modeps's Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (Xbox 360) review

A creatively bankrupt poseur.

When I first read details and saw screens from Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (GH6) I was actually fairly intrigued. Here we had a game that appeared to know exactly who it was. Neversoft was channelling heavy metal album artwork, characters appeared to be crisp and redesigned, and they were focusing on something that most music games don't--a narrative. OK, that last part was certainly something weird, but hey, sometimes metal needs a story full of chrome and fire right? Oh, and they threw the entirety of Rush's 2112 smack dab in the middle of it. Kick ass!

The whole point of the primary Quest mode is to free the Demigod of Rock who was imprisoned by The Beast, a laughably designed metal robot thing. To do so, you've got to recruit eight Warriors of rock by transforming them into their "true form" in order to free the Demigod's special guitar from its prison. Each of the eight characters focuses on a specific genre of music, like Johnny Napalm's primarily punk songs. The problem here is that if you don't enjoy something like classic rock, there are large stretches of time where you'll stop enjoying the game.

Wait, classic rock? I thought this game was metal? Yeah, not so much. Despite the very hard edged metal motif, I was extremely surprised and disappointed to find that only about a third of the game's 93 songs could fit into that category. Instead, Neversoft went the safer route and included plenty of that deliberately vague genre called Alternative, as well as a large serving of Classic and Southern rock. Imagine my dismay when only three sets in, Judy Nails was playing a Nickelback song. Nickelback--the band that competitor Harmonix mocked by codenaming their Rock Band Network "Rock Band: Nickelback" just to make sure people wouldn't ask about it. There's also a bunch of weird choices for inclusion, like the pitiful 1997 version of "Free Ride" by Edgar Winter and the completely terrible live version of "Paranoid" by Metallica and Ozzy. Hey, remember that song? Me too... when it was good. In short, the soundtrack ain't great.

To actually recruit people you need to play their songs and earn stars, after which they transform them into their true "Warrior". After mutating into this bad Halloween costume version, they play a final song then join your army. Sound familiar? It should, because you've done this exact same thing since Guitar Hero 1. The names have changed, but it's still just a setlist with an encore. The only real addition to this game aside from a new grouping of songs, is the character specific special abilities. Characters will let you earn star power by playing long strings of music, double star power from assigned phrases, or even extra multipliers. Once entering into Warrior mode, these abilities are boosted. Their only benefit is allowing you to earn more and more stars on songs, cumulating in a possible 40 stars once you've got a fully powered up band.

Difficulty progression through the quest is all over the place too. There are songs in the final Warrior's setlist that are a cakewalk, while earlier characters have some pretty difficult fretwork that'll need to be rocked. Don't worry though; I didn't drop below green on the rock meter despite missing plenty of HOPOs and chord progressions in some songs. Even during the game's brutal Megadeth final battle where I finished with under 90% notes hit, I never fell out of the green. It's as if the game is always in no fail mode, but doesn't pretend. When you beat the game and the credits roll? Be prepared to do it all over again with your full eight man band to really beat it, as the quest progression percentage indicates that you're only half way there.

Remember how last year there were all those real artists in the game? This year, likely due to litigation from Courtney Love et al, they're all gone and all the venues are fictional. Well, all except for New York City's now shuttered CBGB & OMFUG, which has been recreated beautifully. This particular inclusion is really weird; why bother including one real venue? It's kind of a tease too, because they throw it right in the first Warrior's set then you get nothing else. I also miss the character specific animations when Star Power is engaged, animations which are nowhere to be found in Warriors of Rock. Instead, the lighting just goes all blue and the crowd (if there is one) claps louder for a bit. Bring back fire-breathing Lars Umlaut!

While I primarily focused on Quest mode, that's not the only trick in the bag. Other modes available are Quickplay+, Competitive, and Party Play. These will allow you to basically play the game however you want to, tackling different challenges in an unfocused fashion. Party Play is the most interesting returning feature allowing GH6 to turn into a music video, continuously playing songs while allowing anyone to just drop in at any time. It's a slick mode that all music games should have. You can even drop into the GH Tracks store to download some free, user created piece of music but I honestly wouldn't. My very first venture into the user store rendered Quickplay+ completely inoperable, locking up my system multiple times by just trying to start it up. The only cure was to drop to the Xbox 360's dashboard and delete the single "custom tracks" file. 

In a genre that has been completely over-saturated within the past few years, there's pretty much no reason for Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock to exist as a game at all. Aside from the new soundtrack which is more miss than hit, there's just nothing here. This franchise has been beat into the ground and Neversoft has become an assembly line studio after once being the king of skateboarding. Time to take at least a year off and come up with some new ideas folks.

The Good

  • Cheaper than buying 93 $DLC songs.
  • Visually, the best looking Guitar Hero yet.
The Bad
  • Creatively bankrupt series brings nothing new.
  • Despite the metal aesthetic, only about a third of the soundtrack is of the genre.
  • In-game features shouldn't lock up your console.
The Ugly
  • Nickelback.    

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