Saturday, February 14, 2009

Be a rock star with "Guitar Hero World Tour"

Published on on December 23, 2008

Guitar Hero World Tour - Ozzy.jpg

Activision/Red Octane
Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
9.25 out of 10

Activision/Red Octane's newest offering, Guitar Hero World Tour brings its' A-game to this battle of the bands against Rock Band 2.

Red Octane, known for being the brainchild behind the Guitar Hero series, fought a good fight last year with their Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock game. However, Harmonix's rocked the house with their first Rock Band.

Fast forward 10 months, and the music video game heavyweights are battling again, with both franchises rolling out equal arsenals, which may be a headache for gift-givers, but a boon for us gamers.

World Tour starts out with you creating a customizable avatar. The customization is pretty deep -- and the clothing options are good, but not great. You can also customize your mic, drums, mic stand and guitar - but it's all tied to your avatar, which is simple but can be easily overlooked after belting out tunes.

After creating your character, you can customize your band logo, band information and the like. If you don't want to do it initially, you can skip past it and jump right into a variety of options.

The first mode, Career, allows gamers to create a band or go solo. Up to four players can take part in this mode. As you finish venues, you can unlock songs and more places to play. I was shocked that when I first played the game, I unlocked encores -- including one with Ozzy where we belted out Crazy Train on stage. That was very cool - and made me feel like Ozzy was in the room with me (what a creepy thought!)

The next mode, Quickplay, lets gamers dive right into the fray and pick songs they want to play. The Career mode allows you to do a form of this -- you can create your own venue and song list, but it doesn't unlock any special awards and/or venues, so it's pointless. The mode has 30 songs to start and other songs become available after you unlock them in Career mode (band or single). You can also use songs downloaded via GHTunes or the Music Store. The songs are available in the Quickplay Setlist.

A good mode to compete against your friends is the Head To Head mode. There are three different modes were you and another gamer can compete to see who will be the ultimate rocker.

Guitar Hero World Tour - House party performance.jpg

If you have Xbox Live, you can play anyone, anytime. You can invite your friends or play with others online in various co-op and competitive game modes, including Career and Band versus Band.

Arguably the most unique and best feature in the game is Music Studio, a music creation mode that allows gamers to create custom songs -- be forewarned: if you try and create a song that's copyrighted, it's likely to be removed - but it's not as easy as it sounds to operate. You can use all the instruments in the mode and record your clip - and post it through GHTunes. Once uploaded, gamers around the world can download, play and rate them.

Tired of the tracks in the game? You can also use GHTunes to find user-created songs and Music Store, where you can download new songs in multi-song track packs or as full albums.

World Tour
also comes with a wireless guitar and drums, but a wired microphone. Just like Rock Band 2, please, please -- either go all wireless or don't mention it. The instruments differ little from Rock Band 2, but the World Tour drums also have cymbals, which are optional with RB2. The instruments are sturdy and the wireless guitar is better than the one that came with Legend of Rock.

While I am disappointed the mic isn't wireless, the wireless instruments use Duracell batteries that last a good while. The instruments are very responsive.

The tracks you'll find in World Tour are original sets as well -- and not watered down.

A few of the songs in World Tour include:

311 - Beautiful Disaster
The Allman Brothers Band - Ramblin' Man
Beastie Boys - No Sleep till Brooklyn
Billy Idol - Rebel Yell
blink-182 - Dammit
Blondie - One Way or Another
Bon Jovi - Livin' on a Prayer
Creedence Clearwater Revival - Up Around the Bend
The Cult - Love Removal Machine
The Doors - Love Me Two Times
The Eagles - Hotel California
Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
Foo Fighters - Everlong
HushPuppies - You're Gonna Say Yeah!
Jane's Addiction - Mountain Song
Jimi Hendrix - Wind Cries Mary
Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze (Live)
Korn - Freak on a Leash
Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way
Linkin Park - What I've Done
Los Lobos - La Bamba
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama (Live)
Metallica - Trapped Under Ice
Michael Jackson - Beat It
Nirvana - About A Girl [Unplugged]
No Doubt - Spiderwebs
Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train
Ozzy Osbourne - Mr. Crowley
Pat Benatar - Heartbreaker
REM - The One I Love
Sex Pistols - Pretty Vacant*
Smashing Pumpkins - Today
Steely Dan - Do It Again
Steve Miller Band - The Joker
Sting - Demolition Man (Live)
Sublime - Santeria
Survivor - Eye of the Tiger
Ted Nugent - Stranglehold
Tool - Parabola
Tool - Schism
Tool - Vicarious
Van Halen - Hot For Teacher
Willie Nelson - On The Road Again
Wings - Band on the Run

Of course, the music duels are back too.

Guitar Hero World Tour - Vocals & Lead.jpg

As far as the track listing, it's deep, and diverse. Any video game with Michael Jackson on the track listing has my vote for GOTY. It also has a ton of songs from the 60s and 70s and offers a little something for everyone.

With the different ways to play World Tour, you'd think the vocal parts of the game would be among the easiest. Not quite. You can play the training tutorials for the drums, guitar and vocals - the guitar portion is no shockers for GH vets. The drums aren't hard either, and the vocals seem to be as easy as RB. In practice, it sounds fair enough. However, you land a song you don't know, you will find yourself in the ditch and off the vocal "Highway." You have to be a pro on normal to keep the crowd involved. I played most of the game via vocals and found myself, with mic in hand, about to hit red a few times and didn't know how in the world to pull myself out. Most times, it's easiest to just stop singing, listen to the song as it plays and pick it back up. With the training, you learn to speak during certain songs, but on stage, it's a different world. In No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, I was trying to stay on the vocal "Highway" and never achieved it. Then, to my surprise, I was awarded an encore! The training should have made it clear that you aren't required to get the pitch right -- just make sure the words are correct -- or close enough.

Another issue I have is with the songs -- the game is not very family friendly. I do not curse and there were a few tracks where you hear words that you may here at work, at school, but would never say in front of your momma. That said, while I am a fan of real music, I definitely think EA (who has a history of watering down their tracks for young ears) and Harmonix hit the right note with tame versions of songs. A 'hell' every now and then, that's ok, but 'ho' and 'my manager doing dust in the back of the bus' - yes, the all of them in the same song, aren't songs you'd play in front of your family. I've heard some crazy songs at family events -- what took the cake was a friend got married and played Laffy Taffy -- the unedited version -- at her reception and children and toddlers running around repeating the lyrics. /PHAIL.

In the end, World Tour really offers one deep and awesome music experience. The ability to create music rocks, and the song selection is wicked. The additional cymbals really make the drum set feel like a real set of drums. However, the language in some of the songs, and the WIRED mic - and the insane difficulty on the vocal side puts World Tour slightly off-key. However, for most gamers without kids, they'll find an awesome game with tons of replay value.

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