(Xbox 360 Review) Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
Genre: Rhythm
Players: 1-8
ESRB: Teen
Reviewer: George Damidas

Overall: 7.5 = Good

Released a little over a year after Guitar Hero 5, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock takes the well-treaded rhythm-based mechanics of the series away from the world of dingy clubs and booing crowds to the charming, if often tiring, fantastical world of demigods and Rush. As the one tasked with saving the Demigod of Rock from the monstrous robot known as The Beast, you must put together a mighty band of musicians whose mettle can match their metal (ha!). As it turns out, the task isn’t so daunting, as most of the musicians are familiar faces from previous releases and the trail is littered with familiar songs. But with an erratic setlist, Warriors of Rock holds the unique position of being host to years of refinements and modes but sixth in line for killer tracks.

After being summoned to free the demigod, you are given the task of recruiting eight musicians in the game’s Quest Mode. Each musician has a unique venue that must be visited and themed setlist, ranging from punk to heavy metal, which must be completed before they join the cause. Once a certain number of notes have been achieved out of that setlist’s tracks, the rocker is transformed into a warrior – a powered-up, monster version of themselves. Once transformed, their powers, guitars, and other items are then unlocked for use in the game’s customization mode (Create) as well as in Quickplay+ mode.

During the halfway mark, there is a bit of a break as a Rush-heavy interlude pops up that has the band narrating the tale of the demigod’s guitar/axe as told through the music of their 1976 album 2112. This segment is surprisingly good, and it somehow manages to fit in nicely amidst the standard Earthly venues and underworld map. As someone who is pretty indifferent to Rush’s music, I ended up really enjoying it. After tackling the futuristic tale of space federations and legendary instruments, it’s back to recruit the last four members of the band.

Once all eight are powered up and ready to rock, two bands of four are created, divvied up largely by how beneficial each member’s power will be to the band as a whole, for the showdown with The Beast. The battle is a well-animated, over-the-top encounter, though it will go largely unseen as the notes take prominence, both visually and mentally. After completing saving rock, you can then go back and replay the arenas but now with the full benefit of all power-ups. All told, the Quest is decent, serving as a natural way to build up a band without going to go through the standard career route while also embracing the series’ love of all things metal – cover art in particular. However, the setlist isn’t always as metal, or even rock, as it might seem. There are over 90 tracks on the disc with many bands that you expect (Twisted Sister), some you might be pleasantly surprised to hear (Rush), and others you will wonder what’s happening (The Cure). Even if I enjoyed a particular band, or that band’s track, seeing R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” in the same game that has a string of Megadeth tracks as the finisher is nothing if not curious.

At this point in the franchise’s life, with this being the sixth major release, the setlist has become fairly eclectic. The well has been dipped into so many times that most of the rock has been rocked, and what’s left, while good on its own, might not be what a curious buyer expects when reading about battling for the Demigod of Rock with the growls of Pantera and Rammstein as their battle cry. Then again, the series has been veering for a while now, so this won’t be totally unexpected for those who are even mildly curious. But the random difficulty spikes during the quest – ignoring the annoyingly, ever-increasing tendency to rely on overly repeated notes – means that, even if you can’t stand a band, you will have to play their music as some tracks are like a blindside to your fingers – and patience. The Quest is definitely more enjoyable in the beginning, as the tracks, note correlation, and theme approach start strong and slowly deteriorate as the adventure goes on. But if you’ve been looking for a setlist that includes Nickelback, Fall Out Boy, and DragonForce, then hey, you’ve found it.  If not, then this might not be the Guitar Hero for you.

In truth, not much else has changed from Guitar Hero 5 (review). You can still make your own rocker, create your own tracks in the Studio to share with others, and join together with friends to form a virtual band with alongside a singer, bass player, and drummer. Party Play mode, allowing for friends to drop-in/drop-out at any time, also returns and is sure to continue to be a fan favorite. Players can still compete with one another, and virtual bands can still out-rock one another online.

The biggest draw is Quickplay+, with all of the songs in one massive setlist, along with any imported or DLC tracks, that feature various instrument-specific and overall objectives that tie together with your friends list so that you can directly compete with any who dare to challenge you. The stars earned through regular play and clearing goals are then put towards a leveling system that unlocks even more items. The powers earned throughout the story can be used towards one massive jam for the most points possible. Similar to previous titles, the songs are all ranked by instrument, but in truth, most titles are true to the series and guitar heavy. Still, for players who like to play the spots, there are plenty of challenges that await. With so many songs in the setlist that I didn’t care for, I really enjoyed being able to skip them in favor of something more my taste (re: anything not Nickelback). The Quest can last a while if the second challenge is answered, but it’s really not as appealing the second time around, which makes Quickplay+ the real draw. As this is where the series’ improvements really shine, you’ll definitely want to spend most of your time here.


Overall:
7.5/10
Warriors of Rock
is, at most, an incremental improvement over 5, but by most standards, more of a lateral release. If the review seemed wishy-washy at times, that’s merely because so much of the experience is based on the music: if you enjoy the tracks, and especially if you’re new to the series, then the lack of advancement isn’t an issue and the current modes and mechanics are great. Check out the full track list here. If you think most are worthwhile inclusions, then score-centric readers can bump it up a point. For myself, the mechanics are so similar to the previous release and the setlist uneven enough for my taste that Warriors of Rock isn’t a must. It’s not bad by any means, but the reliance on overly repetitive note sequences for many tracks and the handful of songs that I just flat-out couldn’t stand make this a solid addition to the franchise, but nothing more.

(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)

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