PS3 Review – Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Since 2007, Neversoft and Activision have rolled out seven iterations of their Guitar Hero frachise, which is probably a record for the most sequels ever produced in just a short three year period.  Can what claims to be Neversoft’s last musical number, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, close out this series with gamers begging for an encore, or has their magical stage presence already worn off?

In Warriors of Rock, you’ll have the opportunity to jam out to a setlist of over 90 songs, ranging from the late 60’s to those aired this decade.  However, the classics in this album are very few as more than half of the 90 titles are tunes that were published from 2000 – 2010.  With the lengthy list of the newer songs, it seems that Neversoft was attempting to reach the newer generation of kiddos who wouldn’t have much taste in the oldies, but this is probably what hurts Warriors of Rock among a list of other issues.  Very few songs seem to be huge hits or memorable tunes.  Most of them are stuff that you wouldn’t even hum to after playing.  Yes, there are some rock-outs to be had like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Cryin'” by Aerosmith (just to name a few), but those are too few and far in between.  Perhaps this might be the effect of multiple versions of Guitar Hero rapidly spilling into the market.  Overall, the music seems to be tuned into the modern rock crowd, thrown in with some heavy metal gems to cover all the bases.

The new feature to this game is the Quest mode, which is an attempt by Neversoft to somehow change it up from the career mode as played in the previous lines of Guitar Hero.  However, this mode doesn’t make the experience anymore fresh or enjoyable.  In fact, the Quest mode is a feature that seems to cripple Warriors of Rock.  In this story-esque campaign, your job is to free this “Demigod of Rock” and to retrieve his battle axe (his “guitar” for those not familiar with the slang) so that the “The Beast” who imprisoned him may be destroyed in one final battle.  It sounds like an interesting concept, but the implementation of it is one grueling experience.

Your role during the quest is to recruit band members, who are characters from past guitar titles, and to unlock their supernatural ability before proceeding on with the quest.  Unhinging their super powers requires you to earn a quota of star points.  Each character has unique abilities, such as earning more stars points if you for maintaining various conditions or increasing star power at double the rate.  Whatever the perk may be, the goal is to implement that skill to reach your goal of obtaining star points in order to proceed.

It is here where the game becomes frustrating.  Each character is given a unique setlist to perform, which must be mastered before their supernatural transformation can take place.  The choice of music for each character is a mixed bag, and the not all the songs really gel together.  Since you have to achieve a certain total of star points, reaching that goal would require you to score high on almost every piece.  Many times, I found myself groaning through songs that weren’t even fun to hear or play, but had to complete in order to gather star points.  If you didn’t gather enough star points after playing the set, you’ll have to pick one of the songs from the list again and squeeze a few more out of it with a better performance.  Usually, that song would be the one that you didn’t care to play, either due to the style of music or the technical difficulty.  Not being able to proceed may give you the sense of being trapped until you muscle up the guts to play that not-so-catchy tune.

Some of the key mappings in Warriors of Rock is questionable as well.  During some of the easier set pieces, you may run into a few notes that sound like single strumming, but demand that two or three notes be played based on the difficulty setting.  Sometimes, these moments can come across as annoyances, as you can tell they were inserted for the mere fact of making it challenging and difficult.  However, if you’re the type that’s craving for Guitar Hero’s next evolution in difficulty, then something like this may be suitable to your interest, and not the mere casual gamer.

Thanks to the structure of the Quest mode, you may feel limited in your ability to liberally explore Guitar Hero.  While you’ll have plenty of tunes to pick from during the Quick Play+ option, some of the hard-hitter songs will be locked out until you achieve a certain milestone during the campaign.  As you do progress through the campaign and level your custom character in Quick Play+, you’ll begin to unlock various items and features to mesh onto your custom rocker for non-story related activities.  Given the time and effort put forth into it, you will eventually build Warriors of Rock into a well-rounded experience.

The presentation of the Quest campaign isn’t even that engaging.  Sure, you can throw in words like “The Beast” and “Demigod of Rock” to make it sound interesting, but it stops short at the idea of it.  The narration of the story, voiced by Kiss’ Gene Simmons, is okay at best, but doesn’t really capture the attention of its listeners.  Watching the story’s characters go through their god-like transformation is odd as well, as they’ll take on shapes such as a humanoid machine, a demonic elf, and a headless horseman.  In some way, seeing the Quest unfold makes me wish for the traditional career mode.  The graphics are the same from the previous line ups of Guitar Hero too, rehashed with some different textures here and there, but overall we’ve all seen it before.

However with all that being said, Warriors of Rock is in no way a broken game – there is just nothing very compelling or ground-breaking brought to the stage.  Only the hardcore rockers will seem to appreciate the added level of difficulty, while the game leaves no breathing space for a curious rock star trainee to enter the fray.  Activision even admitted that Warriors of Rock was designed to target the elitist crowd from the Guitar Hero 5 club, and it really shows through many of the design choices.  Sadly if you don’t fit that expert demographic, then this jam session isn’t worth the full price of admission for recycled content, and you’re probably better off revisiting the past Guitar Hero‘s that made this genre fun.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+/- Same fun gameplay and mechanics

– Quest campaign can become tedious and frustrating

– Song compilation isn’t the best. Appeals to smaller crowd

6 out of 10