No matter how much Guitar Hero you play, it seems like all it takes is a few new songs that hit your musical sweet spot to make the game seem fresh again. Of course, with Guitar Hero World Tour there's a lot more than just songs being swapped in to make this game different from its predecessors. The full band is coming to play this time with drums and vocals and you can even create your own songs to play in the game using the new Music Studio. We recently spent the evening with the freedom to play any song on the disc and took another look at that Studio.
With the full set list unlocked and over four hours of freedom to play whatever we wanted, there wasn't a moment of unused time on any of the stations set up. Even with trading instruments and swapping out to let others play, I still got a chance to play several dozen songs, putting in time on the guitar, bass and drums. I save my tone-deaf voice for private showings amongst close friends only. With every song complete, load times of just a few seconds, and no noticeable hitches, Guitar Hero World Tour looks like it is essentially complete and ready to ship. At this point, it's probably just the production and packaging of the instruments that is holding up the release.
Those instruments, as I've said in the past, are quality pieces of equipment. The guitar is solid and responsive and the drums are sturdy, with quiet pads that have a good bounce to them. The only issue I had during my playing was that the kick pedal sometimes slid across the brick patio floor. The pedal uses friction with rubber pads on the bottom to stay in place. On wood surfaces or a thin carpet that I've played in the past it works just fine, but for some reason here it slid a little more than I'd like.
But ultimately it's the songs that will make or break a game like this. As good as the instruments are, without fun songs to play them on you don't have a leg to stand on. This time with the game I got the chance to play everything from Modest Mouse to Tool and found a few songs to be surprisingly fun, while a couple others left me feeling flat on some instruments. Then there were others I knew would be a blast before I even tried them and left with those thoughts confirmed.
The personal highlights for me were the tunes that offer up a nice challenge. Guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani's "Satch Boogie" is great fun to play. Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" is awesome on every part. The drums were killer just on hard and you can imagine what Eddie Van Halen's work translates to on Guitar Hero. A surprise hit for me was Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze. The song is great, but Neversoft had previously announced that the version in the game would be a cover. The master tapes are apparently nowhere to be found and the live take was the only alternative. Well, as it turns out, the improvisation in that version -- not just by Hendrix -- vaulted the song to the top of my list. And, of course, Ozzy's "Mr. Crowley" and "Crazy Train" were just plain fun.
Perhaps taking a hint from Harmonix and Rock Band, Guitar Hero World Tour has a few more mainstream-friendly songs than normal for a Guitar Hero game. These tunes are either widely known or deliver a bit more pop-sensibility than the finger-twisters I just mentioned. There's "Hotel California" (the drum part is boring), Modest Mouse's "Float On" (great fun) Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger", and a few acts for mom and pop like Steely Dan and Willie Nelson.
If you haven't seen the complete Guitar Hero World Tour track list by now, make sure you cruise over to our Ultimate Set Listto have a look at every licensed track on the disc, as well as what's coming through download. The list has its highs and lows, but one thing you won't see on it just yet are the 17 bonus songs that will be included on the disc. These aren't licensed tracks, though some are tunes you've probably heard before. Instead, these extra tracks were created by Neversoft using the in-game music creation tools that come packaged with the game and allow you to become a Guitar Hero composer. These example songs are there for you to have fun with playing and to inspire you to create a new song of your own. There are songs like a metal-esque take on Flight of the Bumble Bee and other public domain tunes, as well as a some Neversoft originals. The few I got a look at wouldn't exactly burn up the charts if released on their own, but then again they were created by various amateur musicians during their spare time in between working on putting this game together.
In between rocking out with the game, I took a few minutes to have a look at a new demo of the Guitar Hero Music Studio. Neversoft expects most people to ignore this feature. That's not a joke. This mode allows you to compose your own song, lay down the note chart, and upload it to a service called GH Tunes where others can download, play, and rate your work. It's all pretty hardcore stuff and most people will simply play the game and then download some tracks other people have created to add to their set list. Those that dive into the Music Studio, though, will find quite an extensive tool set.
The most basic way to use the Studio is in a free form manner. Plug in drums and guitars and you and your friends can improvise a new song while the game records what you do on the fly. Line 6 Pod technology is in the game delivering dozens of effects for each guitar. There are over 20 different drum kits to play with and 70 different keyboard sounds and mods. You can set your root note for the guitar scale and which scale you want to play in as well as what pitch range you'd like to play in. Tilt the guitar up as you're playing as you would to activate star power and you'll move up the scale, enabling you to play every note you could on a real guitar.
Lay down a riff or two to your liking and you can take it into GH Mix. Here you can get down and dirty, cutting and pasting, looping, nudging notes and more. Playback what you've done so far to review your work and the game will tell you which notes or chords it is playing as it scrolls through the chart. And when you're all done, you can name the song, add custom album art and upload it to share with the world.
Now, before you get excited about laying down the note chart for your favorite song that isn't in the game using the, there are a few things you should know. The first is that there is no vocal stream in the song creation tools. You can put down a keyboard part and have someone sing it, but dictating the words or recording your voice is out. The second is that there is a three minute or 1,200 note limit on user created songs. Since you can upload the songs you create in the studio and let others download them, keeping a limit on the size of the file is a necessity. The last, and perhaps the most important caveat, is that prior to uploading a song you'll have to agree to a user agreement which states that the song is your personal work and not copyrighted by someone else. Any copyright infringing songs uploaded by users will be promptly removed. But hey, you can still create them and just play them locally if you want.
Guitar Hero World Tour is on track to release this October on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, and PS2. To read Mark Bozon's impressions of the Wii version, head over to the Nintendo channel.
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