Review: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock
Although I’ve missed a few games along the way, I’ve been an avid Guitar Hero player since its early days on the PS2. And after not having played a GH game since Aerosmith, I found a few surprises waiting for me in this latest installment.
The first new thing I noticed upon firing up the game was that players are now able to share their achievements and scores on Facebook and Twitter – just another great social networking tool. The next surprise was that there are several new, innovative game modes. The game’s main “storyline” is the Quest Mode.
Unlike previous games in the series, Warriors of Rock has a complex storyline. The player must recruit eight characters along his or her journey to rescue the Demigod of Rock from The Beast, and transform them to unleash their Warrior versions. Each character has a unique style after which his or her songs are modeled – for instance, Lars Ümlaüt’s set contains songs from heavy metal bands like Dethklok – and each character also has a unique power or ability that affects gameplay.
While the storyline was an unexpected innovation, it didn’t really add anything to the game. If I wanted to hear a story I’d have played a Final Fantasy game instead. However, each character having his or her own genre of music made for a very interesting progression through the game. And the different abilities for each character were simply perfect. Previously the ability to unlock new characters for career mode seemed to be purely for eye candy and bragging rights. But now the character-specific abilities and musical genres create a much more significant distinction, which bolsters the linear progression toward the end of the game – completing one character’s chapter and beginning the next feels like so much more of an accomplishment than did unlocking a new venue in previous games.
The characters’ different abilities played a large role in keeping the gameplay fresh. After a certain point, Guitar Hero 2 through 5 are the same game as the original, with a different song set. But the abilities (such as Casey Lynch’s Streak Guardian, which helps to preserve your multiplier even if you miss a note), add a new element that turned out to be just what the game needed to prevent the songs from becoming stale.
And although I didn’t enjoy the storyline partially on principle rather than because of the storyline itself, I do admit that the character transformations were incredibly visually rewarding – the measure of your success on any particular song has been changed so that players now receive Power Stars for each song played. The more Power Stars you earn, the better, and each character has a certain number of stars required to “transform.” The number of stars varies from character to character but seems to generally be around 24 – which, depending on how good you are at the game, could be anywhere from 3 to 9 songs. As a decent (though less than stellar) player, I found myself usually playing about 6 stars to get a character to transform. As part of the aforementioned storyline, the player must transform each character into his or her Warrior self – the transformations are, like I said, very visually rewarding, but somewhat useless content-wise.
As the title suggests, Quickplay+ is an enhanced version of the Quickplay mode from earlier Guitar Hero games. Before, Quickplay was just a simple, no-frills way to play a single song rather than entering Career Mode. Now, QP+ is a slightly more frilly version of what it used to be; in keeping with the ever-popular trend in social gaming, QP matches are now ranked. The ranking system is a neat feature, but overall I don’t think this new version of Quickplay is different and improved enough to merit its title being appended with a “+”.
And the thing that really makes QP+ awesome is the actually a characteristic of the GH Studio feature – players can earn Power Stars in QP+ by playing custom games created in or downloaded from the GH Studio.
I was entirely blown away by the new GH Studio feature. It’s actually difficult to put into words how much I love it. GH Studio allows players to create their own songs. In other words, when you purchase Warriors of Rock, you’re actually buying the ability to be the next Beethoven, and you really can’t put a price on that.
You can create your own songs from scratch, or you can choose the seemingly more popular idea of recreating a popular move, tv show, or video game theme song. When you’re finished you can upload it for other players to be able to play and rate. I found myself spending hours downloading and playing the Super Mario Bros. theme, the theme from The Office, and several Zelda remixes.
This feature is perfect. I haven’t yet tried my own hand at creating a song, which further impresses me. This feature was able to keep my attention for a decent amount of time without me even actively doing anything.
Wow. Just, wow. Few games have quite this level of customization in a character’s appearance that the Rocker Creator provides for Warriors of Rock. There were so many options and combination, and it seems that every little detail, down to the tattoos your character has and his or her body type. Players can even use their Xbox Live Avatar as their rocker! It’s really something to see my Avatar decked out in her ODST Spartan gear and rocking out.
This feature was vastly improved from the character customization of previous Guitar Hero games, and is now nearly flawless. It provided for a much more immersive experience, making me feel more like a part of the game than just a player sitting in front of the screen.
WoR is certainly innovative, but here’s where I’m torn. Many changes and new features were necessary to prevent the game from being merely an expansion pack with additional songs, but some of these innovations just feel a bit clunky to me. As much as I want to just rate this game 10, give Activision props for coming up with so many creative new features, and call it a day, ultimately I can’t. The storyline just didn’t sit will with me. It’s not a huge deal, and ironically does not appear to be a major part of the game, but I just can’t for the life of me figure out the developers thought a story was the element missing from past GH games. And I almost even want to criticize the game more for NOT making the storyline (no matter the quality) a more significant part of the game. Rather than being a structural backbone for the whole game, the story just feels more like something the developers weren’t sure they really wanted to do but ended up including anyway so that the game would be as different from its predecessors as possible.
Overall, still an excellent game. Not perfect, but due to the varied nature of its songs, the replay value is sure to be very high. Go out and become your own Warrior of Rock.
- Title: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- Developer: Neversoft
- Publisher: Activision
- Release Date: September 28, 2010
- MSRP: $59.99 for the standalone game, $99.99 for the bundle
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this title and the guitar peripheral were provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.