When the first GUITAR HERO arrived back in 2005, I was one of those people who felt that introducing a generation of impressionable youngsters to the world of music through wielding plastic guitars could be potentially damaging to the future of rock, with potential musicians of the future looking at music as a game as opposed to an art. Five years later, the world of music gaming has gone through numerous changes, and along with that, also changed has been my outlook.
Having played the first few installments of GH only casually, my largest gripe was that as an actual guitarist (18 years and counting), playing the plastic equivalent was awkward, if not cumbersome. It wasn’t until the release of the competing ROCK BAND (developed by original GH team HARMONIX) franchise in 2007 that my outlook on music gaming really started to change.
It was the introduction of drums and vocals, something later adopted for GUITAR HERO: WORLD TOUR (and all subsequent GH releases) that brought a sense of community to the games, and started to capture the feeling of playing in a legit band. With the GH franchise already rolling for a few years, I’d seen kids make the transition from plastic to wood and metal, rendering my original fears null and void. It took awhile, but I’d become a fan of music gaming as a whole.
After a huge boom, the entire genre has witnessed a lull, likely due to overkill driven by constant spin-offs, and a market flooded with knock-off titles that started to clutter and confuse potential players. With publishers and developers wisely taking some time to pull back, re-evaluate, and potentially revolutionize the music gaming genre once more, the next wave is here with the release of GUITAR HERO: WARRIORS OF ROCK – the first major title of the Fall 2010 Gaming Season, and the GUITAR HERO installment that just may convert non-believers into die-hard fans.
GUITAR HERO: WARRIORS OF ROCK – Reviewed from the Guitar Bundle for XBOX 360
Rebuilt from the ground-up for 2010, the new Guitar Hero controller is a plastic axe built for “shredding.” Lightweight, but very solid in construction, the new guitar controller features all electronics built firmly into the neck of the guitar, allowing quick customization through the replacement of alternate “wings” that alter the shape and color of the guitar. Gone are the standard Gibson-inspired Les Paul/Explorer/SG shapes, in favor of something unique to the game and bearing a look that makes sense once you’re well on your way to rocking.
For the purpose of review, Activision provided me with one alternate set of wings – the “Quest Wing” which was offered through Gamestop. While the guitar looks great with this bladed-axe-inspired custom job, players be warned – the “sharp” edges can add to fatigue on your picking arm, specifically your wrist. The stock wings are much more ergonomically friendly.
Pictured Left to Right: Standard Guitar, Modded with Gamestop “Quest Wing”, Size Comparison Vs. Real Guitar
THE QUEST: Fueled by an all-new “Quest Mode,” WARRIORS OF ROCK finds players recruiting new members of their band through a story-mode that feels a bit inspired by BRUTAL LEGEND. Narrated by “The Demon” himself, KISS’ GENE SIMMONS, you must free a mystical Axe from it’s mountain tomb before marching your band into battle to help the Demi-God of Rock (Simmons) defeat “The Beast” in an effort to “Save Rock N Roll.”
We’re introduced to each character through elaborate cinematics, after which you’re presented with a setlist to play through. Upon completion of the set, another cinematic finds the character shedding their mortal form, and evolving into something much more sinister – bringing with their new form new powers. Complete a bonus song, and move along in your quest.
The first act concludes as you play through a level inspired by RUSH’s 2112 album. The musical acid-trip is narrated by the band, and features shortened versions of each song from the classic album – telling a tale of a primitive discovering the music of guitar for the very first time.
After unlocking the entire cast, you must assemble two bands comprised of four characters each. Choose wisely to take advantage of their special powers, as the right combination will assist greatly in your battle. “The Beast” (who looks a lot like Michael Bay’s version of DEVASTATOR from the live-action TRANSFORMERS movies) challenges you as you shred through three songs by MEGADETH, including the all-new “Sudden Death.”
Upon defeating “The Beast,” the game ends with an animated credit sequence featuring the developers from Neversoft. While this would usually signal the end of the game, you quickly find that you’re far from done.
A bonus level opens in which the “Demi-God of Rock” challenges you to shred with the likes of SLAYER prior to playing through the Quest once more, with the opportunity to gain more stars, more powers, and more unlockables that prove useful in other gameplay modes.
The gameplay in the quest mode is both challenging and fun, and while I stand behind the fact that there is a big difference between rocking out for real as opposed to rocking out on plastic, having fun is what’s important here. An unexpected bonus to the entire experience, is that WARRIORS OF ROCK is the perfect game for the Halloween Season. Driven by the elaborate transformations of each character, there is a huge horror influence present in the game. Austin Tejas becomes a headless horsemen of sorts – brandishing a flaming pumpkin bass; Axel Steel is The Mummy; Casey Lynch is the “Snake Woman” or “Nagin”; Echo Tesla becomes a twisted “Bride of Frankenstein”; Judy Nails as an undead-doll Centaur; Lars Umlaut as a Demonic Pig; Pandora as a Vampiric Fairy; while Johnny Napalm becomes a living dead punk straight out of 1985’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD.
These visuals combined with the music contained within create a demonic rock experience worth playing, despite the inclusion of a few less-rockin headscratchers like R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” and a few other poppier numbers likely included for casual players and party quickplay.
OTHER MODES: The Quickplay feature is great for jumping right into the rock, while the challenge mode makes it fun to take on fellow players on your friends list in everything from high score to star challenges, along with “most chords hit”, etc. Online play is robust, and thankfully the rock continues when your online counterparts leave early – a feature missing from earlier games, but present for the past few. Training modes are still available to learn the ways of the rock, while the popular “Creator Mode” has returned as well. Personally, I’ve been having a lot of fun with the Character Creator, in which I’ve actually been able to fashion a respectable version of a character from a comic book I write.
With it’s multi-faceted approach, GUITAR HERO: WARRIORS OF ROCK is the first must-have music game of 2010, with massive replay value and bang for the buck. Where the game and franchise need improvement is in the lack of regularly-updated DLC. Even with around 90 tracks packed into the disc, those tracks can become stale quickly, and when it comes to DLC, GH ranks far behind it’s competition, often killing the shelf-life of the title earlier than needed. The inclusion of the single-disc version of SOUNDGARDEN’s recent “best-of” TELEPHANTASM is a nice bonus, as is the ability to purchase the album as playable content.
In the end, capturing the interest of new players is the key to keeping the music gaming genre alive, and the GUITAR HERO team has certainly taken some steps in the right direction.