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Published on August 25th, 2010 | by prime

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Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock – Hands On

No one has ever really questioned the quality, and no one’s denied that they’re fun. Chances are if you chuck someone a plastic guitar, they’ll still happily shred out a couple of tunes. There’s no escaping the fact though that there’s a real sense of apathy about music games these days. Over-exposure has led to malaise, and malaise has led to resentment. So what do Neversoft and Activision have to do to inject a bit of hardcore faith back into its flagship franchise? Simple, really… make it metal as a melon farmer.

Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock has ramped up the visual imagery to capture that over-the-top rock spectacle

Yes Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock has gone back to its roots. Forget about Taylor Swift and Band Hero, this is a game for those who worship the gods of metal, who throw horns to the sky and headbang in unison. The soundtrack ranges from rocking to out-and-out brutality, with Slayer, Alter Bridge and Black Sabbath among the bands laid out on the altar of instrumental four-piece sacrifice.

So far, so Guitar Hero III then, but Warriors of Rock does actually prove to be the biggest departure for the series, and indeed any modern music game so far. It actually has a story, and not just a cartoon about being in a crappy band. The whole thing’s about the battle between the demigod of rock – voiced by one Gene Simmons of Kiss, and that program about musical children – and The Beast, a large mechanical robot that looks like it’s been cut-and-pasted from some long-defunct cyberpunk action game.

So these two have a ruck, and the demigod ends up losing. The Beast entombs him in a granite prison and… Still with us? Okay, so the Beast entombs him, and somehow the demigod of rock calls out to the eight characters of Guitar Hero to help him. This is where you come in.

To progress through the story, you have to play as each of the characters in turn – Johnny Napalm, Lars Umlaut etc, – and they each have a set that’s specifically tailored to their style. Beat all the songs in their set, and their inner warrior is unleashed, turning them into a demon form and awarding them a super power. Johnny, for example, wins ‘Speed Freak’, which means his multiplier never drops below 2X.

It’s really window dressing for the main event, which is actually getting into the songs and playing the music, and once again Neversoft has proven its skill and diligence when it comes to creating note charts. It’s funny that we now analyze the quality of something so abstract – the term note charts didn’t even exist a few years ago – but nevertheless, Neversoft has shown themselves to be true Guitar Heroes.

By the time you reach the final battle against The Beast, you’ll have all eight heroes, and you have to create two bands with suitable powers to take him on in the hardest songs in the game. Beat him, and you unlock a brand new chapter as the Demigod, with even harder songs. Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock is taking no prisoners. Unless you happen to be stuck in a granite tomb, of course.

Gene Simmons has said that he “learned a long time ago people listen with their eyes.” Apart from the obvious flaw in logic, it’s pretty obvious what he means. It’s why Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock has ramped up the visual imagery to capture that over-the-top rock spectacle. It’s all about capturing the spirit of the great metal album covers; the bold and brilliant works of artists inspired by all things rock, and as such is by far the best-looking Guitar Hero game to date. There’s a slick motion blur and some dramatic camera angles that help to pepper the whole thing with a bit of style, and the character artists have done a great job with the ‘warrior’ alternate forms. Lars Umlaut’s pig face is particularly spectacular, as is Tommy Knox’s mummified zombie thing.

With Rock Band 3 pursuing the musical purity angle, it’s nice to have a bit of variety in the two products this year. Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock knows that it’s essentially daft, and it exists purely to entertain. Still, that’s not to say that the new Guitar Hero hasn’t got its fundamentals in place. The song list is suitably epic, the audiovisuals strong and you still have slick inclusions like the pick-up-and-play Party mode and all manner of multiplayer modes if you’re that way inclined. And if the achievements are as well-incorporated as they were in Guitar Hero 5, then there’ll be plenty to get your teeth stuck into.

So, is music gaming dead? Not if Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock has anything to do with it. Raise those horns to the sky, people.

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