Well, it has finally happened. Guitar Hero has jumped the shark.
I guess most of us should have seen this coming, especially after looking, playing and eventually comparing the game to the only other real rhythm game on the market, Rock Band. And after playing Guitar Hero World Tour for a few days, a sense of disappointment washed over me.
It is never easy to see a beloved series go down the drain thanks to poor gameplay designs. And it is even more disheartening to see a recent series, one that has become a pop culture reference in quick succession, quickly tumble from its perch. Guitar Hero World Tour is a game that could have been good, hell, should have been good. But instead, it fails to catch the magic that make the entire franchise what it is today.
The game’s tired but true premise; going through a tracklist of famous artists to achieve the rock god mantra, has changed to encompass every instrument in the band. And, like Rock Band, the goal is to create your band and try to get the top of the heap by playing each song in a setlist of succession to rise to fame.
The biggest flaw in Guitar Hero is that it’s trying to be something that it’s not. It is literally taking the Rock Band concept and trying to make it its own, and fails at it. The games gameplay is unchanged, but the different mechanics added to enhance the games band experience are somewhat limited. Guitar and bass in particular are the only instruments that seem to be planned out, albiet most of the bass lines are ridiculously easy, and the drum kits are too hard. Hell, I failed on medium on “Livin on a Prayer” on the drums, which is unusual.
Oh sure, its setlist is better than ever, in fact it’s better than Rock Bands. “Crazy Train”, “Stranglehold”, and especially “Purple Haze” are the highlights of the games music tracks, and it definitely has the scratch to deliver on more of these great artists who are severely lacking in the rhythm genre. Groups like Sublime, Tool, and The Eagles are finally coming to the genre, and fans have never been happier. Even the statistical information given is a huge plus, because it shows you where you are in the songs, what areas need improvement, and how you as a player will improve over time by stat tracking.
But while most of the songs are fun to play, a lot of the presentation lacks any direction or discipline. There is no setlist that tells you the difficulty of the songs you’re playing, nor is there a co-op mode that augments the custom creativity that Rock Band has achieved. The note scrawling is now more compact on the screen, even if you’re on your own, giving it a smaller space and forcing you to squint your eyes a bit to make sure you don’t miss the notes. The biggest flaw is the lack of a “no fail” or “save” option when doing a multiplayer mode with the full band. Frankly, it’s pathetic that this isn’t included, because people will fail the songs from time to time, and everyone else should not suffer from it. Hell, it is impossible to figure out who is failing because there is no indicator that tells you who is where in terms of overall performance, and it makes it frustrating because of the lack of a saving feature.
The create a rocker/guitar/drumkit/logo modes are good additions, and have a lot of depth to it. I made a character that looked like a green elf with pink hair, and it was pretty funny to see it rocking out to “Santaria” and “Mr. Crowley”. Sadly, the games graphics are piss poor up close. Everything looks kind of blocky and lacks any real textures to it. The environments are also kind of bland, and the character animations are so damn bad I feel like I’m watching an automated show from Chuck E. Cheese.
The last new feature, the create a song mode, I was looking forward to. But like everything else, I feel it is a good idea that has turned into a troublesome tool. Oh it is deep and complex, and a lot of technophiles will love it, but it will be hard for the average gamer, let alone anyone who has no idea on whatever measures the tempo of musical notes, to master. I spent five hours creating a forty second opus that I dubbed “experimentation.” It was quick, difficult and jumbled on all five instruments, and it took me that long jut to make it. Granted, I was messing around with it to test it out, but a few problems did arise from doing so.
First off, the tools used to change the sounds are actually very limited. Like a normal mixer, you have the choice to perform different sounds that can range from classic rock to funky hip-hop for lead, rhythm, bass, keyboard and drums. The songs can be recorded free hand or crafted in the studio mixer, but the options are limited to a few choices on what the songs can actually sound like. It seems like it’s just an inkling of what really can be done, and since everything is on a simple scale, it gives the songs a skipping effect; repeated notes basically that all sound the same.
The biggest sin the game commits is the sound quality of the game overall. The tracks are all masters, but the sound seems toned down, especially when compared to Rock Band. Put it in this perspective. At night, I need to pretty much almost mute Rock Band so I don’t wake anyone in my household. Guitar Hero, I left it on the normal volume and no one complained. What’s worse, the sound affects the custom made songs even more, turning them into little quips that are really crappy, short and often muddled. Even the downloadable ones felt like that. Oh, they were intricate, had varied degrees of difficulty, and played well enough, but they just sounded horrible.
I feel that Guitar Hero is trying to become something it’s not. It is trying to emulate the successful formula of Rock Band; the cohesion of the entire band, the seamless setlists, the robust song lists and the frequent downloadable content, and above all else, the fun factor that made Guitar Hero what it was. The game is at a crossroads that can easily turn it into something like Rock Revolution, and while the game will still sell to undoubtedly millions of gamers out there, the experience leaves a sense of disappointment and sadness from what is really there. Guitar Hero is still a good series, and the game has a lot of strong points and great ideas, but it should have been fleshed out more to compensate for the poor execution of them.
Final Score- C+