I know it sounds crazy but I am now reviewing the sixth (numbered) Guitar Hero game. It is amazing that the series has run as long as it has, and even with the criticisms surrounding it within the community, it still manages to sell well enough to keep making them. Last year’s game took some major strides in catching up with Harmonix’s perennial Rock Band by adding the much needed Party Play and better support for importing your existing songs, but it still lacked the platform mentality of the aforementioned franchise. Warriors of Rock continues the trend of improvements with new instruments, a more streamlined career mode and a bevy of other enhancements making it once again the definitive iteration to date.
New features are always great but one area I had felt the recent crop of music games had been lacking in was the setlist. Guitar Hero was built around outstanding riffs and fun note charts, which recently has been diluted with promises of casual appeal featuring songs from artists who technically don’t even use guitars. Warriors of Rock throws all of that to the side with a setlist for the ages. The main course is definitely Rush’s 2112 masterpiece. This integrates into the story mode offering up around twenty minutes of pure bliss.
The rest of the package is just as impressive as we get some long time requests such as Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing. Megadeth has also recorded a new song just for the game that turns out to not only be the final boss so-to-speak, but also one of the most challenging songs in franchise history. Sure there are some repeats from other music titles such as Avenged Sevenfold’s Bat Country among others, but at this point I have lost track of what song has been in what game. With that said Warriors of Rock easily has the best setlist of on-the-disc tracks of any game to date. A quick rundown of artists you will find are: Queen, The Cure, Tom Petty, Foo Fighters, Lynyrd Skynyrd and so many more.
One of the features Neversoft is touting this year more than almost any other is the Quest mode. Here you go through the traditional series of songs in campaign form and slowly unlock new songs. The catch this year is that it tries to play itself out like an epic journey complete with narrated interludes during the 2112 segment and even a colossal boss fight at the end. Granted the story is borderline ridiculous and seeing each character turn into some sort of mutant hybrid does little to advance the genre, it was entertaining. I did like how each character’s setlist was themed and how they each had various powers that you could combine at the end of each segment.
Once you blast through this mode you notice you have only completed 50% of the Quest mode. Once you unlock all the powers and characters you can return to each venue to “dominate” the tracks. Instead of just earning up to six stars, you can now pull down over 40. Yeah this sounds ridiculous, and truly it is, but the challenges really do make going back to songs over and over again quite addicting. Each song has specific challenges (even your DLC ones in Quickplay+) that you can shoot for. For instance songs with lots of back and forth notes usually have up/down strumming challenges while others simply go for big score. The idea of the meta game within a game works very well here and has single-handedly rekindled my bug for the series.
As with every release of Guitar Hero there are a ton of modes and features to toy around with, including enhancements to most of them. The create-a-track mode GHTunes now has a Jam mode that allows you to strum along to pre-recorded beats. Also as I mentioned the Quickplay+ allows you to play all of your tracks including DLC, disc imports, etc. What is really cool about this mode though are the star challenges. Every single song has them, not just the ones on the disc. You can literally earn thousands of stars and sharing them online via leaderboards and the new social sharing (Twitter/Facebook), is a great way to show off your achievements and high scores.
Multiplayer modes, both competitive and cooperative, continue to be a major focus. Party play makes a return and continues to be one of my favorite additions to the genre. Being able to jump in and out of songs with any instrument is a godsend when playing at get-togethers. The standard versus modes are still here, although for the life of me I don’t really know anyone who plays them anymore. Music games are more geared towards playing together, not competition like they used to be.
With every new chapter in the series we get some new plastic instruments. Warriors of Rock is no different and it is fitting that the focus this year be with the guitar itself. Now I want to clarify that I have always felt GH had the superior plastic axe. Year-in and year-out I prefer Activision’s colored frets over Rock Band. That said this year’s guitar is once again the cream of the crop. With detachable sides to create new looks this solid hunk of plastic just feels right. The slide buttons have been removed, but I never missed them.
Overall if you are in the market for a new guitar (outside of the new ones with real strings), this is the one to own. Also be aware that the band bundle does not contain this new guitar. You have to buy it separately or bundled with the game. I also sat down with the new drums, which I have to say have some nice tweaks. For starters they are quite a bit quieter now as well as slimmer. The new design feels really nice. It also has a detachable drum-brain with two midi ports (one for in and one for out) for those that want to expand their use. Sure it isn’t something most people will use, but it is nice for those that do.
I don’t think wasting time talking visuals would be beneficial. The game and its highway have looked the same since its inception. I did however like the themed songs such as Bohemian Rhapsody. Character models still border on ugly at times, in design not in actual graphics. The presentation is hit and miss at best. The quest mode delivers some interesting tidbits such as the final boss and of course the 2112 segment, but Gene Simmons voice over is stagnant and feels forced. Sound is nearly flawless as it should be. This is again a music game so making sure the tracks sound good is a must.
Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is not exactly the huge leap forward that its predecessor was, but it does improve on some areas that make it yet another worth purchase. At this rate importing past games will end up costing you as much as buying a new one. At $6 a piece they are starting to get out of hand. At least you can finally import Guitar Hero Metallica. Still the game re-ignited my love for the genre and I have already shredded far more hours into this one than I had planned to invest. There is something addicting about the series that I can’t seem to shake each year, and Warriors of Rock satisfies my hunger for another twelve months.
Review copy provided by publisher.