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01 Feb 2009

MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS. No longer shall I be the guitar solo goddess of Guitar Hero. Guitar Hero World: Tour is now upon us and we’re all band members now. Virtual band members, that is. You see, World Tour now also comes with drums and – gulp! - a microphone for adding vocals.For those not familiar with the popular series, Guitar Hero sees you wielding a realistic-looking plastic guitar and hitting coloured buttons on the frets in time with corresponding notes on the screen. If you hit the correct notes at the correct time, you gain points and progress through the game. The new plastic drum kit (purchased separately or as part of a bundle containing the game and all the instruments for a shade under $400) works similarly to the guitar. You simply match the coloured drum pads to the corresponding notes on the screen. Vocals, however, work a little differently. There are two parts to singing vocals – the first is pitch and the second is timing. An indicator called a ‘Comet’ will scroll across the screen as the song plays. In order to succeed you need to ensure the Comet goes through a vocal ‘tunnel’ by hitting the right pitch and timing simultaneously. And – just like when you’re playing guitar - Star Power can be activated either by hitting the top of the microphone or by pressing a button on the controller. Star Power is a great way to earn valuable bonus points.It’s pleasing to see that there’s a huge list of great songs to play along to – 86 of them in all, with more available for download. Songs will suit most tastes – from classic rock numbers like Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’, through to more recent hard-riffing favourites from bands like Foo Fighters, Tool and Bullet For My Valentine.The game modes of World Tour remain mostly unchanged from previous Guitar Hero games. Quick-play mode is designed for people already familiar with the series who just want to jump right in and start playing. Career mode focuses on taking your band all the way from playing dodgy gigs in seedy pubs through to superstardom, playing stadiums packed with rabid fans. There are also detailed tutorial modes to help build your skills – whether it’s with the axe, the skins or the vocal cords.The versatility of the game system makes it easy to swap between playing with a group of people or going solo. This is great because there are times when you just want to jam out to your favourite song or work on a particularly difficult drum solo or vocal part. The new Band Career mode lets you collaborate with three other people and make beautiful music together. You can either play via the Internet or select Local Play, which gives you the option to rock out in the comfort of your own garage... um, I mean lounge.Guitar Hero: World Tour also offers something called Music Studio, where budding rock stars can create their own tracks and then upload the finished songs online for others to download. Each instrument track can be recorded individually and then combined together later for the full effect – just like you would in a real music studio. There are hours of musical tinkering to be enjoyed in this mode.The only thing that annoyed me about World Tour was having to spend a lot of time fiddling around with the peripherals to get them working perfectly. In fact, one of the cymbals didn’t respond to any amount of beating, but this was likely due to some over-zealous drumming on my part. However, this minor gripe is easily forgiven when you consider the sheer awesomeness of the overall package – especially the Music Studio option.

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