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Guitar Hero: World Tour Preview

The original Guitar Hero was a surprise hit upon its release several years ago. Since then the series has gone from strength to strength despite the departure of its original developers, Harmonix. With new competition from Rock Band, the newest instalment was going to have to offer more than a new song selection. Guitar Hero: World Tour looks set to bring plenty of new ideas to an already refined game.

World Tour is clearly hoping to capitalise on the success of Rock Band and is introducing drums and vocals to sit alongside lead, rhythm and bass guitars. This is designed to make the experience feel more like a real band and to offer the fun of playing together with people that you know.

This will be accommodated by a career mode which will have separate careers for drums, vocals, bass and lead guitars as well as a separate band career. This can be completed either with different people who will join your band or by getting four people together in a room. The emphasis is on creating a band atmosphere and translating that into a career mode. The series' excellent multiplayer returns alongside a new addition: a band vs. band mode, where two bands (of up to four people) can face off against the opposition.

With the inclusion of new instruments the developers are keen to stress that any existing peripherals will be compatible with this latest instalment. The new guitar features some minor changes and additions: different whammy and strum bars; a panel to allow for palm altered notes and a new touch sensitive solo fret board. The fret board addition allows for more complex and varied solos and adds a challenging new element to the smoothly polished gameplay.

The drum kit peripheral is perhaps the most exciting new element, which a lot of work has gone into. With two cymbals, three drums and a pedal it feels like an authentic kit and feels responsive. The fact it is adjustable, has surprisingly good bounce back and is most importantly quiet are all good signs that it will become a classic addition to the Guitar Hero games. The microphone is strongly reminiscent of the SingStar and Rock Band games but is light, easy to use and well made.

The gameplay of the series remains for the instruments, with a series of coloured notes approaching the screen which have to be played as they cross a certain point. On the drums horizontal lines indicate when the pedal needs to be pressed alongside notes which add a further challenge. The new solo notes are linked together with a faint purple line to give guidance using the new solo fret board, which feels intuitive.

The microphone system uses a SingStar style series of bars which show whether the notes need to be higher or lower than their previous, with your current output highlighted by a moving graph line.

When all elements come together, the experience is very satisfying and I enjoyed playing through Michael Jackson's "Beat It" and Linkin Park's "What I've Done" as part of a group of journalists, none of whom I knew. Somehow the game managed to turn me from a pale, skinny outcast into a rock legend as I furiously hammered my way through the riffs. Any game that can manage that deserves some credit.

World Tour also features a detailed character creation system with a variety of different options to customize and develop your very own rockstar image. Yet, this plays second fiddle to an excellent music studio feature where you can create your own music. At first, I imagined this would be some sort of afterthought but the system is remarkable. There is a huge variety of guitar, drum, bass, keyboard and rhythm sounds which can be changed and selected at will. These can all be recorded, changed and edited at the press of a button. The system is accessible and very easy to use.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect is that you can make five of your songs available for other people to rate and download (twenty with a frequent user account), or download up to 100 original creations from elsewhere.

However the core of the game still comes from the set list, which will feature 85 master recordings from well known artists. These will include tracks from a variety of legends, many of whom will also feature as playable characters in the game. Confirmed so far are Zack Wilde, Ozzy Osbourne and Jimmy Hendrix. Localised content will also be available for different countries. Oasis, LostProphets and The Enemy are confirmed for the UK edition.

The Wii version will also support a special, easy to play mode using your individual Mii avatar to give the title a quick play mode. In a clever design feature the Wii controller can also be used as air drum sticks!

With a release of November, this could well be on of the hottest Christmas titles. Perhaps the only issue is the steep £150 price tag. Yet, when you look at the package as a whole this could well be the ideal game for a night in with friends.

evilgiraffeman | 7th September, 2008

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