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The MicSeveral of us had the chance to spend time singing a handful of World Tour's songs in a full band setting, here's what we think.

With A Mic In Your Hand

As far as the hardware is concerned, the microphone is functionally simple, closely resembling the Logitech USB microphone for the 360, albeit slightly heavier. Star Power activations were handled one of two ways: hitting the microphone or pressing 'A' on the XBox controller. And as before, the cord is long enough to cover quite a bit of ground if you're a particularly mobile vocalist. Additionally it should be noted that the inclusion of the controller being used to activate SP marks the end of dual shock or xbox controller playing, sorry folks.

The display for vocals is large and clear, for the most part. The scrolling words and pitch lines are very similar to that of Rock Band, but instead of a pitch arrow, you 'blaze a trail' with your vocal input. So if you are above or below a pitch, there is a colored line displayed in real-time to show whether or not you are singing too high or too low. Additionally, there are background lines in between phrases to indicate whether the next note is higher or lower. You can tell if you're hitting the phrases if your vocal trail runs directly over the words. However, it's very difficult to tell how you did on the overall phrase - it took me a while to realize that there was a green, yellow or red flash of light at the end of the vocal track to indicate my progress, and with the bright, flashing background graphics, this was pretty difficult to see.

In World Tour the mic picked up input extremely well. In fact there were very few instances where it had trouble differentiating what pitch I was going for, which was a difficulty for me on Rock Band at times especially with all the octave-shifting guys have to do. The engine seemed to be tolerant of a louder singing style, but even though we weren't afraid to belt it out, we had to keep a defined pitch present. Personally, I was rewarded more on Rock Band for singing quietly or in a falsetto; if I sang loudly, I'd distort the input and lose most of the pitch detection. This doesn't seem to be as much of an issue in World Tour. The fact that singers can sing as loud and as raspy as they choose to will definitely convince a few more people to hold the microphone instead of sitting out waiting for a plastic guitar or drum set.

Rock Band had set activation points for activating vocal Overdrive (star power), but in World Tour, you can activate at any time you want by hitting the microphone or pressing a controller button. The added flexibility is nice, but I frequently forgot I could activate SP without having the activation windows displayed. If you choose to hit the microphone while singing, choose your times wisely - it will interfere with the pitch detection if you hit it during a series of words. Using the controller to activate avoids this, of course.

Also, a very important thing to note is that there is now a vocal practice mode. It can be done by sections as indicated by the stats screen, where it will tell you your percentage on each set of verses and how many "words you missed."

How Hard is it to Sing?

I don't practice Santeria...On a very basic level, passing songs will be much easier as you can now practice certain sections in Practice Mode. But from a gameplay standpoint, being able to activate SP at any point is great in terms of saving yourself - you won't have to wait for a preset activation window. Being able to see your vocal trail with the words made it easier to correct pitch and stay on track, especially with unfamiliar songs.

Pitchless, "talkie" phrases were often met with harsh criticism due to the engine just not giving you the benefit of the doubt sometimes, which has thankfully been corrected. One issue in Rock Band that discouraged people from singing certain songs is that singing talking parts in the style the artist originally intended was constricted by an inconsistent voice detection system, although it is much improved in Rock Band 2. In World Tour, the "talkie" phrases were very easy to hit if you mimicked the actual vocal track, no tricks required. It seemed to me there were two ways to hit talkies - either attempting to sound -EXACTLY- like the artist, or making as much noise as possible. Whether or not one garners more points than the other is uncertain, but your vocal trail will either cover or display on top of the talkie words if you've done well.

Another interesting part of the difficulty will be FCing WORDS more-so than phrases. It will be interesting to see how competitive this game will get once people figure out how to 100% words / 100% Phrases. I sang "Feel the Pain" by Dinosaur Jr., a song I knew very well before World Tour. I reached a 4X combo as soon as possible and never broke combo, yet I ended with a 91%. Others received credit for every phrase and received ratings as low as 80%. Clearly, World Tour is attempting to reward an incredibly precise reproduction of pitches, for the exact lengths of the words they cover. So if you're casually singing on pitch, you won't break your band's streak, but a lower-than-expected percentage at the end is inevitable. In a single-player setting, I can see this being INCREDIBLY frustrating, especially if I'm going after 100%s/FCs, but in a band setting, keeping combo is what matters the most pointswise, so if you don't mind rarely seeing a 100%, no problem! The difficulty bar has definitely been raised as far as solo competition goes, without a doubt.

The Vocal styles in this game are very eclectic: Spanish, Punk, Classic Rock, Metal, Prog, Indie, Alternative, Pop and that's just the songs I actually played. So come October, be prepared to sing like Jim Morrison, Ozzy, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Maynard, Cedric Bixler, and many others, and don't be afraid to belt it out - just don't expect a 90% or 100% every time.
The Ozzman approves

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