You may want to carve out some extra space in the living room for another full complement of plastic instruments, as Guitar Hero is set to match—and in some areas, outpace—Rock Band's feature set with Guitar Hero World Tour. With a new guitar controller that adds a few new hardware tricks to the game, plus a drum set and microphone that levels the playing field with the competition you might be convinced to upgrade your hardware. If you're at all interested in World Tour's music creation feature, you should earmark another $180 for the whole shebang.
So, what's new? An extended create-a-rocker for one thing, one that looks to one-up Rock Band across the board. Established Guitar Hero regulars are all coming back, even ones who missed out on GH III like Clive Winston and Pandora, but if you want to play as someone a bit more personal, you'll have plenty of options.
Create-a-rocker lets players choose their rocker's gender, genre (rock, punk, goth, etc.), age, face shape, nose type, mouth, eyes, make up, face paint, body shape, tattoos, hair, skin tone, outfit, accessories, stage presence and win/loss animations. Yes, that's a lot. Each aspect has loads of depth, with marginal adjustments to facial features and a handy color wheel for picking the colors of everything you wear.
Similarly, create-an-instrument lets players fiddle with just about every aspect of the game's guitars, drums and even microphones. Guitars have plenty of variety in body shapes, neck styles, color schemes, headstocks and, for the nitpicker, string sizes. You can even style your in-game guitar to look like a Guitar Hero controller, should you find that sort of thing amusing.
Drummers and vocalists may not have quite as much variety, but if you want a custom kick drum or a more interesting mic stand for your rocker, it's in there. You'll buy all of this stuff with cash you earn in-game, naturally, but Guitar Hero World Tour also features Call of Duty-style accomplishments that reward with bonus money for pulling off hot licks and cool tricks.
Once you're in game, you'll see that Guitar Hero has looked to Rock Band for its step into the full band world. Screen layout is almost a carbon copy, with slight differences in the UI making little in the way of improvements. The vocal track pathway has its own look, but note chart highways stick to what works. Really the only major difference is the addition of accent notes for drummers, which rewards more powerful drum hits.
Oh, let's get this out of the way. Here is a sampling of some of the game's artists.
* Linkin Park
* The Eagles
* Van Halen
* Sublime – "Santeria"
* Billy Idol – "Rebel Yell"
* Foo Fighters – "Everlong"
We heard plenty more and saw some famous names that may very well be included as guest characters, but we're forced to stay silent for now. With 85 master tracks in the game, we don't think you'll be left wanting for content for a while.
Something the noobs will appreciate is a new Beginner difficulty. This is the kind of thing geared toward your parents or younger siblings, as guitar playing requires only strumming, no fret buttons to play, and drumming requires that the player hit any drum head in time.
Guitar Hero World Tour adds Band Careers to the series, a la Rock Band, but lets lonely bass players have their shot at fame and takes the whole career experience online. The Band Career system is said to be non-linear, letting players pick up gigs out of order.
Perhaps the most in-depth of World Tour's new features is the Music Studio. This is where you'll create your own music in a virtual recording space, laying down tracks with the guitar controller and drum kit. Players can choose from a variety of sound banks and pre-built drum loops that can be mixed up, slowed down and modified in all manner of fashion to create totally unique tracks. The game features drum sounds and effects pedals from real-world manufacturers
We were shown a quick demonstration that just about ten minutes, whipping up a serviceable song in virtually no time at all. Using the strum bar to hit notes, the fret buttons to choose notes and chords and the angle of the guitar to change the octave, it was apparent that the guitar controller works relatively well as a digital instrument.
You can save up to 100 songs of your own creation locally, mix them via GH Mix and upload them to GH Tunes for other World Tour owners to download, play and rank a la YouTube.
While I can't personally see myself having the patience or attention span required—not to mention musical talent—to write my own songs in Guitar Hero's Music Studio, I'm certainly looking forward to what others will create. There's an incredible amount of variety in here for those who want to dig in, and, say whip up a few Metallica instrumental covers. Hint, hint.
Overall, it looks like Guitar Hero is matching, and in some cases, besting what Rock Band brought to the table. We'll have to wait until we go hands-on with the thing before tossing our old plastic instruments in the trash.