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Guitar Hero World Tour: hands-on review

PC Advisor got its hands on Guitar Hero World Tour for the Xbox 360 last night. Here are our impressions of the game, which adds vocals and drums to Guitar Hero's established bass, lead and rhythm guitar elements.

See also: Guitar Hero: World Tour expert review

Firstly, the instruments are great. The guitars have been modified from previous Guitar Hero editions - they're now larger, with easier-to-reach whammy bars and star-power buttons - but older controllers should be compatible with World Tour.

The drums are impressive, with three main pads and two elevated cymbals - these five areas correspond to the five coloured blobs players will be used to from older Guitar Heros. But there's also a bass pedal, which you have to strike whenever a purple line appears across your fret. Having to co-ordinate three limbs at once proved too much for most of the journalists present at the event, even on the new preposterously easy Beginner difficulty level.

The microphone is pretty basic, although there's the nice option to use a standard USB-compatible mike if you're a real-life singer. As for competing games' hardware, it's reported that Rock Band instruments may work with GHWT.

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And the actual gameplay is brilliant. It's hard to convey quite how fun it is to play the game as part of a full band, but most gamers will be familiar with the amusing and addictive party atmosphere of four-player games. It combines the raucousness of multiplayer games with the innate silliness of a group of grown-ups strutting around and pretending to be rockstars using slightly undersized instruments. And there's a nice blend of co-operation and bantering rivalry.

The interface is predictably complicated. If you have the full four-piece band, it can be quite hard to make out the antics of the rock-star sprites. There are three of the old 'fret' note lists along the bottom, plus the singer's notes up top.

The range of songs is absolutely superb, with a far smaller proportion of boring tunes than in the past. The Foo Fighters' 'Everlong' was our favourite, but there's a massive range that should have something for everyone. And there will be downloadable content in the future, with entire albums expected to be released in GHWT format.

Other impressions? Well, for one thing you'd be amazed by the variety of journos who decided to try their hand at the game. We met representatives of sports sites, a TV listings site and a men's interest magazine, along with the usual techie suspects. Which gives an idea of Guitar Hero World Tour's potential reach among non-traditional gamers.

Another surprise was how unfamiliar most of the press were with Guitar Hero - PC Advisor maintained company pride by laying down a score of 99 percent, but our non-PCA bandmates, who evidently have richer social lives that us, struggled with the basic elements of the game. And this, too, bodes well for the game's prospects, since it's clearly generated enough publicity to attract Guitar Hero virgins. It's possible that including the karaoke-ish vocal element, which is less intimidating to non-gamers, may enable this game to encroach on SingStar's territory as the leading pioneer among so-called 'casual' gamers, and, er, hen parties.

Finally, we learned that journalists can be a shy lot when asked to rock out in front of cameras and a group of their peers. A few cans of lager wouldn't have hurt, surely?

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