Los Angeles may be a town known for the highest excesses of rock n' roll debauchery (with legendarily wayward rock acts such as Mötley Crüe and Guns N' Roses synonymous with the city) but Activision's headquarters - a dull grey box located in sleepy Santa Monica - is hardly the most thrilling place in the world to get my hands on with Guitar Hero World Tour for the first time.
Bed of nails
But it doesn't matter, because like Rock Band before it, Guitar Hero World Tour's full instrument line-up, featuring two guitars, drums and microphone, can give even the dullest corporate meeting room the atmosphere of LA's famous Troubadour rock venue. Guitar Hero is back - and in the finest tradition of rock flick Spinal Tap, everything in the game has been turned up to eleven.
If there was one thing that made Guitar Hero III a less popular pick than almost anything else over at my house whenever I had people round for some rocking out, it was the utterly diabolical character redesigns.
Judy Nails was treated worst, given a makeover that the whore of Babylon would have turned down as "a bit much", but Neversoft have owned up to their mistake and returned Judy to her alternative rock roots.
As Guitar Hero World Tour's lead designer Alan Flores told me: "We know a lot of fans didn't like what we did to her. But here at Neversoft we saw it as if Judy made it big and went to LA with Guitar Hero III, falling in with a bad crowd and making a lot of wrong decisions. But she's left LA and has learned her lesson."
Of course, there's still the chance that you aren't going to be satisfied with simply playing as Guitar Hero's usual characters (though it's worth noting they've brought back my favourite, Eddie Knox) or the still-top-secret list of playable rock stars, and that's why Neversoft have implemented a full character creator.
A first for the series - even though Neversoft has been familiar with them since working on the Tony Hawk's games, you start by picking sex, your "genre" and can then modify everything from the distinct positioning and size of facial features to layering unique facepaint and tattoos, or choosing clothes and piercings.
The customization doesn't stop there. Thanks to a zealous lawsuit from Gibson, there are no in-game licensed guitars, and rather than consider it a loss, Neversoft has turned it into something positive with an instrument creator that allows you to create the axe of your dreams. Or drum kit. Or even mic. You can modify your guitar, for example, right down to the shape of the headstock or the colour of the machineheads. It's up to you.
Custom instruments in game wouldn't mean anything if the real-world instruments didn't feel right, and it's the wireless drums which are the standout. If you've ever played a real drum kit, Rock Band's four-pad drum kit will never have satisfied you, as the tight-and-level layout of the pads mean that playing the hi-hat and snare never feels quite natural (especially if you're used to crossing your arms). Guitar Hero World Tour's drum kit rewrites the book.
The raised cymbals allow you to carry off ultra-realistic (and thrilling!) drum rolls and fills. Perhaps the only place where the drums don't feel perfect is the foot pedal, which like Rock Band lacks the feedback you'd really get from thumping a bass drum. But for all the extreme metal drummers out there, you'll be able to add a second pedal for any fast bass drum segments.
The wireless guitar hasn't been left out of things either, featuring a new Star Power button, and the big addition of a touch slider for slide guitar and two-handed tapping. As a result of these tiny changes, playing guitar and bass at higher levels is a little less 'pick up and play' than it has been in the Guitar Hero series before.