Guitar Hero: Warriors Of Rock PlayStation 3 review

The long-running Guitar Hero series returns with Warriors Of Rock — but does it still have the x-factor, or has its time passed? Here’s Mike’s PS3 review…

The Guitar Hero franchise has its back against the wall. While the series enjoyed massive success in its early years, recent games have seen sales drop and press and fans alike accuse the series of stagnating and moving away from its guitar-heavy, rock and roll roots.

While Rock Band has answered its critics by becoming more ambitious and innovative, Warriors Of Rock developer Neversoft seems to have retreated towards consolidation. That’s why this new title has a setlist firmly entrenched in the heavy rock camp, and with less concentration on star cameos and other instruments.

Instead, Neversoft has sought to expand on the rock star mythology by tweaking the game’s familiar career mode, renamed Quest. The basic structure is the same – songs are organised into vaguely-themed groups, and you need to complete enough to a sufficient standard to unlock the next selection – but there’s some RPG-style sheen to contend with, too.

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For starters, there’s an actual plot. Narrated with suitable relish by the snake-tongued KISS star Gene Simmons, you’re attempting to release the God of Rock – and his suitably extravagant axe – from imprisonment. You’re aided by eight characters from previous games who mutate into superhero-style caricatures once you complete each group of songs, with extra items and gameplay bonuses also unlocked along the way.

You’ll shred your way through some classic tunes to get there, too. While most of your enjoyment of Warriors Of Rock – as with any music game – depends on how much you like the setlist, there are some undeniable classics hidden among its 90 tracks: Bohemian Rhapsody, Losing My Religion, Cryin’, Interstate Love Song, Money For Nothing and the peerless How You Remind Me by the rather wonderful Nickelback all feature, and they’re mixed with a healthy number of songs that, while not as well known, have been chosen for the rhythmic chords and flowing guitar solos that make them just damned enjoyable to play.

It helps that much of what originally made Guitar Hero such a revelation is intact here. There’s just enough leeway on notes to ensure that you’ll still blaze through a solo even if you’re a millisecond off here or there – which, crucially, almost makes you feel like Slash – and the familiar Star Power system ensures that there’s always plenty of incentive. It’s still true that, when the song works, Warriors Of Rock is a joy to play.

The new guitar’s decent, too, and smacks of a company that knows how to exploit a winning formula. The strum bar straddles a fine line between lightness and solidity, and its hollow design hides a few neat features: both sides of the guitar and its neck can be removed, and the lower half of the fretboard – which no longer has pressure pads, which is another feature that’s been quietly removed – can be taken off, with the pair of double AA batteries and a neat storage area for the strap and USB wireless receiver within.

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It’s not all plain sailing, though. While the majority of songs are enjoyable to play, a sizeable minority hint of a development team that’s going through the motions, with some songs relying on repetitive chord structures and solo sections that just don’t capture the same magic as earlier games managed.

Other songs just don’t seem suited to the format; Bohemian Rhapsody, for instance, is a great tune, but doesn’t get interested until its final, guitar-filled crescendo – the first two-thirds of the song consist of dull, basic chords, even on the harder difficulty levels. REM’s Losing My Religion suffers similarly thanks to tedious note patterns throughout, and the first few song groups are dominated by chord-fests with little to excite those who enjoy playing more varied solos.

The rest of the game is much as it was last year. The Quick Play mode now features a host of challenges that, admirably, help to increase longevity, and the competitive and co-operative multiplayer modes introduced in Guitar Hero 5 are much the same here, along with the usual song and character creation elements, which makes it easy to create songs and characters that don’t sound or look as good as anything included with the game.

For all of its bombast, though, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this franchise, once the next big thing, is now well on the road to becoming a washed-up has-been. The set-list is an uneasy combination of great tunes and uninspired slogs, and the divisive retreat to the series’ roots could be seen equally as a concession of ground to Rock Band or an appeal to the game’s core audience.

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It’s a solid addition to the series but, thanks to its lack of innovation and boundary-pushing, nothing more – and so even dedicated Guitar Hero fans might find themselves extracting limited enjoyment once the game’s setlist has been fully unlocked.

Guitar Hero: Warriors Of Rock is out now for Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3, and is available from the Den Of Geek Store.


3 out of 5