GOONL!NE Review: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock
Also On: Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Release Date: Friday September 24th 2010
Age Rating: ESRB: T, PEGI: 12+
Reviewed By: David Pitchforth
It can’t be easy trying to come up with new ideas for music games such as Guitar Hero. With this now being the 6th entry into the main series of Guitar Hero games, not to mention the Rock Band series and all associated games, you’d have to think that most of the new ideas have been covered by now. With this being the last entry into the Guitar Hero franchise from developers Neversoft, they’ve set out to return the game to its roots and concentrate on the music instead of gimmicks. Have they succeeded? Read on to find out.
I’m sure that by now pretty much everyone reading this review knows how music games like Guitar Hero work, so I won’t go into details of how to play the game. Instead I’ll just concentrate on the modes in the game and how they actually work.
As mentioned above, this is Neversoft’s last entry into the Guitar Hero series, and rather than try to come up with wild and outlandish ideas to try to improve the series, they decided to try and make the game about the music again, to try and recapture the glory of the series as seen back in Guitar Hero 2 and 3. With this is mind, Neversoft created a new career based section called Quest Mode. This mode, which is narrated by Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, has you trying to recruit various musicians, unlock their special powers, and eventually build a group powerful enough to go and rescue the Demigod of Rock from the evil machine known as The Beast. If this all sounds a bit ludicrous, it’s because it pretty much is. The story, such as it is, is merely a means by which to divide the track list up between the various musicians. Each musician in Quest Mode has a different power, such as gaining 5% Star Power for every 10 note streak they hit, or always having a 2 star multiplier as a minimum. Using these special powers correctly is key to gaining the most stars as you can on each song, and no longer are you restricted to a maximum 5 star award any more. You are pretty much unrestricted in your star potential, and some of the powers of each musician will help you get bonus stars as well. Long time players of the series will no doubt find themselves scoring between 4 and 7 stars on every song they play. When you’ve collected enough stars for each musician, which you have to do, you unlock their inner rock star, giving them a boost to their powers, and making them ready for the battle against The Beast.
The problem with the Quest Mode is that, despite the storyline behind it, it all seems a bit aimless. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of reason for why certain songs are given to each musician, and the required number of stars needed for each musician to “transform” and let you progress through the story varies from person to person, with no obvious reason to it. What’s possibly worse is that within each setlist you’re not given any idea of how difficult each song is, so you could find yourself scoring 7 stars on one song on Expert difficulty, then struggling to even pass the very next song. If you’re going to do away with the tier based difficulty structure that worked so well in the earlier games in the Guitar Hero series, then you should at least give gamers some idea of how hard the song is going to be, as not everyone is good enough to pass every song on any given difficulty, and would probably appreciate the warning before spending the time getting their butts handed to them by an extremely difficult song.
The biggest issue for me with Quest Mode however, is that with Neversoft trying to go back to the roots of the Guitar Hero series, they seem to have missed the point about it. I’m a long time Guitar Hero player, starting out on the first game on the Playstation 2, and I have to say, I’m not overly bothered about playing songs using characters that have special powers, in order to gain enough strength to beat some demonic evil machine. What I’m bothered about is playing through a progressively more difficult series of songs, and feeling like a rock star while I do so. It seems that in trying to go back to the roots of the series, Neversoft have missed the point, which is a great shame.
Where they have come good however, is with the Quickplay+ mode. In this mode you can play through all of the songs available, with each song having various challenges available for you to try and beat. You might be required to deploy a certain amount of Star Power, or to hit a certain percentage of Hammer On’s and Pull Off’s, but each adds a different element to each song, and provides a good amount of replayability. As a mode it’s probably more enjoyable than Quest Mode is, as the challenges feel like something better to aim for, as they’ll test your abilities with your chosen instrument and perhaps force you to think a little differently while you play. You’ll still need to play through Quest Mode first though if you want to unlock all the songs for use in Quickplay+ mode. I’ll quickly add here as well that the Party Mode introduced in Guitar Hero 5 makes a welcome appearance here as well. If you leave the game alone, Party Mode will start up and randomly start going through the setlist in a jukebox like fashion. At any time, you can press a button on your chosen instrument and jump right into the song, and jump right back out again when you feel like it. It’s a great mode when you have friends around as you can swap in and out on the fly without ever having to leave the mode.
One of the biggest issues for any music game nowadays though is the track list, and it’s something that Rock Band 3 will also face. The problem is that the games have been around for so long, and we’ve seen so many versions released, that so many good songs have already been snapped up for use in earlier versions of the games, so we’re starting to see games struggle to put together a great track list. This is something that will always boil down to personal preference, and what is a great track list for one person might well be a mediocre one for someone else, so I won’t pass too much of a judgment on it. I will say that at 93 songs it’s currently the largest on disc track list in any music game so far, and with so many songs on there, you’re bound to find several songs you like, from artists such as Queen, Aerosmith, Avenged Sevenfold, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
One issue I do have however, is that with songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody, which are quite keyboard/piano heavy, those parts are generally mapped to the guitar, and it feels quite wrong playing the opening parts to Bohemian Rhapsody on the guitar. Unlike the upcoming Rock Band 3 which does indeed have a keyboard peripheral, and can use that song in the way it was intended, it feels strange to have it included here. My feeling is that they either shouldn’t have mapped the keyboard sections to the guitar, or simply not included the songs at all, as it really does feel quite odd.
From a presentational and graphical point of view, Warriors of Rock stands up pretty well. None of the music games are ever going to win awards for the way they look, but everything here feels nice and bright, vibrant and clear. The special notes, such as the hammer on’s are very obvious when coming down the onscreen fret board, which makes picking them out so much easier. The band all look the part when on stage and it’s nice to just sit back and watch them at times. A special mention has to go to Bohemian Rhapsody again, which sees the 4 band members start together much like Queen did in the video, with all 4 members singing together, and when the guitar kicks in midway through the song, they all indulge in a little Wayne’s World style head banging. It’s a great little touch and one that definitely put a smile on my face when I saw it.
The final word has to go to the new guitar peripheral. Activision were kind enough to provide us with one to use, and it’s quite possibly the best guitar I’ve used in years. There’s a good weight to it that gives it a really solid feeling, and it’s really really responsive. You can even change the wings of the guitar if you like, as they’re interchangeable, so if you want to personalise your guitar a little more, the option is there.
Final thoughts: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is a difficult game to give a definitive score to. I really enjoyed the Quickplay+ mode, and trying to beat the various challenges that each song has. I enjoyed the Quest Mode less so, as I felt the story was unnecessary and the layout was actually a step back from the old tier based system that was originally used in the first few games of the series. I really liked the presentation of the game and the way certain songs like Bohemian Rhapsody stood out, but I was less keen on the track list and felt several of the songs had no real place being in a Guitar Hero game. As a standalone game it’s certainly by no mean an awful game, but unfortunately when you compare it to other music games that have come out in the past, it doesn’t have the same impact. It’s decent enough, but there are better music games out there.
Gameplay – 8: It’s Guitar Hero, so you know what you’re getting as far as gameplay is concerned. The timing window, especially on the guitar, does feel a lot looser than previously however, which makes hitting notes that bit easier. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.
Graphics – 8: Looks as good as ever, with a really vibrant feel to it. The character design is perhaps lacking a little though.
Sound – 7: All master recordings and some songs have been re-recorded specifically for the game. The set list is huge, but filled with too many average songs. The narration by Gene Simmons is lacklustre.
Presentation – 7: The Quest Mode is a step back from the career mode we’ve had in previous years, and the excellent Party Play mode is more hidden away than it should be.
Overall – 7: An unfortunate step backwards for the series. The Quest Mode was a decent idea that just had too many problems with it, and though the challenges available in the Quickplay+ mode go some way to save it, it’s just not enough. Good, but certainly not great.