At the Activision Showcase in Los Angeles on July 14th, no punches were pulled and all the stops were pulled out in the reveal of Guitar Hero World Tour, the latest in the mega popular franchise.
While Guitar Hero III sold like hotcakes, many would say that title was handily outclassed by Harmonix and MTV's Rock Band, due to Rock Band's addition or drums and vocals. While some may call the move reactionary, the new Guitar Hero includes the addition of these instruments, plus a slew of new features that should please any Guitar Hero addict.
The first major change is the complete overhaul of the guitar. The new guitar features a longer neck, a control knob, a palm button under the strum bar for star power, and most importantly, a touch sensitive slider bar on the neck, perfect for slide bass and hammer-ons. Activision promises that GH: World Tour will be compatible with all major guitar peripherals, including those "of other music titles." Put two and two together and it appears that the Rock Band peripherals will finally be compatible with the game.
Activision brought out former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker to unveil the new drum kit. Developer Neversoft designed the kit with the input of the famous drummer. The new drum kit seems sturdy and well built. Unlike Rock Band's drum kit, the GH drum kit features three standard pads, two raised crash cymbals, and a kick pedal. The pads are softer than the drum kit gamers are currently used to, meaning they are both quieter and provide more bounce for drum rolls. For those who are more inclined to play real drums, the new drum features a MIDI-in jack. In layman's terms, this means that aspiring drummers can plug in any real-life electric drum kit and make it compatible with Guitar Hero. Now gamers will have a real come back when music snobs complain that they should be using their time to play a real instrument.
Activision has promised 85 master tracks on the disc, including music from rock legends such as The Doors, The Eagles, and Van Halen. Also, there will continue to be full DLC support. It was also confirmed that the new Metallica album will be available for download at launch for all systems, including the Wii. How Neversoft plans to get around the storage limitations of the Wii remains to be seen.
If all that music isn't enough, GH: World Tour will also introduce the new studio mode, which allows for a shockingly robust music creation set for a wide range of instruments. Gamers will be able to use what the developers are calling "machines" to simulate a wide range of instruments. For example, a guitarist can create a set of note tabs, and then transfer those tabs into drum notes. The creation seems rather complicated and clunky to be honest, but musically and creatively inclined gamers will have a blast with the studio mode. It's even online, so a drummer in Ottawa can make a song in conjunction with a guitarist in Vancouver and a vocalist in Montreal. I'm not sure how good that song would be, but the possibilities are certainly exciting.
Once the notes are in place, players can polish and produce their tracks using Guitar Hero Mix, a tool set that is both powerful, yet simple enough to navigate using the guitar peripheral. In this mode, gamers can even create band logos and album covers.
Once completed, gamers can upload their tunes to a service called GH tunes, an intriguing combination of YouTube and the top 40. Can a hit song created solely on Guitar Hero be far off? Who knows, but it's an interesting thought to ponder.
If that's not enough creation tools for you, GH: World Tour also features an in depth character creation mode with full facial modelling and dozens of outfits, tattoos, face paint, and other options players to create a close likeness of themselves on screen.
The presentation was concluded with a superbly played rendition of Van Halen's "Hot Teacher" by the Neversoft Band. The Band and the game were cheered off the stage to thunderous applause.
Guitar Hero: World Tour is due to be released this holiday season, in a variety of different peripheral configurations.