Better still, the GH gods have finally answered our prayers and bought us Eddie Van Halen, with Hot for Teacher and the legendary (and fiendishly difficult) Beat It. Throw in Hotel California, Are you Gonna Go My Way, Hollywood Nights and a double dose of Hendrix and there’s plenty of stuff that anyone who’s ever played air guitar will want to try. Sure there are a few duds, but any game featuring 86 songs will have some, and – in my opinion – they’re pretty few and far between. Plus, every single one is an original master recording.
There isn’t a huge number of tweaks to the formula – it’s still strum the bar while holding the right button at the right time as the tablature scrolls down – but generally speaking this is a slicker, more player friendly affair. The boss battles from GHIII are back, but they’re more musically engaging and less gimmicky than the old ones, and the difficulty curve is more spike-free. You can’t help thinking that the game’s major new addition – the slideboard – could have been used more consistently and more interestingly, but it doesn’t do anything to spoil the game. In fact the only negative thing you can say about World Tour’s gameplay is that the formula is beginning to get very familiar, and with familiarity always comes some contempt. Much as I love the new songs and the way you play them, I have to admit that there’s little really new and exciting to experience in this version.
Still, on other levels Guitar Hero is really catching up with Rock Band. The EA/Harmonix rival made GHIII look a bit rough and cartoony, but World Tour brings real improvements to the way the performance of the band is captured visually, with more concert video-like editing and the best, most detailed stage settings the series has ever seen. Whether fairgrounds, black-metal venues or festivals, each is oozing – sometimes literally – with lifelike touches. Meanwhile World Tour is the first Guitar Hero to allow you to create your own rocker and their guitar, and if the lack of licensed guitars is a slight loss to the GH atmosphere, the prospect of putting your own custom hero on the stage is more than ample compensation.
As a single player game, then, World Tour is as good as Guitar Hero gets. As a band game, however, it’s still not quite as good as Rock Band. Credit where credit’s due: the drums work brilliantly and the cymbals add to the overall would-be Neil Peart feel. The microphone is sensitive and the vocal tracks are just about demanding enough for the average singer, while World Tour actually makes the bass player work for a living by throwing in an open strum on top of the regular five fretted notes. However, World Tour’s band career mode just doesn’t have the atmosphere of Rock Band’s. It’s partly that it doesn’t even try to capture the progression from bar band to stadium masters, and partly that – for some reason – the impression it creates during a gig is more of two to four soloists working independently than of a band coming together for a performance.