The world needs another Guitar Hero game. Actually, that’s wrong isn’t it? Activision seem intent on providing us with yet another new Guitar Hero title year after year. Sadly, this year’s game marks a downturn for the series. That’s not to say this is a bad game, or even an average one. Far from it, Warriors of Rock is a solid and very polished version of a very familiar formula. The thing is, it appears that developers, Neversoft are reaching the limits of what is possible with the franchise.
In terms of new features over and above Guitar Hero 5, the main stand out is the “Quest Mode”. Yes, this is an attempt at placing a story on to the Guitar Hero gameplay. But instead of charting a bands rise to popularity or an individual’s rise to rock supremo, it focuses on the standard generic-Guitar Hero characters again. Each has a specific ability, like being able to gather Star Power quicker or hold Star Power for longer. Each character also has a set list of songs for you to progress through. So instead of going from gig venue to gig venue, you now progress through the different characters.
In an interesting move, once you complete each character’s set list, they turn into Warriors of Rock, with jumped-up outfits and some sort of evil demi-rock-god look to them. The concept of having different abilities for each character is a good one but it could have been exploited more with some sort of skills upgrade XP-chase that works so well in games like Call of Duty.
The whole plot of skinny band members turning into mythical beasts is an odd one. The whole thing is voiced by Gene Simmons and fails to be convincing. Next time, ditch the story telling please.
Poor story aside, one part of the Quest that does work surprisingly well is a section where you have to play songs by Rush from their seven song musical tale. It’s set in a cave, with the aim of playing the songs well enough to bring to life an ancient mythical guitar. Yes, it sounds terrible, and it should be, but the fact that the music is hugely enjoyable to play and the different setting breaks up the monotony of yet another stage or moody room make it largely a success. It is also voiced by Alex Lifeson from the band, perhaps opening up the potential for future Guitar Hero games to have some sort of commentary from real band members.
Another new feature is Quickplay+. On Guitar Hero 5 all songs were unlocked at the start so you could delve in to any song you fancied alone or with friends as a band without having to unlock songs through the main story mode. Now, the majority of songs are unlocked in Quickplay, but some are only available to play once unlocking them in Quest mode.
Quickplay+ allows you to level up by unlocking stars upon completing each song. The beauty is, you can level up when just having a quick blast with your friends and you get to bypass the poor story in the Quest. It’s a great idea but again, next time we’d like to have access to all songs from the off. For most people, this will be the part of the game they will play most, so it is good to see you can unlock items and progress while playing within it. Perhaps if Quest mode and Quickplay+ were merged together it would be a stronger game for it.
Other than that, there are a few less significant tweaks here and there but the main draw is the track listing. This is the primary reason to buy Warriors of Rock if you already have Guitar Hero 5. Warriors of Rock is about the hidden gems, like The Cure – Fascination Street and the Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Song, which are both surprisingly fun to play. As a general rule, the music here is heavier and more akin to Guitar Hero 3 than in recent years, which fits the game’s tagline.
The game also feels more catered towards the US market and music taste, with a few European-centric songs chucked in for good measure. Songs like Phoenix – Lasso are brilliant fun to play, but perhaps don’t sit too well alongside Them Crooked Vultures (one step closer to getting some Led Zeppelin in a guitar Hero game!).
Also, if you are playing through the Quest, sometimes the difficulty isn’t progressive. Near the start you will play R.E.M – Losing my Religion, which is very easy, followed by Foo Fighters – No Way Back, a markedly more difficult track, then later on Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes, which is easy again.
As for singing, the songs are certainly better for the guitar or drums by the very nature of the track included. There are a few exceptions, I loved to sing Interpol for example (and no, it doesn’t sound anything like Joy Division. Ok, it does a bit).
There are 2 main over-bearing issues with the latest Guitar Hero game though. The first of which is, despite being able to import songs from past GH games you may own and download new songs, the variety of extra songs to prolong the life of the game simply isn’t as comprehensive or diverse as Rock Band’s. Activision has also upped the price for a single DLC Track to £1.69, when Rock Band only charges 99p. On top of this, Rock Band has at least some new songs every week, whereas Guitar Hero currently runs on a 2 week cycle.
The second is that Warriors of Rock is full of tweaks but doesn’t make any real progress. Yes, the new features technically improve over past titles in the series but it really feels like the franchise is stalling. Neversoft may be under pressure to release a new title every year and I really hope they either spend 2 years creating the inevitable sequel or come back with some amazing new secret feature next year. Let’s hope this is a series that doesn’t go the way of a certain Mr Hawk. Rock Band 3 is trying to push things forward with a new keyboard peripheral, as well as pro-guitar and drums modes. These are innovative features and, combined with a superior set list and ever expanding library of affordable DLC, make it seem that you would have to be mad to buy Guitar Hero instead.
- It’s a new Guitar Hero game and you wanted one of those, right?
- Discovering a good song you have never heard before and immediately downloading it.
- Quickplay+ is a nice addition.
- There are times and certain songs that make music-rhythm games fun.
- These fun times are harder to find than in previous Guitar Hero titles.
- Inevitably it’s more of the same, sadly.
- Too much American centric music when the rest of the world can play guitars and drums too.
While this review does sound pretty damming in parts, there is no denying that after all these years of playing music games there is still something about Guitar Hero that can bring out the inner rocker. One of the stand-out moments is Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody, where you play the piano with your guitar and the 4 characters on stage stand like the video to the song. Sadly moments like this are too far and few between for it to be a great game. While the rivals are moving forward, tacking on a crass story about the fight to save rock simply doesn’t cut it. Overall, it’s enjoyable but getting more than a little stale.