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Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits Package Art
Vicarious Visions

Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits

Money is an incredible motivator, and the Guitar Hero franchiseís history on Nintendo DS proves it. Guitar Hero: On Tour was released last June and it sold incredibly well, thus inspiring Activision to crank out a sequel, Decades, in time for the holidays. Another six months have passed, so yet another rendition of gamingís most popular music game has landed on gamingís most popular handheld. Fans will be glad to learn that Modern Hits features major changes to the overall structure of the game, but they will be disappointed to hear that those changes are not necessarily for the better. What's more, none of the major problems with the core gameplay have been fixed.

Everybody should be familiar with classic DS Guitar Hero gameplay by now, but here is a quick refresher. First and foremost, players need the Guitar Grip peripheral; fans of the first two DS titles should already have one, but newcomers can buy a bundled copy of the game that includes the peripheral. Remember though, the guitar grip plugs into the DSís GBA slot, so DSi owners will have to rock elsewhere. With the Grip in place and the DS held sideways, players, press down the four colored fret buttons and strum across the touch screen to the rhythms and notes coming down the non-touch screen. Once again, this is a creative approach to playing Guitar Hero without the full sized guitar controller, but the actual performance remains a major issue.

Now, where to begin? On Tour suffered from imprecise strum detection on the touch screen, Decades made no attempt to fix it, and, somehow, it feels even worse on Modern Hits. Perhaps it is not the sensitivity; it could be a problem with the charting of the song. Regardless, several of the songs are almost unplayable on higher difficulties that require fast strumming. The Evanescence song is a particularly nasty offender with a simple yet quick rhythm that failed to register at least 75% of the time.

The other big problem that carries over is the Guitar Grip itself; its cramped configuration is downright painful for extended play sessions, large hands, and any song that requires fast and intricate fret work. Furthermore, the Grip is prone to slide out of the DS during gameplay, stopping the song and forcing the player to restart the system. Having to constantly monitor the Gripís position is an absolute nuisance but is necessary so as not to abruptly end the game session. These problems make Modern Hits all-but-unplayable for anybody who wants to play the more challenging difficulties or anyone who happens to have large hands.

For those players who are actually willing to suffer through these problems, the linear progression of the past games has undergone a few significant twists. Instead of just playing through a set list, players are now given a set of songs. As those songs are played through, players earn fans and open additional challenges for that song. These challenges task a player with playing through a song again while nailing specific criteria, like hitting a particular number of star power sections or maintaining a long enough streak. The challenges also include guitar battles and bass parts.

Along with money, fans are also awarded upon successfully completing a song and they are the key to opening up new venues and set lists. Hereís the problem: the number of fans generally needed to advance the game effectively forces players to play through the same songs two or three times, one time regularly and one or two more times as challenges. Modern Hits will take longer to beat than its predecessors, but that is only because of the forced repetition.

Luckily there are a few positives to be found in Modern Hits. Vicarious Visions once again delivers an aesthetically pleasing game. The venues and characters are imaginatively designed and portrayed quite colorfully, though players really donít get to appreciate those details as the note chart demands your attention while playing. The song sharing abilities between all the songs of the series remains in place, so players can effectively play all of the songs from the other two games so long as a player knows somebody who owns them.

Finally, there is the second most important part of any music game after gameplay -- the set list. As you could probably tell from the title, Modern Hits is all about 28 popular songs from this millennium. Of course, oneís taste in music is highly subjective; some folks out there probably love all the latest tunes, while others might consider ďmodern hitsĒ to be deplorable vacuums of creativity lacking any redeemable qualities. The former will no doubt love this set list while the latter might, quite surprisingly, begrudgingly acknowledge the song selection is at least halfway decent thanks to several enjoyable tracks from The Offspring, Wolfmother, and Black Tide. Fall Out Boy, however, remains just as unwelcome as ever. Regardless of taste though, nobody except the stingiest audiophile can deny that the developers did a superb job in compressing the sound files, because the overall quality is clear and sounds great through a pair of headphones.

Ultimately, thereís not much more to say about Modern Hits that hasnít already been said about the other two Guitar Hero titles on DS. They all look good, they all have surprisingly good sound quality, they all have solid multiplayer options, and they all suffer from the same major problems: unreliable strum recognition and a cramp-inducing peripheral. While these problems wonít likely affect younger gamers, older folks are all but alienated. More importantly though, the mere fact that Activision and Vicarious Visions have allowed these major problems to go unfixed for three titles needs addressing; Guitar Hero is one of the biggest franchises in gaming right now so this continued level of near broken gameplay is inexcusable. Hopefully the DSi will catch on enough to force the Guitar Grip into its much-deserved grave.

final score 5.0/10

Staff Avatar Andy Hoover
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"There's SAND on my boots!"

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