Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Review

By Abbie Heppe - Posted Sep 28, 2010

Well, it's fall and for rhythm game enthusiasts, that means a new Guitar Hero game, like clockwork, every year. While this year's iteration isn't as marked an improvement as last year's GH5, it certainly adopts the best innovations of the series and tweaks it into a more fine-tuned beast with just a tad of complete nonsense thrown in.

The Pros
  • Solid charting and great range of difficulty
  • Quickplay Plus mode is tops for the series
  • Series continues to be solid and challenging offering for fans of Guitar Hero
The Cons
  • Quest mode is largely disappointing
  • Calibration and local play saving is still messy
  • Song list is not for everyone

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock Review:

Well, it's fall and for rhythm game enthusiasts, that means a new Guitar Hero game, like clockwork, every year. While this year’s iteration -- Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock -- isn't as marked an improvement as last year's GH5, it certainly adopts the best innovations of the series and tweaks it into a more fine-tuned beast with just a tad of complete nonsense thrown in. 



Look Around at This World We've Made

In the interest of differentiating itself from Guitar Hero 5, Warriors of Rock adds the all new Quest Mode, a benign tumor on what is already an impressively flushed out single player and multiplayer experience. In short, you’re tasked with rescuing the imprisoned “Demigod of Rock” and to complete this task, you need to recruit various characters with super-human musical prowess to join the fight.

By playing each character’s loosely genre themed set list, you’ll get a bonus power up like increased multipliers or earning star power for completing note streaks which you can then apply to conquering the final tracks. Each recruit comes in normal and warrior form turning classic Guitar Hero characters like Casey Lynch and Axel Steele into pseudo-demonic ahem, warriors of rock and its all delightfully, but forgettably, narrated by Gene Simmons.   

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There are some new faces representing their segment of musical genres like Austin Tejas with his twangy classic rock and Echo Tesla with her alternative/industrial slate. But the mode’s only real selling point is the halfway mark’s “boss battle” set list of Rush’s 2112, narrated by the members of the band. Once you get past Rush, it’s an inoffensive mid-length campaign … until you're asked to replay the entire thing combining each characters special power and earning all the stars for each song.

You earn stars like you normally would in a Guitar Hero game but here they mostly serve to track your level of completion and full stars can be acquired on any difficulty, negating the need to really try.  Of course, you don’t need to try anyway because stacking that many bonus abilities on each other means it’s virtually impossible to lose star power (or a x36 multiplier) and hence the mode doesn’t provide any meaningful feedback whatsoever. You can't even pick and choose your power as if there was a puzzle to solve or a deeper point to the mode.



Yes, We Know, It's Nothing New

Despite the forced Quest Mode, Quickplay Plus is a marked, yet subtle, improvement over last year. Challenges abound with multiple instrument specific tests for each song and the ability to compete against your own bests and the top scores of anyone on your friends list. If you're targeting a specific challenge, the information gets added onto the sleek HUD and at the end, stars are awarded and your character ranks up. 

Quickplay Plus probably seems too basic to be the star of the game, but it really shines. It embraces the competitive angle that is key to Guitar Hero while allowing you to skip the worst songs and play anything in your library. The sorting, leaderboarding, previously added open notes and more complex sustained notes are everything you could want from the franchise. The power-ups also make an appearance here, but are easily ignored or you can select two and compete for high scores, which is a more interesting application than all of Quest Mode. There is also extensive stat tracking that compiles not only data from Warriors of Rock but GH5 and Band Hero as well.

The one incredibly frustrating aspect is that if you're playing locally with a friend and using multiple profiles, only some of the information saves for the player who is not band leader. Despite the party and co-op friendly vibe of the game, this will cause frustration for those looking to share their local play.



We've Taken Care Of Everything

As far as the other staples of the series, little has changed. Competitive play is much the same with Pro Face-off, Rockfest (a mash-up of game types like elimination and perfectionist) and similar band showdowns. It works well enough save the fact that most people who start to lose will quit out faster than in a round of Halo: Reach. Thankfully, you'll still get credit for the win. The GH Studio returns as well, but frankly, I still have yet to discover a compelling use for the application.

Of course, there is also Party Mode. It’s much the same as last year: players can drop-in/drop-out, all play the same instrument and get started with ease. Thankfully, you can import (for a fee) all of your tracks from GH5, Metallica (free the first week), World Tour, Band Hero and Smash Hits, because Warriors of Rock stays true to its namesake of Guitar Hero by offering little in the way of tracks you might want to sing at a party. 

Just make sure you’ve calibrated before you invite your friends over as I experienced major issues in setting up a 4-player game. Factor in 20 minutes of tweaking and we’d just about reached “playable” status thanks in part to the game only allowing you to test medium difficulty in the calibration menu. It’s past time for automatic calibration or an expert calibration mode in Guitar Hero that’s accessible without backing out the start menu. 

What can this strange device be?

There was a point when my plastic guitar collection was reaching increasingly higher into two-digit numbers until I scrapped almost all of them. Almost all of them except the outdated Gibson X-Plorer wired controller for GH2 on 360, because I still think it’s the best guitar to date. That’s why I’m happy to report that the new Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock guitar is probably closest in feel to the X-Plorer than any instrument that’s come out since. The strum and whammy bars feel comparable though aesthetically, flames aren’t my first choice of decoration for anything; however the design -- very in step with the graphical look of the game -- is inoffensively campy. There are also additional wings for the snap-on, snap-off guitar body, that look like giant blades but for my play style (admittedly bizarre), they poke into my wrist too much to be comfortable. If you play like a normal guitar player, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

As for the technical merits of the axe, it’s very much a streamlined version of previous guitar units. It deconstructs into easily store-able pieces, has the slightly raised fret buttons I prefer, star power/back and start buttons built into the bridge and no more touch strip. Though there are still touch-strip compatible notes built into the game, I’ve honestly never used this feature much and can’t complain that the new guitar doesn’t support it.

Despite all the good things I can say about the controller, I have smallish lady paws (and I play unconventionally) and the larger-handed men with proper GH form in the office have distinct problems with the placement of the bridge and buttons on it. It’s proximity to the strum bar is admittedly very close, great for triggering star power without turning the guitar, but not great for accidentally triggering star power when you don’t mean to. All-in-all, this guitar will definitely become part of my pared down collection, but it definitely won’t work for everyone.

The Words You Hear, The Songs You Sing

Ultimately, many gamers will simply care about what this year’s set list has to offer. The tracks are a cross between the music collection of a 30 year old man who could have been labeled alternative in the 90’s and the compilation CD a 17 year old teen might purchase with a Slipknot shirt and a studded belt at the local Hot Topic. 

Though the variety might be lacking in some ways, it's a good fit with what I perceive to be the Guitar Hero demographic. My stat tracking list puts me clearly in the classic rock fan category but judging by my online battles, I'm a minority in the GH fanbase with Avenged Sevenfold topping out the most chosen track in my random sessions. 

What I find a little concerning is that most of the music in Warriors of Rock seems like the same bands we always see in GH, just their 3rd tier hits, and personally, it's my least favorite set list yet, despite Blue Oyster Cult's "Burning for You", "Fascination Street" by the Cure and a live version of Metallica and Ozzy performing “Paranoid.” However, despite my aversion to bands like Linkin Park and Sum-41, Guitar Hero does such a fantastic job of layering in both rhythm and lead guitar to create more complex note tracks that even the most cringe-worthy set lists are engaging and fun to play (especially on mute).  



Just Think About the Average, What Use Have They For You?

Granted, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock isn’t the title I’d choose to jam out with my friends, but it still does an exceptional job of catering to the hardcore audience, especially with the tweaks to Quickplay Plus. The best part about Guitar Hero and indeed, why it isn’t entitled Band Hero: Warriors of Rock, is that it only superficially seems to care about being a party game or including anything but guitar or bass. 

There is not much in the way of truly sing-able vocals and no new drums that require complex patching. This is actually fantastic for the Guitar Hero enthusiast that cringes when other players select “medium” difficulty and who cares more about high scores and leaderboards than group participation. I love this aspect. I like to think, at heart, GH is for the core player and not casual gamers enticed in by the novel illusion of faux rockstardom despite its best attempts to prove itself otherwise. 

Call me a purist, but I miss the days of struggling through a tiered setlist hoping to prove my merit rather than having the game essentially cheat me through a campaign as it does now. Thankfully, all the elements that attract me to the franchise are still there, if not front and center, and there seems to be a dedication to keeping the competitive aspects of the series alive.

So is this the game for you? If you’re a dedicated GH fan, absolutely, though the game feels a bit like Guitar Hero 5.2. Even though the Quest Mode and track list didn’t cater to my interests, I still played and enjoyed the game until my fingers begged for a break and it’s inarguably the most complete and polished iteration to-date. If you’re a casual fan who doesn’t like the set list, move along – there’s nothing for you here.