It seems like only yesterday when a game called Guitar Hero came onto the scene for the first time and took the world by storm, creating one of the biggest and most addictive party games that's both fun for the casual and the hardcore crowd. Taking the concept laid out initially in Frequency and Amplitude and adding in a plastic guitar peripheral for good measure is probably one of the most genius ideas ever conceived in all of video gaming, and Guitar Hero has already spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs across all different platforms, as well as generating some competition in the form of its newest rival in the music and rhythm genre, Rock Band. Now that history is out of the way, let's get one thing straight; Guitar Hero: World Tour is the most revolutionary Guitar Hero game since its initial conception, and we got a taste of it first hand at Activate in New Zealand last week.
The most obvious difference to Guitar Hero in this outing is the addition of two new peripherals, as well as the trusty guitar that we know and love. For those who want to rock out as a group, World Tour also comes packed in with a drum kit peripheral and a microphone as well; essentially, all the tools you'll need to form the ultimate band with your mates and rock out as a team. For best results, add in an extra guitar so that you can have one person on lead guitar and another on bass, so that the awesome foursome can be complete. The guitar itself will obviously be the most familiar to anybody who is a fan of the franchise, and things haven't changed too much when it comes to the core gameplay. There is now a button on the actual guitar that will trigger Star Power for those who aren't a fan of tilting, however, and there is also a slider bar along the neck next to the fret buttons so you can get a bit clever and get straight into show-off mode with specific sections of certain songs.
The singing element of the game is the same basic idea as SingStar, where you are judged based on the pitch and tone of your voice rather than the pronunciation of lyrics. A little flame trail will scroll across the screen which represents where your pitch is, and the lines of the notes follow along with the timing of the lyrics themselves so you'll know what note to hit next, even if you're not 100% sure of the song that you are singing. It works well enough and we found it incredibly forgiving on the easier difficulty settings, which is probably a blessing if you don't have anybody around who's particularly fond of singing. In the parts of the songs where there are no lyrics, often times a bar with wavy lines scrolls across the screen in place of lyrics and notes to hit, which is an opportunity for you to sing, yell, talk or whatever else you'd like to earn some bonus points, so you're not just left watching the others play while you wait for the next verse to appear.
The most important new peripheral however, and the one that is likely going to be the most popular, is the very fancy and cool drum kit. Featuring five different pads (three round ones representing drums and two triangular ones representing cymbals) and a kick pedal as well, it's very reminiscent of Rock Band whilst still feeling a little bit different in its own right. These drums, for instance, are truly designed to last; the sound of the wooden sticks hitting the different pads isn't as loud as you'd expect, and there are even certain sections of tracks that will require you to hit the drums harder than normal, as the pads are all touch-sensitive as well. We gave the drums what we thought were a pretty good pounding in our attempt to play, but that was nothing compared to how hard we saw some of the more experienced World Tour developers smashing the pads with the drumsticks. It's the same basic concept as the guitar sections, with notes scrolling down the screen towards you, and if you're coordinated enough to handle the guitar parts of the game then you should have no problem with the drums; at least after a few initial attempts, anyway.
The new instruments certainly aren't the only new 'features' here to get excited about. We were absolutely blown away by the large amount of customization options present in the game; everything from a detailed character creation system to the specific artwork and colouring of each of the instruments in the game is present here, so if you're into some serious personalization, there is a near infinite amount of choices to really make the game your own.
The other new feature to the world of Guitar Hero that simply demands discussion is the Music Studio. This is a mode that will allow your inner muso to truly come out, giving you all of the tools you could possibly need to create your own musical masterpieces. Being able to create your own musical compositions from scratch, including all the different elements such as guitar, bass, drums, making your own melodies and rhythms as well as being able to modify each sound to suit whichever music genre you wish is just the tip of the iceberg. It all looks a little bit complicated, but for those that want to sit down and really take advantage of it, the rewards are quite simply awesome, allowing you to actually play your created tracks in-game and upload them online so that others can download your tunes themselves. The sky is the limit for this mode, and we're looking forward to seeing tracks come to fruition in a way never seen before.
Guitar Hero: World Tour has an emphasis on the team game; you can take the group of four players in your lounge room on tour in the career mode of the game, playing gigs and earning money along the way which can be spent in numerous ways such as purchasing new skins and instruments in-game. As well as this, the four of you can jump online and have your very own battle of the bands with another group of people; in fact, you don't even need four physical people in your presence. If you jump online with any number of people, you can make up the other members of your band from other online folk to complete the 4 versus 4 setup, or even jump online and go on tour with other players from around the globe.