Review: Guitar Hero World Tour

January 6th, 2009 by Tommy Gun

guitar-hero-world-tour-8Why has it taken me this long to post a review for GHWT? Is it because:

  1. I didn’t buy it until just now, because I’ve been broke
  2. the blistering speed of the new songs melded my hands to the guitar, leaving me unable to use a computer keyboard
  3. I’ve been so addicted to GHtunes that I’ve spent every moment creating and playing new songs
  4. although we bought it on day one, it’s not very good so we haven’t beaten it yet, and instead simply unlocked all the songs with a cheatcode and played the ones we liked in quickplay, then went back to RB2

Yes, it’s the last one (though I’ve played it more than that). How can a game that seems almost identical to RB be so much worse? It’s the little things…

Note: we didn’t buy the bundle, so we don’t have either the slide guitar or the new drums. There are a lot of other people who won’t have the new instruments, so I don’t think this review is unfair. Technically we haven’t beaten the game, but I feel I’ve played enough to write a review. If you think I’ve missed something, please leave a comment.

Many comparisons to RB follow. I know GHWT is not RB, and not every change makes it worse, just different. They aren’t necessarily going for the same audience, and I’ll point that out at times. But there are plenty of people who want to know whether they’ll like GHWT as much as RB, or if they’ll like it more, and there’s no denying these games are extremely similar in basic mechanics.

Solid

Instrument customization is great
You can change graphics, colors, and shape on most parts of the guitars.
You can change difficulty mid-setlist
Great.
Un-pause countdown
When you un-pause the game, it’ll do a short countdown on screen before actually resuming. This helps you get ready to continue mid-song, but it’s not as good as it could be. What they really need is a metronome countdown. That way it’ll get the time signature back into your head, and you’ll be able to hit the notes on time.
User created music has potential…?
We’ll have to wait and see on this one, as the tracks I previewed were pretty terrible. Even the Neversoft example tracks didn’t sound very good, since they’re basically MIDI. Still, I trust that some incredibly talented users will put out some good stuff. Update: it’s been months, and the music still mostly sucks. The only good stuff seems to be video game theme music, but a lot of that gets taken down. This is hardly the “OMG unlimited free music!” that we thought it could be.
Tool, and the Alex Grey venue.
This is one of the biggest draws, if you like them (I do). But really, this just makes me want the RB Beatles game even more.
Slide notes, I bet.
Since I don’t have the slide guitar, I can’t say for sure, but it seems like they’d be fun. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt here, and give them points for trying to add something new.
Selectable highways
This is something I’ve wanted Rock Band to add since the very beginning, since it’s one of the only things you actually see while playing. You can choose from six(?) different “highway” designs (the lane that your notes travel on). I wish both games would let you design your own, it seems so obvious!
Mid-sustain changes
This reminds me of DDR Freeze notes. You hold down a sustain note, then hammer-on (or strum) a new note, adding to the chord.
Drum sustains
They have “long” drum notes, which basically just lets you drumroll at your own speed. Fun.
Digital Hayley Williams
Win.

Cracked

Purple drum bass note is kind of hard to see
You can help this by choosing a lighter color “highway,” but not in quickplay.
Star power activation with drums
Hit both cymbals at once to activate it. Too bad it rarely works on the RB drums. The idea is cool, and adds more strategy, but the detection is so poor that I end up missing tons of notes and breaking my streak!
Career mode is incredibly un-epic.
Rock Band has you traveling the globe to new venues, giving you a feeling of touring. GHWT has you…choosing flyers in a basement somewhere? It’s as exciting as it sounds. They said you’d be able to skip songs, but that’s only if you’ve already played them. Then there are some setlists you need to buy (with in-game money) to play. Aren’t you supposed to get paid for playing a show? An odd choice. (Yeah, it’s like buying the bonus songs, I know.)
Interface / Menus
Why can’t either company hire even one usability expert to design their menus?! When selecting a character, you need to choose your instrument (even if you’re on drums or vocals, you have only one choice and still must hit A!), then choose between standard and lefty flip. Every time. Am I suddenly going to become left handed? No. So why do you keep asking me? Put lefty flip on the pause menu like RB does, or build the option into an optional menu on the character screen! The worst part here is that even lefties will be annoyed by this!

The interface while playing is also bad. Star power is shared, and is at the top left, along with your rock meter. I can’t see either very well while playing drums, and usually just try to activate star power to find out if I have it. Rock Band’s interface wins hands down.

Broken

You can’t save band members; if one fails, the whole band fails.
Now, I realize not everyone will say this is a bad thing. Some people LOVE a huge challenge, and cite difficulty as what makes GH3 better than RB (for guitar). So, fine, if you think this makes it more fun, that’s up to you. But this pretty much ruins GHWT for parties. RB has the “3-strikes” rule, and RB2 added the “no fail mode,” which is one of the best new features, as simple as it is. Anyone can play without pressure, and moderate players can jump up a difficulty for practice. I am a hardcore player, but I don’t play with any other Expert players, which means if we hit a hard song, they might not be able to handle it, failing us quickly. This is not fun.

The art style is terrible.
Obviously art is subjective, but I don’t like it (and I’m definitely not the only one). I hate the character style, but the other stuff is bad too. The awful cartoon graphics are back (from GH3 PS2 loading screens) during the “You Rock!” moment when you finish a song. The stars that are displayed on the songlist are similar to the terrible “sketch” style stars from the original Guitar Hero, and are small and hard to read. Compare those to the very big, clean Rock Band stars. There are a few nice graphics, like the sewn patches that say “saving,” but those are few and far between.
The character creator is surprisingly NOT very deep
This was pretty shocking, since they had talked it up so much. Yes, there are sliders to control many different things like eyebrow size, spacing, tilt, etc. The problem is that they don’t change very much! I tried making a character who looks like me, and my friend also made his own. Both characters ended up looking very much the same, despite our real life selves looking nothing alike (aside from being similar age/height/weight).

The biggest surprise was the lack of hair styles. Rock Band has tons, but GHWT only has 20 or so! This hardly allows much variety.

Add all this to the aforementioned terrible art style, and there’s nothing to be excited about. The crazy thing is that I love my Rock Band character, and it actually really looks like me, but my GHWT character looks very generic.

No keyboard support…or even an on-screen keyboard!
RB lets you use a keyboard to type in your character and band names (since it uses the Xbox interface), but GHWT doesn’t. Not only that, but you actually have to use an up/down scroll to select each letter (a la every old arcade game)! I completely gave up trying to type out my band name, “The Vengeance,” this way. Totally ridiculous.
Hi-hat is always on the yellow pad
The new drums give you raised cymbals, which is probably great (though I would argue it’s more fun for people who play on lower difficulties. When you play on Expert, it’s the patterns that really change the experience). The problem is that they charted the songs so the yellow pad is always the hi-hat, regardless of what drumset you’re using. This is fine for most songs, but for songs with 16th notes on the hi-hat (e.g., Everlong) the sticking is all backwards. You need to use your right hand to hit the snare, which means you have to cross your hands (on a real drumset the hi-hat is on the far left)! In RB, they change the red pad to the hi-hat on those songs.

This matters the most if you’re using the RB drums to play GHWT, and some may say that it’s not Activision’s fault if you’re not using their drums. But Activision knows that tons of people already have RB drums, and they’re required to support them. This is the equivalent of having a few songs in the game say, “Sorry, you’re not using the official GHWT guitar, so you need to play this song left-handed! Buy the GHWT guitar to play properly!”

GHWT detects which drumset you’re using, and there’s no reason they couldn’t have it automatically swap the red and yellow for the few songs that require it, or manually rechart them. Those songs are basically unplayable.

Conclusion

It’s obvious that Activision has been paying close attention to the Rock Band forums in order to avoid the small mistakes made by Harmonix, and add music and features people have been asking for. That allows them to say, “see, RB doesn’t have _____, but GHWT does! We innovated!” But it seems they forgot that they need a solid game behind all that.

My cousin only plays guitar in GH/RB, and he loves playing GHWT solo. If that’s your thing, I’m sure you too will have fun. Buy this game if you like the music, and can’t wait for it to come to RB (if it ever does). If you like Tool or Metallica, you won’t really have a choice. But for everything else, especially parties, stick with Rock Band 2.

One Response to “Review: Guitar Hero World Tour”

  1. Martin says:

    “When you un-pause the game, it’ll do a short countdown on screen before actually resuming. This helps you get ready to continue mid-song, but it’s not as good as it could be. What they really need is a metronome countdown. That way it’ll get the time signature back into your head, and you’ll be able to hit the notes on time.” Wow nice guitar.