Wednesday, November 5, 2008

GH:WT Vocals, Thoughts and Impressions

I've seen some good back and forth between fellow Vocalists on ScoreHero regarding this. I tried very hard to be as objective and fair as I could be in my weighing in of this new Vocal product. It's been almost a whole year since Rock Band graced our lives, so a lot of us have become so familiar and biased toward Rock Band that objectivity isn't an easy task. At the end of the day though, this court and its honorable Judge, CEO, President of Operations and MFIC finds in favor of the Vocal plantiff, Rock Band. Guitar Hero: World Tour is hereby sentenced to 12 months in a correctional facility. May God have mercy on its soul. /gavel

Let's give credit where credit is due to some innovations that WT has brought us though. Push-button activation is something so simple and yet so powerful. I can't say enough good things about it. A true and deserving Vocal practice mode is also worth mentioning(Are you listening, HMX?).

I think a case could also be made for the ambitious things that Neversoft tried to do with the Vocals in this game, even if they weren't fully realized. The freeform sections introduced, as odd and brokenly powerful as they may be, are an interesting idea in theory. Nearly equivelant to a drum fill, the singer is supposed to create his or her own melody in line with the tune and beat of the song. Sounds great, right? It isn't. The words esoteric and misappropriated come to mind. If you sing the right notes and hold a tone in the right way, you can do well with them, too well, actually. A well-timed SP release with a maxed out multiplier over one such section can dwarf the score of the entire song. Also, not all freeform sections react the same way. I've gotten to a x8 multiplier repeatedly on some songs, and struggled to hit x3 on others regardless of length. The freeform sections seem like an interesting idea but the execution is awful.

I'll mention the hand-raising sections very briefly. If you say any noise at all in that section for any length of time you get a fixed amount of SP. This is probably what freeform sections should have been.

Talkies are an interesting beast. If you see red on a Vocal highway, that means if you say or sing anything over those, you get them. Talkies become more of a challenge in how long you can hold your breath out than anything else. Still, they are effortless, and require no special manipulation of sound or sensitivity. So, I think Talkies are somewhat of a push.

The scoring system is awful; it really is. I'm not sure what Neversoft had in mind, but with note snapping and a ridiculously punishing accuracy system, this is probably the biggest turnoff among Rock Band Vocalists. While I appreciate the difficulty in light of Rock Band 2's 'no one gets left behind approach' to Vocals, it's too much. Yes, the score at the end is a measure of accuracy, not a combo percentage, but something about seeing a score in the low-to-mid 90's for a song I nailed is just bad. I really hope that the next Vocal iteration in either franchise falls somewhere in the middle of the difficulty levels we have thusfar.

There are some other small gripes, like having the color of the ball's path turn to blue when under SP. According to Crayola, there are 8 basic colors. Pick a different one so we can see what the hell we're doing. The SP usage for Vocalists seems odd too. My multiplayer experience in WT so far has shown me that a Vocalist should virtually never activate SP. This is mainly because when a Vocalist activates, we stop picking up SP each phrase. It serves the band better to just keep firing up those bulbs every phrase and let them use it. So, we get push-button activation just in time to leave our controllers behind. =/

I'm not saying that the Vocal experience in and of itself is awful in WT. There's a lot of fun songs to be played and enjoyed if you let the score be what it is and just have fun with it. If you're even remotely interested in scoring, solo or otherwise, you're going to have a tough time with this game though. My humble opinion: this game is only as bad as how seriously you take it, but it's not all bad.

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