((Author's Note: Sorry about the huge wall of text, but I can't find any funny pictures to break up this article. If you want something less wordy and more snarky, check out my review of the movie Resident Evil: Degeneration which unfortunately got buried alive underneath the hug-fest-slash-orgy that erupted that weekend. Thanks!))
One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to buy GH:WT (and pretty much the only reason why it's not gathering dust right now in my basement) originally was for the custom song creator that was announced. The thought of finally sitting down and being able to play kickass rock remixes of video game songs seemed almost good to be true.
Unfortunately, after playing around with it for a bit, that seemed to be the case.
For those not familiar with the feature, let me explain it this way: the game gives you two different options for transcribing notes onto a custom track, using the Live Record, or GH Mix. Live Record allows you and your friends to sit down with the plastic instruments, choose the key you want to use, as well as various effects and kits to get a specific sound. you then proceed to thrash around until you get something that sounds cool. The GH Mix then allows you to go through that track and delete or add notes, loop parts, as well as change the tempo and effects.
This all sounds fun at first, but once actually sit down and try to make a song, the various limitations of the system start to get very frustrating. First of all, the interface is very convoluted and hard to get used to. You really have to spend a lot of time familiarizing yourself with the specific menus and options before you can even hope to sit down with your friends and have a productive jam session. Those hoping just to pick up a guitar or a set of drums and bang out the next "Stairway to Heaven" are out of luck.
In my opinion, the easiest way to write a song is just using the GH Mix feature. It lets you go through and add notes one at a time, which makes transcribing a song a lot easier. Using a plastic guitar to control all the functions is still very clunky and unintuitive like Live Recording, and takes a while to get used to. But once I got the hang of it, I managed to notate the Guitar and Bass parts of the Tetris B theme in about 45 minutes.
Even then, it's very tricky to get around some of the seemingly nonsensical limitations. for example, YOU CAN'T FUCKING WRITE TRIPLETS. They give you options for every other note style under the sun, quarter notes, sixteenth notes, 32nd notes, and even an option for "precise" timing, which allows you to position the notes pretty much wherever the hell you like, but no triplets? What the hell? Also, the octaves are pretty limited, only giving you three for the lead guitar and two for the bass, and the sound samples are terrible. It may just be that I'm using the Wii version (I don't know what the 360 and PS3 versions are like), but my ten-year-old Yamaha keyboard
has better-sounding samples. They're screechy, grating, and overall don't sound anything like a guitar or bass. And you can't use two different samples in the song, you choose one and it applies it to the whole track. You can't change tempos midway through either.
I realize that Activision and Neversoft aren't trying to make a professional-level music mixing program, but some of these blantant omissions in a feature that's supposed
to be utilized by people that are familiar with music just smacks of lazy developing.
But even with all these shortcomings, I still managed to transcribe a few game songs straight from my sheet music collection
, namely the Yoshi's Island Athetic Theme, Rusty Bucket Bay, Tetris B Theme, Rainbow Road from Mario Kart: Double Dash, and Geno's Woods. As soon as I get a drum part written and my Wi-Fi connection up I'll try to get them uploaded to GHTunes so you guys can check them out.
So overall, I don't like many of the design and interface choices with the GH Mix and Live Record features. It's clunky, unintuitive, and severly limited. But that doesn't mean that it's impossible to write a great song with it, just that it's really difficult to do well, and it will take forever to figure out how. If Activision/Neversoft try to include this feature again in later Guitar Hero titles, I hope they streamline the system and include some mission options that I complained about above. The custom song creator in its current form, while a nice sentiment, just isn't anything better than an interesting gimmick.