As soon as Rock Band let you play guitar, bass, drums, and sing to your favorite music, it was clear the bar had been raised in the music-game genre. It wasn't long before Activision announced that the Guitar Hero series would follow suit. The result is a very entertaining game that doesn't break a whole lot of new ground. Guitar Hero World Tour's in-game music creation feature isn't as revolutionary as it could have been due to its convoluted interface, but thanks to a huge setlist of recognizable hits and cant-miss gameplay, World Tour is a great game and certainly a huge step forward for the franchise.
Zombie Hendrix still plays a mean axe.
The most obvious difference between World Tour and previous Guitar Hero games is that you can now sing, play drums, play bass, or play guitar. You can play one instrument alone, perform as a band with a few friends, or even hop online and rock head-to-head or as some sort of Internet supergroup. The long-awaited ability to play as a "real" band in a Guitar Hero game improves what was previously an experience shared by one or two people on guitar and bass. Bickering over setlists; swapping instruments midset; getting sweaty and stinky from jumping around in a small room while your friend with the terrible voice gives it his or her all in "Livin' on a Prayer" as your neighbors bang on the wall...that's when Guitar Hero World Tour is at its best.
GH World Tour is available as an instrument bundle or as a standalone disc. If you don't buy the bundle, you can use guitars from previous games as well as peripherals from both iterations of Rock Band. The latter option might be your best bet given the less-than-stellar performance of the World Tour hardware over a week-and-a-half of play. The drums have several issues: Cymbals are either too sensitive or not sensitive enough, and the bass pedal is inconsistent as well. That's nothing compared to the problems that we've had with the guitars. The fret buttons began to stick after a day, and it wasn't long before the strum bar failed to accurately recognize input. The frets held up better on our second guitar, but the strum bar quickly failed on it as well. One nice thing about that guitar is that you can activate star power either by tilting your instrument or by simply pressing a new button below the strum bar with the palm of your hand. Just be careful not to press the poorly placed pause button while you're at it.
The big new feature in Guitar Hero World Tour is the music studio. It lets you create and share your own tunes, as well as download songs from others. Should you watch all of the tutorials and put in the time to learn the complicated yet robust program, you'll be able to produce some amazing results. The bad news is that you have to put in a lot of time and effort because it's incredibly difficult to make music creation a user-friendly experience on a console, but it's near impossible if you force people to use a fake guitar. To make matters worse, there's no way to add vocals or lyrics to your creations, so it's quite possible your song will sound just like the hundreds of thousands of bad MIDI songs that permeate the Web. That said, if you're unable to channel your inner John Lennon, you can still enjoy the fruits of the music studio via other people's work. Just a week after the game's release, there are already a number of impressive user-created efforts available for download.
You'll need Mr. Miyagi levels of patience to use the powerful but complicated music studio.