Reviewed: September 24, 2010
Released: September 28, 2010
Are you ready to rock? After a surprising (and much appreciated) lull in the social music gaming genre Activision and Neversoft are back with a fresh heavy metal infusion of classic and contemporary rock and roll in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Building on all of the great gameplay concepts of past Guitar Hero games, Neversoft ups the ante with all new challenges, a new ranking system, and an epic Quest mode that reintroduces us to all of our favorite rockers in a clever story path career mode narrated by none other than Gene Simmons.|
For fans of the franchise, there isn’t much not to like here. In fact, you’ll be in Guitar Hero heaven as you shred to more than 90 tracks including live versions and studio masters and even an original song created by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. As with all music games, your enjoyment of the game is directly proportional to your enjoyment of the track selection. Guitar Hero has always leaned more toward hard rock and heavy metal, which has often left me on the outside looking in. I’m not a huge fan of some of the more “aggressive” song choices in past games, and while some of that music has made its way into Warriors of Rock, there is more than enough classic rock to offset any complaints I might have.
Here is the complete track list sorted by artist:
Speaking of abilities, each rocker has their own special power whether it be the ability to earn more Star Power or enhance the rock multiplier or even shield the combo meter. These abilities come into play even more so when you start going after the star rewards of the 13 Quickplay+ Challenges. A single pass through the Quest only accounts for 50% of the game. Once completed you will be instructed to make a second trip through the Quest map using your new powers of rock to earn 40 stars per song and rank your characters to their ultimate form.
Challenges are similar to what we saw in Band Hero, with very specific requests, some that require certain instruments, some that require multiple musicians, and some that require a full band. There are three tiers, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond, and you usually have to play on the Hard or Expert difficulties if you want to earn the maximum number of stars. You still have the normal star rewards based on how well you play the song, up to five stars or six if you don’t miss a single note. The challenge system is exponentially larger than anything we’ve seen in previous games, and will undoubtedly encourage hundreds of hours of continuing gameplay, even after the Quest has been completed.
Warriors of Rock opens up the game for up to four players locally, but does not require them to all play a unique instrument. You can have four guitars or three guitars and one bass, or everyone can plays drums. It’s open to whatever you like, both in Quickplay+ and the Quest mode, although some instruments will eventually be required to unlock certain challenges. As always, you have the same great competitive multiplayer modes as before along with online play for up to 8 musicians in Band vs. Band. RockFest is back along with the drop-in-drop-out Party Play.
Your ability to customize the game has never been greater with a fantastic Rocker Creator that allows you to customize your own rocker or tweak any of the existing characters or even bring in your Xbox 360 Avatar. The Avatar can be pretty cool once you start unlock some Warriors of Rock Avatar awards and equip them to your character. And for you closet music producers, head into the GH Studio to mix and remix and records your own custom creations then share with the growing online community.
With so many challenges and rewards you will certainly appreciate the Rewards Tracker feature that tracks what you’ve done and what still needs to be completed. The new My Rock Record compiles information from this and past Guitar Hero games into one master musician profile. You might be surprised at some of the revealing data in this screen. Leaderboards track your career and even individual song progress against your friends or the entire world, and if you really want to get “social” you can now update your progress and status in the game with live Facebook and Twitter updates after each song.
Even though we have lots of new music and new and exciting ways to play it, the core gameplay remains unchanged. If anything, it has become tighter and more refined with excellent note tracking that fits with the music. As always, the difficulty factor is higher than most other guitar games; even others in the Guitar Hero family. Some of this is by design and some of it is based on the sheer insanity of the song selection that will test the strumming, drumming, and vocal talents of all who play.
The presentation has never been better. We all know what to expect when Neversoft puts out a game; usually a unique hybrid of urban art and slick animation. Warriors of Rock oozes with heavy metal gothic vibes, while giving all the original characters new high-tech facelifts, both in design and wardrobe. The textures are wonderful with clothing and hair that blows and flows, and the only thing better than the creative stage venues are the cinematic camera angles that cover the performances. Lights, pyrotechnics, fog, lasers, and strobes all enhance the experience if you can take your eyes of the note stream highway long enough to appreciate it. Kudos to the wonderful presentation of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which you have to see to believe.
The audio is fantastic – just make sure you go into the audio options and toggle on the Dolby Digital support (if your system supports it), otherwise the output is oddly muffled and somewhat two-dimensional. The narration by Gene Simmons is pretty cool, despite a shallow plot designed to carry us from character to character. Gene approaches the reading with as much vigor and enthusiasm as Stan Lee in his last Spider-Man game. The highlight of the entire Warriors of Rock experience, both musically, in narration, and overall presentation is the Rush 2112 segment that features the entire first side of the 2112 album with story readings by members of the band between each track. I always new that album told a story and now I finally get to experience it firsthand.
Warriors of Rock is a fairly massive undertaking should you go into it for the long haul. It took two long nights of play to finish the Quest and that’s only half the game, then you have the QuickPlay+ that you can spend months perfecting not to mention all the local and online social and competitive gaming events. As long as Guitar Hero games are this comprehensive, we can easily get by with one release each year. You can also import your previously purchased DLC as well as select songs from other Guitar Hero games into Warrior of Rock, adding even more music challenges and star reward opportunities.
If I have any complaints they are purely subjective. I really didn’t like the new guitar…at first, but after about six hours it started to grow on me. The whammy bar is the only oddity since it only works in a narrow arc of rotation. Its also interesting that the touch-tap pad is not part of the new guitar, but it is part of the tutorial.
As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t a fan of some of the more acid metal tracks, but thankfully, by design, you don’t have to play all tracks to earn enough stars to advance your characters through the Quest. Lars was the only character where I couldn’t find a single song I enjoyed playing in his entire chosen set list, and the big final boss fight was also a bit to acidic for my musical taste. But with several tracks from artists Dire Straights, Poison, Red Rider, and Night Ranger that I have been wishing they would include for years finally making it into the game, I can overlook the ones I don’t like. I only wish there was a way to link the multi-part Rush 2112 tracks into a single flowing song the way it was meant to be experienced.
It’s been quite awhile since we’ve had a Guitar Hero game. My skills were rusty and my guitars were dusty, but it didn’t take long to get back into the groove. With a killer track list, exciting new Quest mode, social networking, and more challenges and star rewards than most of us could ever earn in this lifetime, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is easily the biggest and the best installment of the franchise to date. Grab your axe, join the battle, and become a rock god.