Review

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Review (PS3)

Strumming along at around 120 beats per minute, my fingers race across the fretboard. Fatigue has long begun settling in. The music genre began to feel old a year back already, but even then I loved playing a great song. Nothing has changed, as I push my limits, only to have my fingers slowly give out and a green ‘good job’ light dim to a ‘ridiculous’ red, and I fail out.

So I did what I always do. Try the song again, on expert, until it’s clear I can’t do it because I’m too tired or just physically incapable of beating the song. That’s how it goes with music games, way back from Guitar Hero 2 until this very day.

Warrior characters are creepier, but the updates to the graphics and style are phenomenal

The difference then was that it was fresh, the music was top-notch, and it was so different that anyone, and everyone, could like it. Like your friend with the golden smile.

Most claim the downfall of Guitar Hero began when Activision bought RedOctane (the original publisher) and Harmonix (the original developer) left for MTV. I wholeheartedly disagree, considering how Guitar Hero 3 improved immensely on the series in every way. The franchise stuttered a bit with its follow-up main titles, barely improving but adding new instruments with World Tour (IV) and packing as many tracks as it could with Guitar Hero 5.

In between all of that, Aerosmith and Metallica released, both of which were well made, especially the latter, which may be my favourite Guitar Hero title to date. It fully captured and grasped that metal feel, even if the namesake’s band didn’t do a great job with the side-by-side released new album of theirs.

Now, with Warriors of Rock, developer Neversoft has made a track-packed game with few changes, but many of them really do count for something. For instance, one could remark how un-metal, or how poor a choice it was to put Bohemian Rhapsody as a playable song. Yet one would also be completely incorrect, because the visual artistry performed by the developer, on the virtual stage, is absolutely magnificent. It turned out to be absolutely brilliant, a performance in its own right, often like those found in the band-specific Guitar Hero titles.

That song stands alone as a prime example of Neversoft’s musical talent. The rest of the game pummels players into practising perhaps the most eclectic and nonsensical list of music to date in the genre. There are obvious groupings, of course (death metal, classic rock, alternative, etc.), but this jumble of tracks feels uninspired, instead ripped from an employee’s iPod and sorted randomly.

Previously, the franchise has relied on cartoon animation to detail a simple plot, usually leaving musicians to battle Satan. Warriors of Rock instead follows the journey of eight musicians, through typical in-game graphics, who find their legendary selves by performing on-stage anywhere from 4-6 songs (depending on how many stars are earned), thereby gaining powers (which make them 2-3 times more powerful than before). Why? Because the battle between two Brutal Legend-esque forces has come to a halt when the Lord of Rock dropped his magical axe (guitar).

The campaign is 55% of the full game's completion, but it has limited replay value. Quickly, on the other hand, will last a long while

Convoluted as it may seem, it makes sense in a Bill and Ted sort of way. Eight sections, one for each character, plus two boss battles, complete 55% of the game. The rest can be completed through the quickplay mode, which offers infinitely more replay value thanks to an assortment of options, especially those with character changes.

In Warriors of Rock, which character you play as makes a difference. Each character offers a unique ability. One doubles the point multiplier, another earns stars for playing well, and yet another gains star power with every ten consecutive notes played. Eight powers in all, songs no longer have a five or six star limit. It’s perfectly reasonable, if playing well and with friends, to earn dozens of stars on a single song.

As stupid as that may sound, it isn’t. Points have been mostly done away with, an exceptional move by Neversoft (who cares what the score is besides hardcore point earners?). The screen is very simple, much less cluttered, and has no gimmicky pop-ups for earning anything special. Just play, earn stars, and focus on the music.

Actual play hasn’t changed at all since Guitar Hero’s last outing. Much of what was there has returned, including music creation tools, unlockable videos, music sharing and downloading, etc.

In many respects, Warriors of Rock is improved, but not enough to warrant a return to form. That form was the genre’s freshness, which it bolstered with two spectacular bands, but has since failed to re-achieve. This six major attempt is no exception. The music, obviously a question of one’s personal tastes, I found to be significantly less appealing than each respective prior title going back. At first, it made me question whether the developer’s had simply run out of good music.

Onstage performances are the best Guitar Hero proper has ever seen, and it's often just as exciting to look away from the notes flying downscreen.

That line of thought is preposterous. Music game fanatics, myself included, have all listened to the radio or heard a song and just wanted to play it on Guitar Hero. The majority of those tracks, of which I’ve kept a list somewhere in this mess of a music hall (thanks to the hordes of music-specific game controllers), still remains undigitised. Instead, it’s a mixture of Kid’s Bop and half-decent music, though few that are actually special, or worth popping the game disc in to play over and over again.

Yet as I strum away at the increasingly difficult song at hand, those thoughts don’t cloud my mind. Instead, a wave of colours and a Homer Simpson-like expression is firmly planted on my face, where every mistake is a “d’oh” and every triumph a “woo hoo!”. Several key tracks have made their way into my “can’t get you out of my head” mode, where the only relief is to replay it, perhaps the biggest grab all Guitar Hero titles share. In this way, Warriors of Rock is no exception.

Top Game Moment: Beating 2112 on expert with four friends, and earning more than 5 stars.

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