Since it arrived on PlayStation 2 in 2006, the Guitar Hero series has been a phenomenon, capturing the imagination of air guitarists worldwide. And now Guitar Hero: World Tour is here to do the same for anyone who has tapped out a drum beat on their knees, sung into a hairbrush or played slap bass on a broom.
Series veterans will welcome the new guitar techniques introduced in this instalment, which add freshness without detracting from a formula that has held strong since the original title. There are now extended sustains, which ask you to play a sequence of long notes, building them into a chord. The new guitar that comes bundled with the game features a touch sensitive pad with five sections corresponding to the normal fret buttons, so you can use it as an alternative to the strum bar for some Eddie Van Halen inspired fretboard tapping. Owners of older guitar peripherals don't miss out, as this feature works fine on the standard fret buttons.
The game's standout addition is that of a drum kit, featuring a realistic bass pedal and cymbals. Each pad has a satisfying bounce that aids rhythm and makes it feel like a real kit. Playing drums is similar to playing guitar or bass; each pad has a colour and you have to hit them in time to the corresponding icon as it scrolls down the screen, while a purple horizontal line denotes a press of the bass pedal. As with the first time you pick up a guitar controller, there's a learning curve. It's extremely satisfying when you get the hang of it, and if you practise enough to take on extreme mode, you'll be playing a very close approximation of the original drumming. Don't be surprised to see a generation of Neil Pearts emerging off the back of this.
Guitar Hero: World Tour is at its best when you have four people crowded around a television, their heads bobbing back in forth in synch and their tongues poking out in concentration. However, it's also a great game to play alone or with one or two friends, thanks to the flexible career modes and online support. Each of the four disciplines - guitar, bass, drums and vocals - has its own career mode that takes you on a tour of classic rock and roll venues around the world, as well as Band Career mode, which lets your friends join you on the road. In a departure from Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, you can now choose from a list of gigs as opposed to one standard set-list, making the experience less linear. Celebrity appearances have been retained, and this time around you'll encounter Billy Corgan, Jimi Hendrix, Ozzy Osborne and many more.
Laying down tracks
Another major new addition is the Music Studio mode, which allows you to create original tracks and upload them for others to enjoy. Making sweet music is simple and intuitive, and with great depth. You can assign sound effects for each instrument, adjust the tempo, choose from a variety of scales and add some post production to your creations, whether you've recorded them alone or with your band.
Online, you can find band members to join up with, or if you have yours all in the same room, take on others in a Battle of the Bands extravaganza. You can also download a host of extra songs, including full albums from Metallica and others. Add these to the 86 songs included on the Blu-ray Disc, which are all original master tracks and include such anthems as Hotel California by The Eagles and Bon Jovi's Livin' on a Prayer, and you have immense choice.
Guitar Hero: World Tour is a truly rock and roll videogame experience. The introduction of drums and vocals, along with the Music Studio, are the most obvious improvements, and basic guitar play is also improved, making single player more addictive than ever.
Whichever your instrument, Guitar Hero: World Tour will have you feeling like a superstar in minutes.