Just got back from spending the morning at Activision HQ in Sydney, getting some hands on time across a few upcoming titles. One of these was Guitar Hero: World Tour, which I've been very keen to get some time with. Once upon a time I played drums (though I wouldn't call myself a real 'drummer'), so I've been itching to get some time on the kits from both this and Rock Band for a long time. Consequently my initial impressions are weighted heavily toward the skins. I've had time on Rock Band with the Gamespot Australia crew in recent times, and today it was time to see how World Tour stacked up. The short of it? REAL nice. I wasn't chasing the kit across the room like I was with Rock Band's drums. Oh, and Purple Haze is an absolute showstopper! Long story after the jump.We played through a good selection of tracks and nothing felt like a chore to play, which is a great sign for longevity. Having never been a serious guitar guy with earlier titles, I was stumped by the new slider but I can see the real heroes out there will have a lot of fun adding that to the repertoire. Character customisation and the music creator are both deep, so we didn't spend much time in there but saw enough to realise there is a whole new rabbit hole for musicians to disappear into. Not to mention the extra hours and days of play that will emerge from downloading user generated tracks post release.
Onto the drums. The addition of the fifth pad compared with Rock Band's standard kit adds complexity but not confusion. With the yellow and orange pads raised as cymbals, it doesn't take long to split things up appropriately in your mind. A double cymbal crash is your star power move, too, which is a nice way to flourish — though on first impressions finding a good time to hit it isnt easy.
The pads are more rubbery than the original Rock Band skins, which makes for a better feel. We're still not quite at the feel of real skins, but real skins break! Don't think anyone wants to start buying replacement skins for their virtual drum game.
The separation of the kick from the kit itself is a big plus, as this is where the problem with chasing the Rock Band kit across a room comes about. You can also get a better seat / feet position at the kit to suit your handedness. The kick has strips like the hook side of velcro underneath, so while now and then it felt like it may have been wandering, a quick foot adjustment meant it was probably more me slipping than it moving.
I struggled to spot the 'solo' gaps, which were designated by wavy lines but I had to have them pointed out. In hindsight I think I was looking in the wrong place, but it was very clear in Rock Band so that is a downer. I even managed to get it wrong and try to solo out at the end of Sweet Home Alabama, ruining a great performance by failing at 98%. Not a good look after some sweet guitar licks by my compatriot.
If there was one design issue with the drums that will take some getting used to, it's the hang between upper and lower skins. I made a habit of clipping the underside of an upper skin now and then, which caused the stick to flip out of hand and onto the floor. That'll cost dearly on Hard and Expert down the track, but I got away with a quick floor dive on Medium. This will resolve as practice makes perfect, but it is something to keep in mind.
We were jumping around the track list, so it was hard to assess how the difficulty progresses through the game. Anyone who has drummed will have no trouble diving in on Medium, but Hard seemed to add a lot of syncopation and movement around the skins that demands more familiarity with the kit than this virtual drummer could muster in my first hour hands on.
From a drummers perspective, if I have to choose one virtual drum kit this year I'll be choosing World Tour's.