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Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4; 1 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Rhythm/ Party/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

I was skeptical of Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock's new direction. After playing through most of the game, however, I'm convinced the background could involve a race of rainbow-colored cybernetic dinosaurs and the core idea would still work. Theme adds a new coat of paint and structure, but this is the same game you've been playing all along.

Guitar Hero has been, and will always be, about the music. I could talk about the customizable character models, themed stages and other visual attributes, but the truth is you probably won't notice much - if any - of what's going on in the background.

Hands down, Warriors of Rock features the best song library to hit the series since Guitar Hero: Metallica. Gone are Top 40's Pop Hits and "Party Songs;" all are replaced with pure rock songs bursting with power chords and drum solos. The list is a nice mix of old and new. You've got Aerosmith, The Runaways and Jethro Tull, as well as Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera. There's also a nice mix of "newer" groups, such as Anberlin, Muse and Flyleaf.

This isn't to say there aren't a few duds. "Dud" might be too harsh, but then there's a handful of questionable inclusions like "Bleed it Out" (Linkin Park), "How You Remind Me" (Nickelback) and "Self Esteem" (Offspring). They aren't bad choices, but seemed a bit out of place compared to the rest. But hey, there's nothing that says I have to play them... right?

Also worthy of note, content from previous games will automatically import into the game.

What I really like about the list is it goes for "fun to play" over "well-known." There are some cases where the two collide, but then there are entries like Orianthi. Logic would say go for "According to You," but "Suffocated" - a much better guitar song (though really, any of her stuff would work) - is instead included.

I also want to mention the game's inventive use of Rush's "2112," a 20-minute concept song. I won't spoil it, but... great job guys. I want more of this stuff.


The core Quest Mode replaces the normal "Get a gig and play" structure found in previous games. Rather than playing random locations, you're instead playing through set lists and environments designed for each of the game's "Warriors." Johnny Napalm's set is based at CBGB's and features more of a "punk" theme, while Lars comes with accoutrements more befitting of his KISS-inspired look.

Each character has story bits associated with their particular quest, but those are really just window dressing for the core rhythm gameplay. They help just as much as they hurt, leaving their value up to the player. I personally don't like that the game has wandered from its Rock Star Fantasy roots, but that's just me. What matters is the music, and that pretty much rocks.

I had more fun with Quickplay+ than the Quest Mode. If I didn't have to play through it to unlock songs and other goodies, I would have been content to play Quickplay+ for hours on end and still would have had fun. The "plus" in Quickplay+ comes from the addition of Call of Duty style rankings and achievements.

Each song has a number of challenges that unlock as you play through songs. It's exactly like the Challenges found in Band Hero (which I loved), only contained in their own mode. Completing challenges rewards you with stars, which level up your player rank. Higher levels unlock new items. It's not exactly a tactical nuke... but it'll do. The real fun comes with the added Social Network components. After stats for a song, you can challenge friends to beat your performance, or check out their performances and attempt to show them up.

As with the Quest, the usefulness of the Social aspects is purely up to your own tastes, but seeing your friend post a slightly better stat is enough to make you want to keep going - or at least it was for me. How else could you explain me playing through a Nickelback song multiple times? If the game had Smash Mouth, I'm sure I would have done the same. My point is, adding another way for players to connect adds, in my opinion, more value to an already fun title.

For anyone wondering, Party Play - the jump right in and play mode introduced in the last game - is back, along with all the usual customization options.


As usual, multiple difficulties are available for all songs and all instruments. Looking strictly at the note charts on Medium, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock packs in a few tricky moments. I was able to consistently nail between 90 - 98% on every song in Medium, but I found myself using the tutorials for certain parts more often than in past games.

Challenges in Quickplay+ offer a different sort of challenge. Rather than gunning for completion percentages and star ratings, you're asked to pay attention to how you play. Every song has a dozen challenges attached, such as how many times you bank Star Power, hitting consecutive note streaks or using the whammy bar on sustained notes. Gunning for these marks is, of course, optional, though adds something else for veteran players to chase.

My only problem with Challenges is there's no way to check them outside the main Quickplay+ menu. Everything is listed out in that menu, but it's not likely you'll remember everything after setting up a lengthy playlist. At the very least, it would be nice to know what I'm doing to get icons to appear while playing.

Game Mechanics:

Each character has a special ability, such as Johnny's constant 2x multiplier or Echo earning extra Star Power for every 10-note streak. These are a complete departure for the series, but add something new to the core gameplay experience. Previously, Stars were something you earned, but really didn't matter outside bragging rights. Now, Stars feed each character's evolution into their Warrior form, granting access to more powerful abilities.

Once unlocked, you can use abilities in Quickplay+, opening up a new set of "Power Challenges." These play directly into the abilities and, aside from giving you something else to go for, it's a crazy awesome feeling to see your Star and point counts rocket up. Seven Stars is good, twenty-three is just fun with excess. After all, if it's not done with excess, it's not worth doing at all. Purists should note both "powered" and "un-powered" leaderboards are available.

A new Guitar Hero game means new instruments. The game is playable with all of your old stuff, but if you're a first time buyer or in the market for new items, it's nice to have the option.

The guitar has been completely redesigned. All of the control components (buttons, strum bar, whammy bar) are attached to the neck. Compared to past guitars, the new one has a sturdier feel, at least at the neck. For all its convenience and sturdy feel, I ended up going back to my older guitar for most of the game. The new buttons are stiff and the strum bar has a nice click, though I thought the whammy bar got in the way. I ended up turning it around just to get it out of the way while playing. As with other elements, it came down to personal preference.

I wasn't convinced enough to replace my guitar, but my old drum kit just took up residence in my bedroom closet. The new drums are great! The panel with controls is detachable. A small change, sure, but convenient in ways you probably haven't thought of yet. Just the ability to go through menus in comfort was enough to convince me.

The new pads have just enough "bounce" to feel comfortable. Unlike the original set, the rubber is just a little softer with a slight suspension. It doesn't feel like you're hammering away on hard plastic. It's a softer hit, especially on the cymbals (which react like cymbals). One of my friends noticed a slight up-tick in her reaction time.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is a dramatic shift for the series in terms of theme, but the core gameplay is as close as ever to the heart of the franchise. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is a different direction, but it's the right one.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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