After kicking off the plastic instrument craze in 2005 with the very first Guitar Hero title, developer Harmonix went on to create two follow ups to the title before Activision's purchase of RedOctane and MTV's purchase of Harmonix resulted in the creation of two separate franchises. Activision's Guitar Hero III was more than a little overshadowed by the Harmonix-developed Rock Band, which upped the ante by including drums and a microphone for the total band experience. Activision's answer to that? Guitar Hero World Tour, which takes the same gameplay made popular by Rock Band and adds a little more functionality.
Has Activision managed to beat Harmonix at their own game, or is Guitar Hero World Tour but a pale imitation? Let's see what the all-star game critics super group has to say.
...Now we have the "true" sequel to Guitar Hero III with Guitar Hero World Tour. For the first time in the series, the game will offer fans the ability to play the drums and sing as well as rock out on the guitar and bass. This scenario clearly sounds an awful lot like Rock Band, and in some ways the game is extremely similar to Harmonix's band simulator. However, as much as it's tried, Neversoft hasn't been able to catch up to Rock Band quite yet. And yes, I'm talking about last year's game, and not even Rock Band 2.
The main reason I'm not scoring World Tour higher is the issue with the note charts and it's something veteran skilled players of the post-Harmonix Guitar Hero games will know all too well. For playing up to and including medium difficulty the game feels absolutely fine. But played on the hardest level there's a genuine issue of over-charting. Neversoft hasn't quite nailed the note charts in the way Harmonix has.
When you talk about GH evolution, the first thing to consider is the guitar. The GHWT axe doesn't go with a name brand, instead being a custom shape—the best comparison is that the body is like a Stratocaster, but the head is definitely different. This new guitar is also bigger and heavier than the previous GH controllers, though it's still comfortable around your neck and in your hands. Also, the whammy bar has been lengthened and seems to be a bit more sturdy.
As with Rock Band 12 months ago - or about five minutes ago in Europe - the drums are the most interesting element of Guitar Hero World Tour because they're the biggest novelty, and RedOctane has also outdone the Rock Band kit here with a five-pad set that includes two raised cymbal pads and a foot pedal made out of sterner stuff than its plywood counterpart. The rubberised, velocity-sensitive drums are more fun to play with and going back to the Rock Band ones afterwards is like being given a bicycle after a car. There's even a MIDI input at the back for add-ons.
So yes, Guitar Hero World Tour is pretty darn wonderful. Okay, so the main bulk of it is yet another rendition of a game we all know by now, but it's easily the best rendition of that game that we've seen so far. When you factor in the Music Studio and all the creative doors that it opens, it's clear that this is by far and away the best rhythm game available on the market today. That's good news for you lot, but for Harmonix? Well, we'd say it's got a mountain to climb.
From nowhere near even Rock Band 1 to look out, Harmonix, in five easy steps.