New Guitar Hero World Tour videos, hands-on impressions from PAX

Billy Corgan is really excited about being in Guitar Hero World Tour. Not only does it bring music to the masses, but seeing a digital likeness of his lanky, bony frame and Skeletor-like face just makes him feel good. 

Corgan is one of the many musicians confirmed to be included in World Tour, among Ozzy Osbourne, Paramore’s Haley Williams, and drummer Travis Barker. The inclusion of musicians is just one of the things that Activision Blizzard and Neversoft are hoping will set World Tour apart from its competition. Videos detailing the game’s extensive and impressive music making tools and character creator can be found after the jump, as well.

In a week or so, I’ll be getting some extended hands-on time with Guitar Hero World Tour. In the meantime, hit the jump for some real quick impressions of the game and the hardware, both of which were available for fondling at the Penny Arcade Expo.

The drums: I really love the way the three drum heads feel; they have a “hollow,” bouncy feel that you would find on a real kit. It’s far easier to pull off rolls and the like than the more solid Rock Band heads.

The raised cymbals seem solid, and are definitely fun to play on. I did find myself having an issue with getting my sticks caught underneath the “crash,” since it sits so low. From what I could tell, there was no way to adjust its height or position. The kick pedal was way wider than I expected, and also not connected to anything — it simply sits on the floor. Because of this, I found it “getting away” from my foot during some songs, which could get frustrating.

The kit is definitely way bigger than the Rock Band set, so it looks like I’ll have to get rid of a chair, a coffee table, or a family member in my house to use them. Also, they’re pretty ugly to look at; the kit is very square, with hard edges, versus the more sleek, minimalist design of its competition. It has a very “toy” look, similar to the original Guitar Hero guitar peripheral.

The guitar:
In your hand, it feels almost identical to the guitars currently available for Guitar Hero. It’s slightly bigger, but that difference is not entirely noticeable. I was too scared to try playing anything down on the touch slider; it seemed difficult to tell where your fingers were when using it — the colors indicating what “button” you’re pressing are extremely subtle and difficult to see on the fly.

The game itself:
Interestingly, there were only a handful of songs available in the demo, and many of them were also playable at Harmonix’s Rock Band 2 stage. Confirmed: playing the game is just like playing Rock Band, more or less, with some subtle difference.

First, while the in-game interface is essentially the same (vocals above, then guitar/bass, drums, guitar/bass below in that order), the placement of important GUI items is completely different. Most notably, the Star Power and “fail” meters are tucked away in the top left corner in a very small, hard-to-see space. This made keeping track of who was doing what very difficult, as you had to pull your eyes away from your note chart to see what was happening.

Visually, I was disappointed. Despite the focus on mo-cap and better animation, movement still looks as stiff as in Guitar Hero III. Artistically, your mileage may vary — I’m personally not a huge fan of the over-the-top exaggerated look of the series, which is certainly making its return in World Tour

The four-player band setup is good times, and World Tour was most certainly fun to play. The note charts that I played didn’t seem “artificially difficult,” but you can tell they’ve done a few things to spice up the songs (i.e. the end of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” is a total guitar wank-fest in World Tour, but ends like you’d expect in Rock Band 2.) There’s definitely more going on in World Tour (more visually, more feature-wise), but I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing.

Instrument compatibility would lead me to think that fans of guitar/band games will want to grab both titles when they’re released; but since the drum setup is so drastically different in World Tour, I’m finding it difficult to see how they’d work with a competing game.

Nick Chester