If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, perhaps Guitar Hero World Tour heralds the moment in which Harmonix and RedOctane finally make amends. Instead of the petty squabbling seen during last year’s Rock Band/Guitar Hero 3 compatibility fiasco, we might be witnessing a new rivalry based on sincere respect and adoration for the competition. Or so one would hope. If all else fails, the Harmonix/RedOctane feud will likely be smoothed over by the ungodly amounts of money both developers stand to make this upcoming holiday season, united by affluence and a shared pity of Konami. Despite outselling Rock Band by a wide margin last year, RedOctane is taking the initiative and embracing their competitor’s expansion upon the blockbuster formula by adding some non-stringed instruments to the mix. Don’t expect a carbon copy, however; World Tour adds its fair share of tweaks and new features.
The new drum kit differentiates itself from the Rock Band set with only three pads, but trades the missing one for two symbols and upgraded sensitivity. The harder you hit them, the louder you sound in-game. World Tour’s new guitar also got a serious overhaul, taking Rock Band’s second set of buttons to the next level by adding a touch pad to the neck, which allows you to slide your fingers up and down in order to alter long notes, while tapping allows you to play notes as if you were slapping the actual strings. Only the microphone lacks any substantial upgrades, although you can manually activate star power by tapping its head.
Character customization has been significantly fleshed out. The sheer number of available ways to tweak your character is staggering, from hair and skin color to clothing and custom-made tattoos. You can also customize your instruments, right down to the strings and fret board. New items are bought with cash earned in the improved Career mode, which is playable both online and offline. As it stands, World Tour is scheduled to ship with 85 songs, an impressive tally by any standards. Once the new in-game music store is up and running, that number is destined to rise into the hundreds.
All of the above would make World Tour worth the price for the Guitar Hero faithful, but RedOctane and Neversoft have one more trick under their sleeves: user-made music. At its most basic level, you can choose a pre-made drum and bass line and just rock out on the guitar (alas, no recording vocals for legal reasons). The rhythmically-challenged can even synchronize their notes to the beat if they wish. Those of us looking for something deeper will not be disappointed, as the newb-friendly wizard is entirely optional. Custom drum beats can be made with both the drums AND the guitar’s touch pad. In fact, the new guitar will likely be your tool of choice throughout the process. Each button and function tweaks everything from pitch and sound to rhythm and speed. Most of the advanced options will be utterly foreign to anyone not well-versed in music hardware and terminology, but anyone with the talent and knowledge to understand these tools will be in heaven. Finally, custom tracks can be saved and uploaded for all to download online.
If nothing else, Guitar Hero World Tour is ambitious. While it’s too early to judge the fruits of RedOctane and Neversoft’s labors, this new entry in the hottest genre in gaming is likely to please fans that feared the series had lost its way. Whether or not World Tour delivers will be decided this fall. But start saving now, because it’s sure to have a hefty price tag.