Battle of the Video Game Bands

Guitar Hero: World Tour is Activision's new entry. With its new instruments and its ability to play user-composed tracks, can it out-rock EA's Rock Band?

Following last year's release of Activision's Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, EA surprised the industry with its multi-instrument Rock Band. Now Activision strikes back, further expanding its Guitar Hero franchise with various additions and changes with the forthcoming World Tour. It may not be the most original game out there, but it'll rock on.

For World Tour, Activision will introduce new instrument peripherals. This includes a five-pad drum set, a microphone and a guitar, redesigned from the ground up. (Since Activision doesn't have a patent for the Gibson guitar design, it made a new axe from scratch.) The guitar and microphone peripherals remain under wraps, but the drum set surfaced online. It features three drum pads aligned on the bottom and two cymbal pads on the top, resembling an actual set. In addition, the game should support previous Guitar Hero peripherals, including the wireless guitar that came with part three and the X-Plorer guitar for the Xbox 360. Sadly, it doesn't look as if it'll support the Rock Band instruments, but that isn't final yet.

Although it seems like Activision plans to copy Rock Band, World Tour does have some original concepts, the most significant being the ability to lay down your own tracks and upload them into the game. Using a specialized producing tool, you can insert guitar, bass and drum tracks for play in the game, which the game synthesizes using rhythm counters. Unfortunately, due to song copyright laws, you cannot record vocals, although Activision may find a way around that issue in the final release. This should swing the doors to the Guitar Hero online community wide open, letting users share songs with others and giving the game abundant downloadable content. On top of being able to create your own tracks, you can also customize your Guitar Hero characters, your band's logo and even your album covers.

Besides the possibilities of creating your own song list, Guitar Hero: World Tour will also contain various licensed tracks by original artists. Although specific tracks have yet to be revealed, you can expect to jam out to songs by Van Halen, Linkin Park, the Eagles and Sublime, among others. We're guessing that popular songs like "Panama,", "Victim of Love" and "One Step Closer (Break)" will be in there, since they're more popular tracks. Other downloadable track packs are also slated to be available with the game, and released more frequently than the ones that came out for Guitar Hero III. Weekly updates are possible at this point.

On top of uploading songs and using new instruments, World Tour will also feature expanded online options through Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. Four players can hook up together for quick jam sessions, alternating between instruments. Furthermore, an epic eight-person Battle of the Bands mode pits two teams of four against each other for musical domination. If getting together with friends isn't your thing, a single-player career mode lets you choose your path to rock superstardom.

Developer Neversoft Entertainment has also put a lot of work into the presentation. Expect lots of on-stage action with your characters, jumping around and "rocking out" more than ever before. There willin be several venues available, including local rock clubs and huge concert stages. So far, everything looks good.

The only downside to World Tour revolves around purchasing more instrument peripherals. GameStop currently shows a price tag of $190 for the whole she-bang. However, if you're a fan of great music games, this one should be worth adding to your library. Be sure to check back with GameDaily for all the latest coverage, including an updated track list, hands-on and comparisons to the Rock Band equipment. It's time to take the stage and show your worth.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.