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Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Review

Guitar Hero and I have a love/hate relationship. I love the fact they it brought me into the rhythm game genre, though I resisted heavily. I spent hours on Guitar Hero 2 and 3 – only to start to be annoyed by changed made in titles beyond that. With its ever loosening hit detection and kitchen sink approach to the game, I was a little timid going into this one from the onset. Seeing the addition of the quest mode rather than an outright band oriented career didn’t help much in easing my mind – but the inclusion of Rush’s 2112 single-handedly piqued my interest, and thankfully that portion of the game was very solid, even with the stilted narration by the band itself.

If you’re not familiar with the Guitar Hero franchise and how it plays here’s a very brief synopsis, the rest of you can safely skim the next couple sentences. Using a simulated guitar or drum kit you strum/bash in time to a song of your choice, as colored gems scroll down a highway on screen. Hit these in perfect time, and you increase your score and can hear the song play – miss them, and you’ll hear a missed note buzz and obviously your score will not increase. With Guitar Hero World Tour, vocals and percussion were added – and those modes also continue on in this iteration of the series.

Unfortunately, the entire setlist is locked from the onset of the game and to unlock all the songs slogging your way through the Quest mode is required. Sure, it was a neat little change from the standard band progression we’ve seen – and I do appreciate that each character, both new and old, is given a genre of music that is their own to play. However, the progression of the music is so unbalanced that I started to dread having to play almost immediately after playing through the Rush themed level. Keep in mind – by this point the game is only 4 out of 8 characters deep, and each required a set number of stars to transform and therefore allow you to progress forward. And while it’s neat to have Gene Simmons narrate the quest mode, it’s pretty obvious that he’s doing this solely for the paycheck as his line delivery sounds straight out of Family Jewels, also known as a single take. Unfortunately, even Rush’s delivery of the story that flows along with 2112 was a little tough to stomach, and this is coming from not only a Rush fan – but a Canadian one at that.

On the topic of stars and transformation, gone are the days of only obtaining 5 stars and if you are lucky, seeing them transform into gold stars. Now, each character comes packed with a special power which enables them to earn additional stars by playing streaks of notes, or let’s them increase their star power simply by hitting 10 notes in a row. Once you do take down the Quest mode, you become all-powerful and all of the powers of each character become yours – meaning you can earn an insane 40 stars per level. Some may find this exciting and fresh, but I found it to be somewhat insulting to think that as gamers we need more stars to have fun. It didn’t add a single thing to the gameplay, and having the powers activated all the time during the Quest mode was tiresome. Oh, and the transformations? I still can’t think of a good reason for this to be incorporated into a rhythm game such as this. Having a character turn into a raging Pig-Man or a Headless ghoul again added nothing to the game, in fact I think it took away from it. Thankfully, quickplay allowed you to not enable the powers or the transformed characters – so I quickly migrated that direction. Once again, Neversoft opted to tweak things here too by adding optional challenges to the songs, such as shaking your guitar during a song or streak building. Some of these challenges are great – but why do they need to add to the star count?

With regards to the setlist of Warriors of Rock, it’s obvious that the developers are aiming this at a dedicated group of people, that being the expert level guitar players. While the first quarter of the setlist appealed to a more varied group of people, the setlist quickly turned into a heavy metal knuckle shredding strum-fest. With songs by Dragonforce and Megadeth mixed with Avenged Sevenfold – it’s clear that a target audience was picked out, and the charting of the songs really demonstrated that as well. There are some tough as nails songs in here, and sadly I just didn’t have the patience to work through all of the speed metal more than once just to perfect a certain song; I’m definitely not the intended purchaser. Setlist aside though, I found the basic engine of the game still slightly flawed as it has been for a couple of Guitar Hero releases. With a very loose timing window there were times I knew that I had completely missed a note or a hammer-on, yet was still given credit for hitting it. When I fail, I want to know about it – and not just ignore it.

Sadly it’s become a running joke about how Activision is able to run a franchise into the ground, and it seems here that things are moving that direction. With the better turn that Guitar Hero 5 took I was disappointed to see the degradation of the title in this release. Even core Guitar Hero fans likely will have a tough time caring about the Quest mode outside of having to unlock the toughest tier of songs, but even then when compare to when the game was at its prime, the list isn’t as strong.

A hardcore setlist which will appeal to expert level guitar players, but the inclusion of the odd Quest mode muddles up the experience.

Platform reviewed: Xbox 360

— Jeff Paramchuk

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