Players: 1-3
Price: $59.99
Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii
Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision

Guitar Hero: World Tour is better than Rock Band 2. I know it seems gauche and fan-boyish to start an article bashing another game, but when the two games are so similar, with Guitar Hero: World Tour outright stealing and swallowing a page right out of Harmonix’s playbook, it’s hard not to make the comparison. But compare, I must, and Guitar Hero: World Tour is everything that Rock Band isn’t—authentic feeling, musically diverse, and, most importantly, fun after hours of play, something Rock Band fails to accomplish with its flimsy feeling instruments and repetive track listing.

First, though, let’s talk about the songs because as with any rhythm game, that’s what makes or breaks the deal. Being a long-time fan of Guitar Hero, I was a little disappointed when Neversoft took over the reigns with the last game, as some of the songs just seemed to fall flat. But World Tour easily bypasses that problem with one of the best track listings I’ve ever heard in any game period. While it was nice to hear a song like, “Aqualung,” by Jethro Tull in Rock Band 2, it really can’t beat songs like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (Are you kidding me, I LOVE that song), “Love Me Two Times,” by The Doors, and “The Wind Cries Mary” by Hendrix. The sheer variety of songs in World Tour trumps anything in any game before it or currently on the market. You just can’t beat this track listing. And that’s not even taking into account the new create-a-song feature, which pretty much gives the game unlimited playability. I tried giving it a try and found that I’m going to need some work at it to make anything that legitimately sounds like music, but with so many different options available in the menus, I’m going to be tinkering with this feature for a long time; much longer than I’ve spent on any of the previous installments, no doubt.

But the replayability better be amazing with that $200 dollar price tag. Coming with a microphone, a set of drums and a guitar, the layout is going to look very familiar to you if you already have Rock Band in a designated spot in your house. But these peripherals don’t feel cheap or flimsy. I’ll be honest with you: what really killed it for me with Rock Band was not the clumsy assortment of songs, but rather the controllers that came packaged with it, as the guitar just seemed like a complete mess. Add to that fact that the guitar sections in the game were the weakest part of the overall package, and you have a title that might as well had just been called Drum Band, as that was the best part of the whole Rock Band experience. But Guitar Hero’s guitar feels perfect since it’s just like the old one, and the drums (More on them in a few) feel absolutely sublime. Couple that with singing sections in the game that actually hit the mark, and you have a rock band worth breaking up and getting back together again with.

First, let’s talk about the drums, though, since they’re of course going to be what everybody’s going to comparing the two games with. The drums in Rock Band were always very good. With a competent foot pedal and set-up, they were undoubtedly the best thing that Rock Band had to offer, and they only felt that much more focused in Rock Band 2. And while I can’t say the drums are better in World Tour (the kit is just fine, but the way it’s utilized in the game could use some work), I can say that they are on the same level of the first Rock Band, and I can only expect them to get better in the inevitable follow-up. What’s different about these drums, though, is that they come in a different configuration, with the yellow and orange pads acting as cymbals. In the medium setting, the notes come slow and easy, but it quickly ramps up when putting them on hard, making for some really sweaty cardiovascular work-outs (Who knew Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again,” had such a punk-like drumline?).

And the microphone just sweetens the deal. Quite frankly, most of Rock Band’s songs just aren’t that fun to play. Granted, music, like beauty, is all a matter of preference, but World Tour just has a more fun tracklisting to choose from. Hey, I like “So What’cha Want” from the Beastie Boys just as much as the next guy—and you’ll find it in Rock Band 2—but “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” is just a much more entertaining song to sing, and that’s where World Tour soars on so many levels while Rock Band falters. Instead of choosing songs that are the most noteworthy by the band in question, which is something is notorious of doing on a few occasions, World Tour chooses songs that would be the most fun to sing and play in a group of friends. This makes those bizarre screams from Micheal Jackson all the more hilarious when your friend who didn’t even want to sing in the first place, has to be the one doing all the weird “hoo’s” and bird calls that Jacko once made famous. It makes for good party fun for all.

The Career Mode in World Tour is also much better and focused than it was in Rock Band, and the presentation is better, too. Guitar Hero has aways bought into being the hammy brother of the musical family, and the electricity bursting out of guitars and the crazy animations that occur when you’re really rocking feel right at home in a game called Guitar Hero. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d much rather portray an out of this world alien in Gene Simmons boots than a believable upstart just trying to get a record deal. But again, it’s all about preference. I just happen to prefer Guitar Hero.

There’s so much more to the game (creating a band of all ninjas and calling them “The Foot Clan,” with the Create-a-Rocker mode, just seems so right) and I don’t want to disclose it all in fear of boring you. But if you even remotely liked the last Guitar Hero, single instrument as it was, and loved Rock Band, then you must pick this game up.

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