This might be the most eclectic Guitar Hero yet. There's balls-out heavy rock in the form of Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica, Van Halen and Motorhead, golden oldies like Jimi Hendrix, Steely Dan, The Doors and Wings, and a smattering of modern indie hits by Interpol, The Enemy and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. And that's its biggest problem - its scope is almost too broad. It's fine if you're playing multi-player and making custom setlists, but ploughing through career mode you have to endure some truly dreadful music. That's a matter of taste of course, but we guarantee there'll be at least twenty songs you'll hate, no matter what your personal tastes are.
But, mercifully, Neversoft haven't messed with the structure of the career mode much. There's still a linear list of songs to progress through, but this time they're split into 'gigs' of five or six tracks. Playing through on your own is still reasonably entertaining, but it's when you get three mates together that the game really shines. See, this time the game includes not only bass and guitar, but drums and vocals too.
The drums are sturdier than Rock Band's with thick, stick-silencing rubber pads, but it'll take you a while to get used to moving your hands to whack the new raised cymbals. The patterns also seem more complex, and for the first few songs you'll be cack-handedly fumbling and dropping the sticks. Vocals are self-explanatory though, while the new 'slider' on the guitar lets you create a wah-wah effect by linking chords together.
But essentially, the actual experience of playing the game is the same as it ever was. Hit the notes in time, keep your rock meter in the green and get through the song with as many points as possible. It's still as responsive and satisfying as before, and you'll still find yourself making a gnarled 'rock face' during the trickier solos, but occasionally familiarity will kick in and you'll realise that you're playing a slight variation of a game you first played three years ago on PS2.
Of course, the budget has increased considerably since then and this is the flashiest, most celebrity-ridden GH to date. At the end of gigs in career mode, providing you played well, you'll get an encore, on which a famous musician will usually cameo. These include an uncharacteristically animated Ozzy Osbourne, Sting (seriously), that whiny girl from Paramore and even a slightly odd posthumous appearance from Jimi Hendrix. And with big stars come big songs, and playing 'The Wind Cries Mary' with Jimi is a special moment.
User-generated content is also a big deal. Not only can you create characters and instruments from scratch using a fantastically flexible editing tool, but you can make your own playable songs. The editor is incredibly complex and powerful, but you'll need to invest hard time in it to make anything remotely listenable. And when you do, you can upload it to GHTunes for the world to play. We downloaded some early user efforts from GHTunes and they were, well, abysmal, but give it time and there should be some quality stuff up there.
Why a lower score than GH3? Well, the game no longer feels fresh, even with the new instruments. And there are so many different types of music that you won't be as engaged by the setlist. Legends Of Rock was straight rock and roll that appealed to anyone with ears, but WT's variety makes getting to the songs you love a mild chore. Better than Rock Band? Ye-es, but there's little in it. WT edges it thanks to a great instrument editor, and less convoluted career mode. To really evolve, the series needs to innovate the core gameplay, not the fiddlier editing options.
Issue 108 of PSM3 will be out on November 20, featuring an exclusive preview of Bayonetta with new screens and info.
Overall A strange mixture of tracks but the instruments work brilliantly.