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SummaryKeeping Up With the Joneses
The GoodThe gaming world hadn't seen a battle quite like the one that Guitar Hero III and Rock Band had in 2007, but when the smoke cleared, Guitar Hero III was the clear winner in sales, while Rock Band came out on top critically. In 2008, history would repeat itself again, with Guitar Hero and Rock Band going directly head to head with their respective sequels: Rock Band 2, essentially an expansion of the first game, and Guitar Hero World Tour, which was Neversoft's first attempt at a full band game.
Someone at Activision obviously saw what Rock Band was doing with their multiple instrument controllers and co-op band play, and decided that they wanted a piece of that pie too. So, for the first time, "Guitar" Hero was no longer just that, but also Drums and Vocals, too. In addition, the game was absolutely overhauled in every aspect: the graphics engine was changed, the career mode was changed, a deep character creator was added, and to top it all off, a music studio was included to extend the fun beyond what was on the disk. Oh, and the number of celebrity cameos was tripled from the last game, including one from beyond the grave. GHIV was an absolutely massive game, and with all of the stuff that was packed in, I'm honestly surprised that they were able to finish the game within the span of a year, let alone fit it all on one Wii disc. Of course, a lot of these things ended up coming short in some areas, but we'll get to that later.
The celebrity cameos were, for me, one of the strangest features about the game. This game was absolutely PACKED with guest stars from all corners of the rock world, from pop-rock singer Haley Williams and bassist Sting, alternative rock legend Billy Corgan, punk drummer Travis Barker, classic rockers Jimi Hendrix and Ted Nugent, and metal icons Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde. The band Tool also puts in a guest appearance, in the form of their own unique venue and THREE songs just from them, the most of any artist on the setlist. And yes, you saw that right, Jimi Hendrix is in the game. Needless to say, this got a lot of flack from fans of the long-deceased guitarist, who felt that Guitar Hero was commiting an utter sacrilege against the very thing they were supposed to be celebrating. That begs the question: Were ALL of these cameos necessary? I think if they had spent more resources polishing the gameplay instead of on all of these cameos, we would have had a stronger game overall. Still, I have to give the game some credit: No game, outside of that Celebrity Deathmatch video game, has this much celebrities in it.
In addition, the setlist also has a good amount of choice cuts on it, ranging from pretty much all genres: Even hip-hop and Spanish rock get a tune or two here. Michael Jackson's "Beat It" turns out to be one of the most fun songs to play, oddly enough. Other songs I really enjoyed included Coldplay's "Shiver", "Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney, "Love Me Two Times" by The Doors, and "Do it Again" by Steely Dan. Needless to say, I tend to prefer the classic rock in these games compared to the newer stuff. It's perhaps a little too varied, though. There's simply too many songs that some people just won't enjoy. In addition, the setlist also has the major problem of having more than one song from certain artists. There are two Jimi jams, three Tool tunes, two Ozzy operas, and two Ted Nugent numbers. So much for diversity. For me the setlist is like the rest of the game: overambitious. Overall, it's not the worst setlist in the series (I'd say 2 is the worst), but compared to the last one where almost every song eventually grew on me, this one comes up a little short.
The game in general wasn't as hard as past titles in the series for guitarists. While the game did offer us one nightmare song in the form of Joe Satriani's "Satch Boogie", the difficulty was compromised by the inclusion of a new "slide" mechanic, which allowed you to merely tap the frets in order to hit certain notes rather than strumming them. This turned a lot of hardcore fans off, but for the rest of us, this was a nice change of pace. The game was no longer about challenge, it was about kicking back and having a good time with some great rock and roll.
The character creator was also very deep, as well. It went so far in-depth that you could even customize minute details such as the head stock on your guitar. It was perhaps a little hard to use with the guitar controllers, however, so using the Wii-mote to create your character was the best thing to do.
Finally, Vicarious Visions once again did a stupendous job with the Wii conversion. Not only did almost every single feature from the HD versions make it into the game, including DLC, but they also incliuded a Wii exclusive "Mii Freestyle" mode on top of it as well. The conversion was so good, that it pushed the developers of Rock Band 2 to bring over a more competitive product with their own game on Wii. But that's another story. VV is one of the few developers to take the system seriously, and as a result the Wii gets features many thought were not possible in these types of games. That said, one crucial feature went missing from the Wii version, one that seriously dragged it down for people who wanted to save a little cash.
The BadThe problem with Guitar Hero World Tour in general: It tried too hard to be all things to all people, and as a result there are many parts of the game that could have had a little more time spent working on them. Due to the rushed schedule, though, the new ideas wouldn't be fully formed until the next game.
The biggest problem by far with World Tour are the very things that were supposed to be it's calling card: the new instruments. To begin with, you had to have a Wii-Remote for each and every instrument you wanted to play with, in addition to the instrument hardware, forcing you to pay even more if you didn't already have the amount of Wii controllers that you needed for a full band experience. Oh, and if you wanted to use Rock Band controllers? You're out of luck, kid. The Wii version didn't allow for such things, although the HD versions did have compatability with other instruments patched in. This made GH: World Tour a seriously tough purchase to make on Wii compared to other systems. But that's just the console-specific problems.
The game was notorious for the poor quality of it's drum kits. I read so many reports of broken cymbals and faulty equipment, STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BOX. It was unbelievable how bad the drum hardware was. While RedOctane generally made good hardware ( I still use my GHIII guitar even today), this was definitely one of their biggest mis-steps by far. Compound that with the fact that, again, you couldn't use Rock Band drums with the Wii, and as a result this game left many potential drummers out in the cold.
The gameplay that was designed around these drums was also questionable. In an attempt to distance themselves from Rock Band, their kit had three pads and two raised cymbals, + a bass pedal. That was a fine change, but in order to activate star-power, you had to hit BOTH cymbals at the same time, which was essentially impossible to do whenever you wanted to. It wasn't all bad, though. You could play a little more looser compared to the almost mechanical precision required from Rock Band because the timing window was larger, which I enjoyed.
The vocals were also sloppily handled, no thought was put into making them playable and rewarding. To begin with, the scoring system for the vocals was completely broken: You had to hit EVERY LITTLE PIXEL of EVERY LITTLE PITCH in order to get 100% on vocals, which was virtually impossible on all but the simplest songs. Whose idea was this? In addition, the font for the words was incredibly difficult to read. I mean, REALLY difficult to read, almost as hard as trying to pass "Through the Fire and Flames" on Guitar Hero III. It was incredibly tiny and compressed, and as a result the words underneath the vocal pitches resembled ISBN codes more than lyrics. I'm not joking. This is a crucial problem, and it's baffling as to how no-one could have complained about it during testing. Again, they had to have rushed this game out the door.
The much-touted music creator turned out to be a dud for one simple reason: It sounded like pure and utter garbage! You could not record vocals, and the length of your songs was extremely short. You had to put in hours of work for something that sounds like it came out of an SNES, and I'm pretty sure they weren't trying to go for a retro sound with the music creator. For a game released in 2008, this is unacceptable. Actually, an SNES sounds BETTER than what the game can do; there are many SNES games with better sounding music than what you'd get here.
Finally, the Guitar Hero art style is still as ugly and unappealing as the last game, though the engine seems to be given a slight boost in terms of graphical fidelity, and the animations aren't as stiff as before.