanics are still fun.
The same old Guitar Hero aesthetics.
Blink-182, Coldplay, Jimmy Eat World, R.E.M., Bon Jovi and dozens more. What's not to love? However, the sound of the homemade music could use some work (and official vocal implementation, which it does not have).
The guitar may be easy for some and the vocals may be easy for many but the drums are very challenging.
Though not every new feature comes without flaws, there is a lot to love about Guitar Hero World Tour's exclusive offerings (a unique drum kit, music composing and recording, etc.).
Hours and hours of friend-gathering entertainment.
Guitar Hero: World Tour has a few kinks to work out, just as the first Rock Band did last year. But it's still a worthy contender of Harmonix's new offspring and is also worthy of being added to your game collection.