Pretending to play a piece of guitar-shaped plastic like a real instrument may not be quite on par with the awesomeness of firing off screechy arpeggios on a Flying V plugged into a cranked Marshall stack. But for the musically inept, Guitar Hero in all its forms provides a sweet, sweet taste of the power of rock.
Nintendo purists had to suffer through the lack of an available Guitar Hero experience for quite some time. When the franchise finally arrived on the Wii, it was a shred-tastic affair, but it lacked some of the bells and whistles of the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. Guitar Hero World Tour is doubly enticing, because is seeks to deliver the robust, full-band experience of Rock Band and give Wii owners the ability to finally enjoy downloadable tracks. It does neither perfectly, yet it packs enough improvements, new features and great music to truly warrant players' enthusiasm.
The massive bundle of equipment needed to fully enjoy World Tour is bulky enough to choke your living room. The two most notable pieces of hardware are the drum set - an entirely new addition - and an upgraded wireless guitar. Sensitivity and other issues aside, World Tour's wireless drums are more solidly designed and slightly quieter than the stark-white Rock Band drum kit. The three main drum pads (snare and two toms) have just the right amount of give, and the two elevated cymbal pads are a nice touch. Even on Easy, players use all five pads and the kick pedal. The realistic design and pad placement really adds to the unit's playability. As a former drummer, I generally found playing the World Tour kit to be a very satisfying, if slightly imprecise experience.
A few improvements to the new guitar design make it far superior than the last model. It seems to handle better overall, with tighter strumming and better responsiveness. You can trigger Star Power via the standard guitar chop or by hitting a new button with your palm. There's also a touch-sensitive strip further up the neck to let your slide or tap out notes with your fingers without having to hit the strum bar during specific sections . Additionally, you can slide your fingers across the touch strip during long notes to produce a cool "wah" effect. In the game itself, the fingering system has been greatly refined, allowing you to strum only the first note of a complex sequence and finger the remaining notes. This makes the guitar parts feel a lot tighter. A separate Wii Remote is required for the drum set and each of the guitars you'll be using. Unfortunately, none of the instruments are compatible with Rock Band on the Wii.
World Tour's Career Mode allows you to play as a full four-piece band (with guitar, drums, bass and vocals) or with any combination of available instruments. Group play is almost exactly the same as in Rock Band. The only substantive difference in full-band play is that Star Power goes into a group pool that can be siphoned off in small chunks by individual players seeking to boost their score. Also, if anyone fails, you're forced to restart the song from the beginning. Despite those two minor shortcomings, the camaraderie that comes from playing with others in a band - even a fake one - adds a lot to the Guitar Hero series without sacrificing the challenge of the solo experience.