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Guitar Hero: World Tour
Score: 98%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4, 1 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Party/ Rhythm/ Online

Graphics & Sound:
Guitar Hero is back, and this time you can bring more friends along. Guitar Hero: World Tour allows four players to play together as a band, a la Rock Band, but World Tour has that same gritty, cartoon-y, satirical rock-scene look that the previous games of the series have all had.

One thing that is new for World Tour are extensively customizable characters. Previous Guitar Hero games merely let you choose from existing stereotypical characters and Rock Band let you customize your character, but Guitar Hero: World Tour takes character customization to a whole new level, even allowing you to upgrade the parts used to build your guitar. World Tour offers a lot of options for tweakers who want to create an avatar that looks just like themselves, their friends or celebrities.

The music is a major aspect in Guitar Hero: World Tour, as one would expect of a music-based game. There are a lot of songs that ship with the game, covering a wide range of musicians and music genres - check out the full setlist here. One of the novel features of World Tour, however, is the ability to create your own music. I will cover the process in-depth in a separate article, but there is a Music Studio mode in Guitar Hero: World Tour that allows you to record a jam session, using the instrument controllers as actual instruments. When you've made a song that you can be proud of, you can upload it to a Guitar Hero server, where others can freely download it, play it and rate it. This is your chance to test your mad skillz.

It is obvious that Guitar Hero: World Tour took its cues from Rock Band. While the artistry in World Tour is very Guitar Hero, the gig selection feels (functionally) very similar to Rock Band, with available gigs being posted on the wall, and completion of one gig leading to other gigs becoming available. However, being later to market means that you can learn from others' mistakes and perfect things before you release yours. The World Tour instruments are an excellent example of this. Great attention to detail was put into the creation of the instruments, from the quiet drum pads to the much more comfortable bass pedal, to the included cymbals... and that's just the drums. The wireless guitars are comfortable, look really nice and feature a section in the center of the neck that feels (and works) much like a glide-point mousing device for laptops, allowing for more analog control over sounds in the studio as well as during solos.

If you're a tweaker, you might get lost for hours in the Character Creation and Music Studio modes. There are a lot of customizations to choose from and a lot of interesting things you can do when making songs - although it might take a while to make your song sound exactly the way you want it to.

When it comes right down to it, though, in a party situation, you're most likely going to want to be able to just jump in and play. That's what Quick Play mode is all about. You can create a set of up to six songs, choosing from songs that shipped with the game, downloadable content and player-submitted songs that you've downloaded.

Guitar Hero: World Tour has varying levels of difficulty, from easy to expert. Novice gamers can select easier difficulty levels to reduce the complexity of their part, while veterans can play more realistic and complex parts by selecting a higher difficulty.

One of the things that makes World Tour a great party game is that it is relatively easy to pick up and play. This is especially true of anyone who has played a previous Guitar Hero game or Rock Band, but younger games who have never played anything similar should be able to pick up on it pretty quick with the game set on Easy difficulty level, and even older, non-gamers should be able to sing the vocal part.

If you find that you need practice, there are ample opportunities for that. There are tutorials for each instrument that will describe all of the details of how to play and how to record your own songs. You can play all by yourself and work on your skills, you can play through the Tour Challenges, and, if it's drum skills you're working on, there is a fairly elaborate Drum Trainer mode that will help you hone your skills. When you get decent, you can play with friends online or locally. Even playing around in the studio helps you to increase your playing skills.

Game Mechanics:
The drums are reasonably quiet, with their soft yet durable rubber pads. The drum kit includes two cymbals for a total of 6 drums, to Rock Band's five. (Yes, Rock Band 2 has expandability to allow for the addition of cymbals later, but Guitar Hero: World Tour's drums come with them.) If you're looking for expandability, the fact that the drum sports a MIDI port to allow you to connect MIDI instruments for inputing your own music is right up your alley.

The Drums' MIDI port, the Music Studio feature and the massive amount of character and instrument customization shows that Guitar Hero: World Tour is all about making the game yours. Tweakers, hobbiest song-writers and armchair rockstars (three groups to which I classify myself) will likely embrace the flexibility of Guitar Hero: World Tour as well as its player-generated music community. I, for one, look forward to creating and sharing songs and downloading other people's creations and trying them out, as well. I am disappointed that vocals can't be recorded, but I have to assume this stems from legal issues dealing with the possibility of recording other people's copyrighted material. Perhaps they could create a club of "partners" who sign waivers so that the player is held responsible for any repercussions and have a special screening process, much like mp3.com used to do, and then have a patch that allowed players who are in the club to actually record a vocal tracks and lyrics. You're supposed to record and share your own creations, but the fact that you can't record a vocal track limits this feature to instrumentals.

I have found that the Music Studio feature takes some getting used to and some practice to actually be useful. I also seem to have problems with lag when in the studio feature. This may be partially due to the television and surround sound unit that I use, but using the calibration makes it better, but doesn't quite correct the issue.

All-in-all, Guitar Hero: World Tour brings a lot to the table, offering Rock Band 2 some stiff competition. If all you're looking for is a band game to play at parties, you might want Rock Band 2, since it can use all of Rock Band's content, as well its own and has been on the market longer and has more songs (if you count downloadable content). If, however, you're looking for the nitty-gritty and you want to create your own music, you're probably going to want to pick up Guitar Hero: World Tour. Really, in the end, it comes down to your personal taste.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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