Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock review

Yup, it’s Guitar Hero.

Expect no revolutions or revelations. Much like the regular doses of Madden, Dance Dance Revolution, or even Halo, each iteration of the vaunted music series comes preloaded with anticipations and routines. We’ll strum away to our favorite songs while simultaneously cursing the conspicuous tinge of familiarity. Whether you love Guitar Hero or hate it, nothing about Warriors of Rock will sway you towards the other direction.

For the uninitiated (if such a mythical being exists anymore), the premise has remained the same since the original game debuted five years ago. Color-coded notes stream down the screen while you, with a plastic guitar or drum kit, strum and pound out the music with the corresponding buttons, or attempt to croon along on the microphone. Playing well, and activating Star Power to increase your multiplier effectively, rewards you with even more songs to play.

Quest mode is the newest addition to the series, which tasks you with powering up the usual cast of rockers and transforming them into warriors to take on the Beast and free the Demigod of Rock. Axel Steel, Lars Umlaut, Judy Nails, and five other recognizable faces have their own songs that need to be mastered in preparation of the final showdown. As entertaining as it is to see Johnny morph into a demon, or Lars into a nipple-ringed boar, Quest mode is little more than the usual collection of set-lists with added cutscenes.

Each character has at least one unique power in Quest mode. Johnny begins with a 2x multiplier that rises faster, and he receives bonus stars for staying at 3x and higher. Pandora’s Star Power multiplier is 3x instead of 2x, and Austin Tejas gets Star Power twice as fast. All of their powers combine when it comes time to form a band for the final set. It’s an idea worth exploring again, but in its current state, it does nothing to change the entire point of the game – don’t miss notes.

Neversoft did a fine job of matching characters with their respective genres of music. Punk rocker Johnny Napalm’s set includes “What Do I Get?” by The Buzzcocks, “Self Esteem” by The Offspring, and “Black Rain” by Soundgarden. Meanwhile, Axel Steel hits up “Modern Day Cowboy” by Tesla and “Unskinny Bop” by Poison, and Pandora delves into the modern scene with “Suffocated” by Orianthi.

Every release of Guitar Hero is bound to live or die based on its song collection, and this one is sure to be divisive. It’s almost hard to believe that “Self Esteem” by The Offspring and “Interstate Love Song” by Stone Temple Pilots hadn’t appeared before, but harder to believe that Queensryche’s “Jet City Woman” appears in lieu of “Empire.” Atreyu, Anberlin, and Rise Against make welcome appearance, but Motorhead, Misfits, and Jimi Hendrix are conspicuously absent. At the very least, many songs from previous installments can be easily imported for a small fee.

There is one band in the game that I can absolutely do without, a band that is the sole reason I dread every playing through Quest mode again – Rush. Midway through the game, you will be forced to endure, or possibly relish, all 20+ minutes of 2112, complete with narration. I’m sure that some people are already drooling and ready to crucify me for my heretical ways, but variety and choice have always been selling points of Guitar Hero. Had it not been for this review, I might have quit then and there.

Outside of Quest mode, Warriors of Rock and Guitar Hero 5 are nearly identical. There are options to create nearly any conceivable rocker under the sun, and GH Studio is back for would-be song creators. Quickplay, a load of Competitive modes, including team-based versions, and the non-stop Party mode are all present and accounted for. The latter, which lets players jump in and out and change difficulties during a non-stop mix, is a personal favorite for get-togethers.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock hides beneath the guise of an epic story, which makes it all the more disappointing that it’s really the same game all over again. The series has slipped into reunion mode. Loyal fans will keep it alive, but to everyone else, it has already become a has-been.