Jeremy's almost but not quite entirely moribund blog

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Guitar Hero World Tour PS2 - First Impressions

Don't know if I've mentioned it on the blog before, but I'm somewhat of a Rock Band addict.  Drums are my specialty (I've five-starred 55 of the 58 on-disc songs, 32 of them gold).  I can also hold my own on guitar and bass (the zigzags in GG&HT are all that stand between me and beating the expert guitar tour).

Anyhow, I have a PS2 (which I also use for DDR every morning) and can't justify buying a PS3 or 360 just for Rock Band (as I can't imagine what else I would do with one--I'm not really into video games anymore, and I can't remember the last time I put a non-rhythm game into my PS2--it's probably been at least a year).  I'd like Rock Band 2... but it's not out yet for the PS2.  Meanwhile, Guitar Hero World Tour is out, but I was skeptical about buying it (1) due to the imperfect mappings on a Rock Band drum set and (2) due to some reviews I've read saying the product is a little buggy.

And today I came home from work and found my wife rented the game for me.  I hadn't even thought of that option.  Anyhow, I've played it a bit, and I don't think I'll be buying it.  It's not pretty:
  • The game assumes you have a widescreen TV.  If you don't (and I don't), everything is squished.  Unlike Rock Band, there is no 4:3 option.
  • The game assumes you have a large TV.  And I don't.  Legibility is poor.
  • The kick pedal bar is purple.  The background is purple.  It's not very visible.  Sometimes I missed a bass drum note just because I didn't see the purple bar.
Okay, so far, the problems could be mitigated by getting a big widescreen TV.  I've been considering that for some time now, my main holdup being lag (DDR, which I play every morning, unfortunately does not have robust lag calibration options, and I play for AAs...)  But there are other problems with this game:
  • Saving the game takes ridiculously long--like 15 seconds--easily 3x as long as Rock Band.
  • The game is slow.  Loading songs takes ages. 
  • The user interface is unresponsive.  The game frequently freezes and hiccups while scrolling through the song list.  It feels like browsing the web on dial-up.
So all in all, the game is unfriendly to non-HDTV users and feels rough around the edges.  It doesn't feel like a good investment, particularly when Rock Band 2 has so many of the same songs.  (RB2 doesn't have Hotel California and Sweet Home Alabama though - GHWT gets some points for having some songs that the average person has actually heard before.)

As for drum gameplay--it'd be better with the real GHWT kit of course, but it works with the Rock Band kit.  It's a little strange having the crash cymbal be the blue pad instead of green (you almost never use the green pad in GHWT, at least on the easier songs).  The star power thing is a little difficult to pull off (you have to hit blue and yellow at precisely the same time, interrupting only one note in the track, and if you screw it up you lose your multiplier).  And I believe (but haven't gotten there to see yet) that fast songs like Everlong will need to be played left-handed (because GHWT doesn't switch the red and yellow pads in songs with hi-hat rolls, which they don't need to do because their yellow pad is above the red one, not to its right).

So anyhow--my first impressions weren't that great--it feels slow, unresponsive, and rough around the edges, and if you don't have an HDTV, this game wasn't made for you.  But I've got the game for another couple of days, so maybe it'll grow on me.

Edit: Second Impressions

Played for another couple of hours.  Here are some nice things I found:
  • In solo play, the instrument you're playing is mixed louder (like in GH2 and probably other GH games).  I like this.  I can actually hear the real drum part over the clacking of my RB1 drum set.
  • In the 5-to-4 condensed drum tracks, sometimes yellow+blue combinations come down the pike.  I was worried these would be effectively mandatory star power activation points, but they're not--hitting this combination when it's notated doesn't engage star power.
  • Open-strum bass notes are a fun addition.  The first one threw me off, but I picked them up pretty quickly after that.
  • There are a couple of classical songs included, such as Fur Elise.  They sound like bad midi files, however.  Probably because they are.  I guess they're an example of custom songs you can make--and that is a nice feature that Rock Band does not have (on any platform).
And some more complaints:
  • After you pick guitar or bass in quickplay, you can't change this selection.  A note at the bottom of the screen says the red button goes back, but it doesn't.  Probably a bug.
  • I found the unlock-all cheat code and dove into the hard songs in Quickplay.  As predicted, Everlong murdered me in about ten seconds, in part due to the fact that you indeed have to play it left-handed on a Rock Band kit.  I thought I might be able to work around this by switching to Lefty mode, but...
  • In solo quickplay (unlike in group quickplay), you can't choose handedness before the song.  And if you try to switch to Lefty mode in the pause menu, it makes you restart the song (and wait through the interminable load screen again).  And although the hi-hat roll is right-handed in this configuration, the left hand is forced to do all the other work, so it's not really a good workaround.
And some neutral observations:
  • The timing window is looser than Rock Band.  Fills and flourishes are easier to hit.  On the other hand, the fail meter goes down faster when you miss notes.  The net effect of this, in my opinion, is to make easy songs easier and hard songs harder.


  • Hi there...

    Found your blog when I was googling around trying to find out info as to why my 4:3 TV was showing the game compressed widescreen.

    I even contacted Activision about it and they so far have not given me an explanation. If you would like, join me in contacting their support. If they get enough emails on this issue, maybe they will send out a corrected version with an option to switch between widescreen and 4:3 like every other game that is out there.


    By Blogger Rob, at 11:30 AM  

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