At this point I think it's safe to say that both Harmonix and Neversoft are good at making rock games. We may argue over who does it best, but no matter which rhythm game people buy this fall, they won't feel cheated. You can see the polish throughout Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, the sixth installment (assuming you're not counting the spin-offs, band games, portable titles, etc.). Unfortunately, fans of the long-running series will likely feel a little letdown by the lack of noticeable improvements in this sequel.
Guitar Hero has always been good for a cheesy story, and Warriors of Rock won't let you down. The good news is that this story mode more closely ties into the characters, fleshing out the guitar heroes you've come to know and love over the last few years. The player will go from one character to the next playing songs until they have enough points to transform into the gnarly warrior that has been trapped inside all this time.
The eight characters all represent a different music style, which at least gives players an acceptable reason to rock out as each of the musicians. The match-ups make a lot of sense -- British import Johnny has a venue of punk, Judy Nails has a set list of alternative rock and Lars brings the aggressive heavy metal. Once the player has earned enough stars, the character will be mutated into what can only be described as the comic book superhero of rock. It's here that they will need to complete an encore and it will be time to move on to the next character.
What sets these eight characters apart is their special ability, a modifier that changes the way the player earns stars. For example, one character will give you a shield to protect you from missed notes, while another will add 5% juice to the star power gauge every time the player gets ten notes in a row. When the character mutates these powers are amplified, creating a nearly unstoppable rock monster. This is more than just a throwaway addition, these abilities come in to play when the eight characters have to team up to beat the game's multiple bosses.
Warriors of Rock has the making for another great Guitar Hero installment, yet there's something about the game that rubs me the wrong way. For starters, I'm not a big fan of this year's set list. The game sports a whopping 93 songs, the most of any rhythm game. Early on it looks like there's going to be a diverse play list, but sadly that is not the case. Far too often the game veers into heavy metal territory. The entire second half of the story mode is nothing more than one thrasher after another. From Tesla to DragonForce, Anthrax to Avenged Sevenfold, Atreyu to Slipknot. After awhile it got to be a bit daunting. All of my favorite bands and songs were used up within the first few hours, leading to a non-stop parade of headache-inducing noise that I'm still trying to shake out of my memory.
When the game isn't growling at you with an overabundance of metal, there are some great bands to round out the catalog. We get great songs from The Cure, Muse, Stone Temple Pilots, Phoenix, R.E.M., Foo Fighters, Rolling Stones, The White Stripes and many more. But those are all bands we've seen in music games before; I didn't notice any brand new standouts this time around. No Led Zeppelin, U2 or Pink Floyd. It's also disappointing (though not completely unexpected) that many of my favorite songs, I already own in the competing Rock Band games. I suppose that's just the nature of the music industry.
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