Games: 'Guitar Hero' adds drums but suddenly seems beatable
The second day I had "Guitar Hero: World Tour," I called home to give my 14-year-old twins a list of chores.
Rake the leaves.Rake the neighbor’s leaves.Play "GHWT" and unlock some more songs before I get home.Which elicited a groan? Job 3.
It’s not that "World Tour" isn’t a good game. It’s very good. It’s just not great, and that might be enough to push some gamers — like my sons — toward its primary competitor, "Rock Band 2."
The T-rated "World Tour" brings drums and vocals to the best-selling "Guitar Hero" universe. Until now, the rhythm game was for guitarists and bass players only. However, the arrival of Harmonix’s "Rock Band" last year prodded Activision and Red Octane into adding the new elements.
In addition to drums and vocals, "World Tour" offers a revamped guitar, a tack list with more than 80 songs and some new play modes.
This all sounds great, but the package doesn’t come together as well as it should — or as well as it does in "Rock Band 2."
The biggest addition is the drum kit, which has three drum pads, a bass pedal and two raised cymbal pads. This is one more pad than "Rock Band" offers — which immediately makes the game a bit more difficult, especially for "Rock Band" veterans. The drum pads are large and springy and work pretty well on the Wii version I tested. However, the cymbals aren’t sensitive enough and the pedal is too sensitive, which makes the overall experience feel very uneven.
The guitar adds some new features, the most noteworthy being a slider bar that enables tap playing and different effects. The problem is that you’re likely to miss notes while moving your hand to the bar. Another problem with my guitar was excessive noise. The whammy bar sounds like a squeaky hamster wheel, and the strum bar clicks very loudly.
Overall, the peripherals are superior to those available in the original "Rock Band," but don’t quite measure up to those in "RB2."
Of course, that could be considered a minor problem if you think "World Tour" delivers on its other promises: a great song list and the ability to create your own music.
The game boasts an extensive song list, ranging from 1970’s "American Woman," by the Guess Who, to this year’s "Re-Education," by Rise Against. It’s packed with tracks that should make true guitar fans smile. Unfortunately, those who wield only plastic guitars are likely to find many of the songs unfamiliar, dated or just plain unfun. There are few of the hidden gems — such as DragonForce’s "Through the Fire and Flames" and numerous European hits — that made "Guitar Hero III" so exciting and fun. In addition, many of the best songs are already available on "Rock Band 2" — which includes a similar number of on-disc tracks but also allows you to import songs from the original "Rock Band" and scores of other tracks available online.
Of course you’re not stuck with just the songs on the "World Tour" disc, either. As with previous versions of "Guitar Hero," the new version offers downloadable music — even in the Wii version.
You can also add to your catalog by creating your own tracks in "Music Studio." This complex tool allows you to write and record your own instrumental tracks, which can be uploaded and traded online. The process requires a lot of patience and a bit of musical knowledge. For me, the biggest benefit probably will be the ability to download the tracks created by more talented and ambitious gamers.
The game offers solo and band play, with a career mode, quick play and several competitive options. Each of the modes compares well with the competition — except for one big gap. Unlike "Rock Band," "World Tour" doesn’t let you rescue a bandmate who fails during a performance.
Guitars from earlier "Guitar Hero" games work just fine with "World Tour." And in non-Wii versions, controllers from most other companies are supposed to work, too. As a result, I suspect that many gamers will choose to simply buy the software and go on their world tours without the drums.
Overall, "World Tour" is a good game but, like the original "Rock Band," it seems like it needs another year to reach perfection.
Platforms: Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360.On the Web: hub.guitarhero.com