Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Before I start, let me say that I am a fan of Guitar Hero. After blowing countless hours on Guitar Hero III, I have purchased almost every other Guitar Hero game in existence, finding more flaws than successes as time went on. 2009's oversaturation of the Rhythm Game genre certainly did not help this case. However, the more I heard about Warriors of Rock, I found my interest actually rise in the game. With my anticipations of the game at their pique thanks to the preview videos of the setlist, I finally started playing the game on its release date. Was the anticipation and build-up worth it? Well, I think it was, for the most part.

What I can say about this game is that outside of Quickplay +, which I'll explain shortly, the game is Guitar Hero on steroids. The game has gone back to its Guitar-based roots and injected a score of over-the-top elements into the recognizable gameplay. Characters, old and new, can now use their own unique power-ups and transform into their own "Warrior" forms, including Johnny Napalm as a Punk Rock version of Nightcrawler from X-Men, Axel Steel becoming a Mummy, and new character Austin Tejas turning into the Headless Horseman. On top of that, the plotline involves having to slay The Beast with your mighty axe a la BrĂ¼tal Legend to release the Demigod of Rock, complete with narrations by Gene Simmons of KISS fame.

As for the aforementioned power-ups, these are specific to each character and can really inflate your star levels. These include Axel Steel's ability to generate Ankhs to rescue you from failure, Judy Nail's ability to overflow the Rock Meter for extra stars, and Pandora's ability to generate a x6 Star Power Multiplier, among others. These powers are used during the Quest Mode, which now has you going through setlists specific to each character, as opposed to picking one character and plowing through one big setlist. Later in the game, you will need to combine these power-ups in order to take down the final boss by dividing the characters into two teams of four. Once Quest Mode is complete, you gain access to Dominate Quest. Here, you can play through Quest Mode again, but this time with access to all 8 powers at once, but now you must get all 40 stars possible from every song in order to "Dominate" each setlist. The powers from Quest are also transferred to Quickplay +. I personally didn't mind the powers too much, since I knew I would push myself harder outside of Quest.

But what would Guitar Hero be without the Setlist? The songs this time around were very balanced and diverse during Quest, as each character had their own Genre. For example, Johnny Napalm and his Punk Rock block at CBGBs, new character Echo Tesla and her Industrial setlist, and Judy Nails with more classic Pop songs. In the middle of the game, you get to play through a marathon of Rush's epic 2112, something I hadn't heard before but greatly appreciated afterwards. The setlist for the battle against The Beast at the end is a showdown of three Megadeth songs, including one written specifically for the game, which was a massive difficulty spike from what the game has you playing before. This spike was so large, I ended up having to lower the difficulty a peg just to get past the second song (I raised it back up for the last song). After this, you unlock a bonus tier of Metal songs, which I personally enjoyed maybe half of. The rest seemed tedious at first or even maintaining the massive difficulty spike I had mentioned. Still, I loved the setlist and found myself constantly going back to it on both Quest and Quickplay +.

Quickplay +, which I had brought up earlier, contains enough potential for earning stars that this game might as well be its own galaxy. You can play through the setlist of the game, including some songs which you have to unlock, with challenges specific to each song, or you can play the songs with power-ups taken from Quest and mix-and-match them like Call of Duty's Perk system to find a combination that will give you the most stars or maximize your score. The challenges, however, were more generic, even by the standards of the challenges, for DLC or songs imported from previous games, including Guitar Hero: Metallica. The stars that you earn in this mode add to a pool of stars for the purpose of "leveling up" to obtain more in-game goodies. Some of these unlockables, such as small art galleries of characters and new instruments and gameplay modifiers, were rather interesting to see in action.

A quick note on the graphics. They are very much improved over the last few entries in the series and run a lot smoother, even compared to the Rock Band franchise. If you aren't distracted by the oncoming notes, you will see some very beautifully detailed and life-like environments and characters, including CBGBs and even entire setpieces based on Rush's 2112. Most on-disc songs have their own animations that the characters go through, which is really impressive, especially on something like Bohemian Rhapsody.

While the game can get pretty ridiculous, I found myself getting caught up in it and enjoyed shredding through it. It was a lot more enjoyable to me compared to the last few entries, if only because I liked the return to having more guitar-centric songs. Whatever your taste in music might be, I would love to tell you to buy this game, but I would instead direct you to the setlist preview videos so you get a taste of what you are in for. After all, your mileage may vary with this game based on your own personal tastes. Still, I say it's not a bad idea to give this title a shot, even if you just rent it over the weekend. If you like it after that approach, do not hesitate to buy it; you might miss playing it.

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