Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern Hits Review

By Greg Bemis - Posted Jul 01, 2009

Our official stance on Guitar Hero On Tour is widely known. So really, unless Activision and Vicarious Visions can come up with something new, there's not much to say here. Does Modern Hits have what it takes to take the Guitar Hero portable experience beyond what we've already seen?

The Pros
  • Interesting Career Mode
  • Generous multiplayer options
The Cons
  • So-so set list
  • Hand cramps aplenty

Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern TourOur official stance on Guitar Hero On Tour is widely known.  So really, unless Activision and Vicarious Visions can come up with something new, there’s not much to say here.  Does Modern Hits have what it takes to take the Guitar Hero portable experience beyond what we’ve already seen?

Here We Go.  Here We Go. Here We Go Again.

By now, you know the drill.  Take out your trusty Nintendo DS (but not your shiny new DSi, it ain’t compatible), slap that funky fret controller into the GBA slot,  adjust the funky fret controller because it keep falling out of the GBA slot, grab the pick-shaped style and start shredding. The set list in Modern Hits obviously leans heavily towards tunes that are at least somewhat recent, so don’t expect any classics from yesteryear.  Of course, without even a nod to the oldies, the game runs the risk of having a bunch of songs that don’t hold up to repeat plays.  Such is the case with Modern Hits.   Your enjoyment greatly depends on whether you can stomach some of the song choices.

There’s good to be had in the selection.  Coldplay’s “Violet Hill” is nice (although you’ll be playing the piano track part of the time).  The Donnas are always good in a pinch.  But please, God, no more Fall Out Boy.  Like most Guitar Hero games, the songs are a blend of highs and lows.  But now that the market has been so totally saturated, it seems like the developers are drawing from the same limited pool of artists.  Oh look, there’s Wolfmother again.  And who’s that? Sum 41?  Fancy meeting you here.  It’s all getting a wee bit tired.

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Would music by The Cramps be too obvious?

Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern TourThe basic controls haven’t changed.  Strumming is hit or miss, especially if your hand tends to wander around the touchscreen while you’re looking at the note chart on the other side.  You still can activate star power by yelling things like, “Ow! Ow! Ow! My wrist!” into the microphone.  Speaking of cramps, the game still as uncomfortable to play as ever.  The manual suggests several different ways to hold the controller, but none of them provide the precision needed to play the game well.  In fact, I was making the kinds of rhythm errors that simply never happened while holding a fake plastic guitar.

The single-player campaign has undergone the most dramatic change.  It’s no longer quite a linear progression.  New venues (and songs) are unlocked as you accumulate fans (Hello, Rock Band!!).  You can get fans by completing not only your basic set list at each venue, but by completing Fan Requests.  These are things like Guitar Duels (ugh), playing bass and lead parts with special conditions attached, such as getting a 75 note streak, or a certain percentage of the notes.  Later, each venue will allow you to headline, giving you access to even more songs.

At first it’s a little tedious. Since so few songs are initially unlocked, you play the same three songs multiple times until you get a new venue.  Thereafter, the game settles into a nice groove of unlocking new stuff and providing interesting challenges at regular intervals.


Guitar Hero On Tour: Modern TourYou can also outfit your pre-fab rocker in new duds and give him or her a new axe, but it’s all pretty irrelevant given the tiny screen and limited visuals.  You won’t be looking at much besides the note chart.  And it’s not like anyone will be looking over your shoulder at your tiny shredder rocking out.

If multiplayer is your thing, you can stream songs to a buddy and you can play co-op or competitive.  If you own either of the other On Tour games, you can combine the set lists and rock out all night long.  It’s a really nice feature, providing that you’re okay with the inherent silliness of playing a series clearly designed for party gaming on a console, not handheld.

Everything Old is New Again

Here’s the bottom line:  as nice as the new single-player career mode is, you’re still stuck playing rather unappealing songs on a system that appears designed to cramp your hands.  I can’t get past that.  If you’ve played the other On Tour games and like them, you might dig this one.  If rocking on the DS isn’t your thing, Modern Hits won’t change your mind.