There’s not a whole lot more can be said about the Guitar Hero franchise that hasn’t already been said and regurgitated ten times over. You know the score by now and will have already made your own mind up as to whether or not you’ll be buying Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, with the track listing probably having more influence on your purchasing decision than anything I can say.
But I do have a few things to say about it and having played just about every single Rhythm Action game since the release of Parappa the Rapper on the PS1 way back when, am hopefully qualified enough to say a thing or two about the genre.
While Harmonix and EA are taking the Rock Band franchise down the serious bona-fide musician route with their 2 octave keyboard, authentic 6 string guitar controllers and three-part harmonys, it’s up to Activision and Neversoft to take the Guitar Hero franchise neither forwards nor backwards, but slightly sideways. With the key factor here being that for Warriors of Rock will thankfully support all of your old instruments and won't require that you buy even more plastic tat. In fact, it’s not that actually all that different to previous offerings, which is actually no bad thing believe it or not, with just the single player career and multiplayer modes being given the odd tweak here or there to make them more intuitive and involving. The game has been refined rather than overhauled.
As ever the main career mode revolves around a hackneyed and clichéd rock-god fairytale, ably voiced by Gene Simmons, and sees you completing certain groups of songs in order to unlock various RPG-lite attributes for the game’s assorted motley crue. The further you progress the more each character’s appearance changes and the more effective their unique powerups. It’s complete cheese and doesn’t take itself at all seriously, but even that won’t stop you from skipping the admittedly well animated cut-scenes before screaming “GET ON WITH IT”.
In terms of presentation, Warriors of Rock is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous Guitar Hero titles. Neversoft’s animation team ought to be really applauded for the quality of its motion capture and its authentic lip synching, with poster-song Bohemian Rhapsody ably demonstrating this with its trio of singers all looking faithful and very reminiscent of the famous music video.
The track-listing, while not necessarily to my specific tastes, is also much improved because of its dedicated focus on rock music as opposed to trying to cover a wide range of bases with a dash of pop here, a sprinkling of soft-rock there and a shower of shit everywhere else. With tracks from such big-hitters as Megadeth, Anthrax, Def Leppard, Pantera and Slipknot it’s quite esoteric, but then there are also a decent number of popular tracks that will be played to death at partis such as the aforementioned Queen classic, Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing, Muse’s Uprising, The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army and R.E.M.s Losing My Religion. Rush’s 7 part epic 2112 and a track specifically written for the game by Dave Mustaine called Sudden Death prove to be the testing conclusion to the game but thankfully most of the songs are available to play from the off in both the fun quick-play mode and various drop-in, drop-out multiplayer offerings.
In fact a lot of work has actually gone into the quick-play mode this time around and it’s no longer just a throwaway addon. For each track, and each instrument, there are various challenges that can be completed for extra bonus stars with each proving quite imaginative and encouraging experimental gameplay. For instance, strumming every bass note up, or down, getting maximum whammy bar distortion out of every extended note or just trying to beat a target score set by one of your friends all reward extra points and bonuses. Extended party play now actually benefits you.
In addition to the 90 strong roster of tracks in Warriors of Rock you can also import a selection of songs from the previous Guitar Hero games. Unlike Rock band 2 which charged you a fee for importing from the first Rock Band game, Warriors of Rock simply asks you to enter the serial number displayed on the manuals of the previous Guitar Hero games before allowing you to download a file which adds the imported songs to the in-game catalogue. Of course the entire GH catalogue still pales into insignificance when compared to the many hundreds on offer on the Rock Band store, but it’s still a great addition and saves faffing about with numerous disks.
The new guitar controller is also worth a quick mention too as it's substantially more well built and feels a lot more robust than the previous lightweight controllers. And with its cut-out flame stylings it looks considerably more rock-chic than Fisher Price.
Similarly to the last few Guitar Hero games, if you love the series and want more of the same then there’s absolutely no reason not to buy Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. But conversely, if you’re completely bored with the concept now then this won’t change your mind and maybe you should wait for Rock Band 3. But thanks to its high production values, solid presentation and return to its hard-rock roots, Warriors of Rock actually proves that the franchise isn’t entirely ready for the scrap-heap quite just yet and it might still have a couple more top-ten hits up its sleeve. A solid return to form then after a difficult couple of albums.