What happened to the music-genre games of yesteryear? It’s seems the past year or so has shown some of the less than appealing aspects of this now tediously repetitive genre: games which could have been adequately rolled out as DLC as opposed to full retail releases (we’re looking at you Green Day: Rock Band), dressed up to appear as “new” games, but lacking anything really different that past iterations. Sadly, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock falls victim to that very problem—it forgets why so many people were swept by the genre, and leaves the would-be newcomers in the shadow of an awkwardly crafted set list and an even more confusing difficulty gap.
Warriors of Rock is essentially the same music game we’ve been playing for the past several years. It’s not exactly a dumbed-down version of a past installment; rather, it’s more of the same and less of the new. A new “quest” mode acts as your career, and there is, of course, a return to Party Play. After all, Guitar Hero is a party game and is meant to be played with a few friends. Playing Warriors of Rock solo is no different than any previous GH game—actually; the only different is in the set up of the career mode.
The Quest Mode is something of a story, we suppose. Rockers from previous GH games are on a mission to recover the sacred ax (you know, the slang for a guitar kind of ax), and they must transform into their ultimate beings in order to attain said goal. Gene Simmons narrates the quest line, but sadly doesn’t show up in the game. There are a small handful of “neato” moments in the Quest Mode, but overall it falls pretty flat.
The big problem with Quest Mode is pretty much the same problem with the rest of the game: The songs, the songs, the songs. After all, music games are all about the tracks enclosed on those little discs, and if the songs are fundamentally flawed, well it’s fair to say the game isn’t very good. Warriors of Rock seems intended to feature heavy metal more than any other style, and while there are some obvious big hitters from the likes of Black Sabbath and Megadeth, the inclusion of bands like REM and Blind Melon (even though both are great bands in our book), seems a tad incongruous overall. Ironically however, the songs, “Losing my Religion,” by REM, and “Tones of Home,” by Blind Melon are actually some of our favorite to physically play.
Each character is given his or her own genre, ranging from alternative to classic rock and modern Top 40 heavy metal. They each have different special abilities. For instance, Judy Nails earns extra stars when she overflows the Rock Meter. The characters all get a little intro cinematic followed by a small set list of similar songs. So, if you aren’t a fan of one genre, you have to suffer through songs by My Chemical Romance or Silversun Pickups. The settings for each character are pretty unique, and when you couple that with genre-specific favorites, there are some mildly enjoyable moments in Quest Mode. About midway through, you’ll play through Rush’s “2112” anthem of songs. If you aren’t familiar with these songs, it won’t take you long to get acquainted, as you must play through all of them more or less non-stop in order to get to the second part of the quest. We found this a bit irritating, but luckily the visual-backdrop and complexity of the songs kept us driving to the next stage.
When we say the songs are complex, we don’t mean that in a good way. Sadly some songs just don’t function well as Guitar Hero tracks. The Cure’s “Fascination Street,” and Nine Inch Nail’s “Wish,” needs more guitar (instead of cowbell!). We are really tired of playing synthesizers on our guitar, and this is no offense to the late Freddie Mercury, but we no longer want to play the piano part in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” on our plastic guitars.
If it sounds like we are being overly harsh on this game, maybe you are right, but we simply cannot justify forking out for yet another instalment in a series that fails to offer more than mere incremental upgrades year after year. We’re still very much behind the idea of music games for the party elements, but we just want more songs that apply to a party setting. Warriors of Rock is more of the same, and less of what we hoped for: An improved Guitar Hero 5, a killer set list, and an interesting career mode.