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

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A Hardcore Look at Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

 This is a hardcore look at the recently released Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, a lot of this stuff may sound nitpicky but for the hardcore community I think they are very important.  Just as most reviews you'll find for this game is geared towards the common gaming populace, this is geared towards the hardcore rhythm gaming populace.

About My Experience
Instruments: Guitar/Drums
Difficulty: Expert/Expert+
Game Pedigree: GH1-5, GH:M, GH:SH

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock goes far out of its way to please the hardcore, but I  think it falls short of its goal more often than not.  The game peaks in a glorious barrage of hand-cramping solos that is bound to leave a smile on the face of any hardcore rhythm gamer, but these peaks are few and far between.  The setlist screams out to the hardcore, but at times I'm left wondering if that's the only part truly geared to us.  At best, I'd say Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock suffers from a bit of an identity crisis.

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Warriors of Rock's primary mode of play, Quest Mode, has a lot of ambition but never realizes its full potential.  The mode leads the gamer through a series of sets and encores, akin to the old days of Guitar Hero 1 through 3, and reintroduces them to the characters of Guitar Hero and their newfound powers as they progress.  It's an interesting change to the formula that does manage to breath some new life into the gameplay, but there are some odd side effects.

Some of the Quest powers and transformations wind up feeling really fun or looking really cool, but lead to a major problem: Quest mode has no score tracking.  I imagine this is a result of a few of the powers that would greatly alter the scoring structure, such as making Star Power completely fill up after picking up a single SP phrase or even changing the standard 4x multiplier to a 5x/6x multiplier.  Without score tracking, my desire to play quest is significantly hindered since nothing I do there will upload to a real leaderboard or compare with my friends at all.  If I FC a song in Quest I have little to show for it besides a 100% screen that will vanish unless I mark it down.  All my progress in Quest mode only leads to unlocking the final tier songs in Quickplay+ and more progress in Quest mode itself.

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The song selection for encores makes Warriors of Rock's setlist feel weaker than it actually is.  In a game so focused on the hard rock and metal image, it doesn't really make sense to have a character transform into some ultimate badass just to play Janes Addiction or Styx.  Often times, the songs that lead up to the encore are far heavier and more difficult than the ones the game presents you to finish the set with.  It feels like many of the optional songs, such Bohemian Rhapsody, Ravenous, Hard To See, or Sharp Dressed Man, would be far better choices as encores than what is in place.  The setlist, overall, is very strong for the hardcore community, but the encore choices make it feel a lot weaker than it actually is.

Quickplay+ is the major mode Warriors of Rock has going for it.  It retains everything from GH5's quickplay mode, with a few more sorting options, and adds in the challenges that were present in GH5's career.  Every song you play in Quickplay+ has a pretty large number of challenges devoted to it, and completing them can be some of the most fun in the game, especially the power challenges that allow you to pick 2 powers to use for a play through.  Unfortunately, it's a bit hard to tell what each challenge is.  The only place you can check a song's challenges is right before you play it or add it to a setlist.  If you max out a new challenge but don't remember what the icon is for, you won't be able to tell what it was until you go back to the song select screen.  You also won't know what the threshold was until checking it directly.  The reward for doing challenges is more stars that will collect over time and unlock cheats, extras, artwork, new characters, and other rewards.  The major problem with this system, though, is that NONE of it ties into Quest mode.  After completing Quest I was still rank 1, 0 stars in Quickplay+ even though I'd played well over half the songs in the game.  This separation makes the game feel like it is trying to arbitrarily lengthen its value by forcing you to play songs multiple times to unlock everything.

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I'm sure this sounds like I'm down on the game, and the truth of it is I kind of am.  Setlist aside, there's not a lot in Warriors of Rock that's well done, well thought out, or well implemented.  It all starts to feel tacked on or cobbled together after a while, and that's really unfortunate.  Parts of Quest such as the 2112 stage and the Final Battle setlist of Megadeth tracks are really a sight to behold for rhythm gamers, but that's a very small portion of a large mode that ultimately never justifies itself.  Quickplay+ is great evolution of the Quickplay we all know and love, but some cumbersome UI and lack of Quest integration drag that down as well.  GH:WoR has one of the best setlists the hardcore community has ever seen, but the rest of the game just isn't there.

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