Since that insolent pup Rock Band took away Guitar Hero’s barbed crown of ‘rawk’ by offering full band controls, we’ve been waiting to see how Activision would respond with Guitar Hero IV, aka World Tour.
Finally, the kit has arrived at Stuff Towers so, after throwing a couple of TVs out of the window to celebrate, we got down to the business of testing it out.
The set up and gameplay are similar to Rock Band: drums, guitar bass and vocals can play together or alone through several sets earning cash and unlocking songs along the way. Like Rock Band, it’s a perfect party game and a new beginners level where you simply strum in time means your gran can easily join in.
World Tour offers a much larger degree of customisation than Rock Band. Avatars are customisable right down to the shape of their face and the strings of your guitar.
Graphics are noticeably smoother and more flush than Rock Band and we enjoyed taking in the new venues just as much as playing the game.
Rock Band fell down on its shonky drum kit, and World Tour offers a much more satisfying skin bashing experience. It’s upped the number of pads from four to five, consisting of three shells and two adjustable cymbals, which sit on top.
Where Rock Band’s drums were rickety and loud enough to drown out the music, World Tour drums feel sturdy. They also have enough bounce to pull off rolls and fills and are spaced out nicely so you avoid annoying (and potentially song ruining) stick clashes.
The kick pedal lags behind the rest of the kit in terms of comfort. You need to press forward heavily and very precisely to get your note, which can hurt both your accuracy and your ankle after continuous use. But in comparison to the Rock Band kick, it’s miles ahead.
Owners of Rock Band kit aren’t excluded though – the game knows whether you’re using a four or five pad kit and adjusts itself automatically.
You can also use your Rock band or previous generation guitar hero guitars, but that would be missing out on the cool new Guitar Hero controller.
Moving away from the Gibson Les Paul design the new shape is more generically Strat-shaped and now bears a new touch pad further up the neck.
You can use this to tap out solos or change the pitch of your notes on long sustains. In practice it’s fiddly and unreliable to use and to trounce that solo on anything harder than medium you’ll want to stick to the traditional click buttons.
Another addition is the bridge button for activating star power, usefully located just behind the strum bar. If you’re a left-handed axeman, you can easily choose lefty-flip at the start of your set for the more authentic Wings or Hendrix experience.
If you’re a bass head, then an additional strum-only note has been added to the five standard ones, and is represented by a purple line. Sounding like a bass slap, this can make dull and plodding bass lines a little more interesting.
Fail not safe
And then of course there’s the vocals. Represented by the same scrolling sound wave as Rock Band, we found them easy to follow if a little temperamental when it came to pitch.
The difficulty step between medium and hard is too much of a giant leap and, we reckon, too easy to fail. Unlike Rock Band, there’s no option to save your bandmate so if one fails, the whole band fails.
Strong set list
The set list doesn’t disappoint on first viewing of quickplay mode. Karaoke classics ‘Beat It’ and ‘Livin On A Prayer’ are supplemented by guitar indulgers like Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ and ‘Feel The Pain’ by Dinosaur Jnr.
Unlocking songs in career mode can be a bit of a chore as the first few sets are full of plodders. But waving carrots like At The Drive In’s ‘One Armed Scissor’ and ‘Angel of Death’ by Slayer is enough to keep you on the road.
World Tour’s other trick is the virtual studio that allows you to create songs in game and upload them so other players can try them out. While this mode certainly looks pretty, in practice recording songs is a complicated and unwieldy process. Plus for copyright reasons, you’re unable to add vocals.
We managed to record a basic improvisation of drums, guitar and bass. But editing it into something high quality proved too dispiriting and it was soon abandoned in favour of the main game.
Giant leap forward
World Tour isn’t the perfect rhythm game. The drums are still too unresponsive to compete with a bona fide electronic kit and the touchpad controller and creatable content improvements are gimmicky.
But the gameplay is what really matters and from improved customisation to impressive venues and smoothly playable sets, Guitar Hero IV is a giant leap forward wipes the floor with Rock Band. Until Rock Band 2, that is…