torstai 10. marraskuuta 2011

REVIEW - Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (2010)

GENRE(S): Rhythm
RELEASED: September 2010
DEVELOPER(S): Neversoft Entertainment, Vicarious Visions (Wii)
PUBLISHER(S): Activision

Guitar Hero's sales took a major dive in late 2009. I think that deep down the developers knew from the start that the game initially known as Guitar Hero 6 would be their last, so they stopped screwing around and began work on the most epic rhythm game ever conceived, as well as a return to the musical roots of the franchise at the same time. If they were going to go down, they wanted to do so with a bang. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock was not received well; it was considered another blatant rehash of a concept worn out long ago, and its new major features were considered dull and pointless. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is yet another video game novelty every metal fan should own regardless of their take on it, and I personally consider it one of the strongest games in the series.

...And the meek shall inherit the earth

Long ago, the Demigod of Rock was enslaved by a metal abomination known as the Beast. Judy Nails, Johnny Napalm, Casey Lynch, Lars Ümlaüt, Axel Steel, Pandora, Echo Tesla and Austin Tejas embark on an epic journey to unleash their inner beasts - the warriors of rock - and combine their powers to free the Demigod from his ancient shackles.

Back when Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock came out, I already wasn't that interested in rhythm games anymore. The tracklist was so phenomenal that I just couldn't resist buying it, even if I was originally very against the idea. The day Warriors of Rock hit the shelves, I happened to have some extra money on me, and I also happened to stumble into a local video game store - by complete accident, I swear. Well, I liked the game. I would've liked it even more if it was released a couple of years before it was. The average of the soundtrack wipes the floor with those of World Tour and Guitar Hero 5, and it has a few downright (demi)godly sequences and song marathons. The mechanics are great. But, even with over 500 songs available, Warriors of Rock doesn't last long as much else than an occasional party game. The Quest Mode is extremely easy to complete - and "dominate" - and all that's left after dealing with the quest are the hundreds of challenges in Quickplay+, which damn near require a whole band to be there with you all the time, to offer lasting entertainment and the slightest chance of unlocking everything in the game.

Tell those priests at the temples of Syrinx to
shove it!
The general graphics are still the same they were two years back, but once again, there's some special art design where it is needed, and it is good. The song-specific band animations seem to have been worked on nicely. Only a vocalist usually has time to look at the stuff going on in the background, though.

The tracklist is a mixed bag of ultra-awesome and ultra-meek, thankfully most of it's simply amazing. Every warrior and quest tier in the game have their own specific genres, which is nice and ordained, but also makes some specific gigs very unpleasant to one that doesn't care much for alternative rock or trendy emo rock sold as metal. The Ramones, Slash, Slayer, Dethklok, Dragonforce, Pantera, Twisted Sister and Anthrax all make their return to Guitar Hero, Queensrÿche and Tesla make their long-anticipated rhythm game debuts with amazing songs, and the deal is sealed with the inclusion of such artists as Jethro Tull (even if "Aqualung" was already in Rock Band 2, and the version was more fun to play), Avenged Sevenfold (not my favourite band, but their songs are fun to play), Queen, Deep Purple, Blue Öyster Cult, Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, Five Finger Death Punch, Children of Bodom, Arch Enemy, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Slipknot, Rise Against, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Rammstein, and as always, Muse, whose "Uprising" for the whole band is an epic party opener guaranteed.

...And there's more. In the vein of the Tool gig in World Tour, Rush's 20-minute epic "2112" is included in its entirety, as a plot element within the quest, and narrated by Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. It's divided into its seven original acts to make it more comfortable to play in Quickplay+. It's definitely my favourite thing about this game, as 2112 is one of my favourite albums of all time.

...And there's more. Some critics have given the game the nickname Guitar Hero: Megadeth, as the final battle (which is the second-to-last "gig") consists of a total of three Megadeth songs: "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due", "This Day We Fight!" and a song Dave Mustaine originally wrote for this game, but ended up putting on an album since it turned out so good, "Sudden Death" (which the song literally is, if you're playing it in Quickplay+). In addition, a Megadeth track pack is available for the game, which includes "Symphony of Destruction", "Peace Sells" and "Hangar 18". Pretty 'Deth-centric, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Megadeth rules. The many flaws in the soundtrack of Warriors of Rock - the inclusion of Bad Brains, Nine Inch Nails, Linkin Park, The Vines, Buzzcocks, Interpol, Silversun Pickups and Jane's Addiction comes to mind - are easily forgiven, 'cause well over a half of it is some of my favourite music in the world.

The Demigod of Rock doesn't really look like
he'd need our help. For anything.
...And there's more. Warriors of Rock gives you the chance to leave most of the previous installments of the current generation behind by letting you import songs from five different games. It's once again damn expensive, but it's pretty much worth it if you want one definitive Guitar Hero library. In Quickplay+, you can organize these songs just about any way you want, after the artists' names, the songs' source titles or their genres, for example, which makes song marathons easy. I have something like 350 songs in the library, and the weight of metal in there is grand. Hell, since Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax are all featured, it's possible to simulate a Big Four concert using the unlimited playlist option - Slayer and Anthrax might get the short end of the stick as there's a maximum of one song from Slayer and two from Anthrax, but still. I've done it, too.

On paper, the Quest Mode is an ultra-cool variation of the Career Mode, with Gene Simmons as the narrator and the voice of the Demigod of Rock. You need to recruit warriors from several subgenres of rock. How this works is a gig is played by using one classic Guitar Hero character such as Axel Steel. After the gig is over, their talent is recognized by the omnipotent guardians of rock (or something like that...) and they're allowed to unleash the beast hidden inside 'em, meaning they transform into beasts that reflect their personalities, and gain a special musical power to be used in the final battle. After the first few recruitments, you make a pit stop at a mysterious landscape, in which the tale of 2112 is told. Here's where you first get a taste of the special powers, and sadly, it is also pretty much the musical climax of the game, the point in which the game jumps the shark and fails to truly amaze afterwards. As long as you're recruiting warriors, it's all pretty much the same as a Career Mode in any other Guitar Hero game, but the final battle (a.k.a. the Megadeth marathon) is very different from anything you've ever seen in a rhythm game. You have eight special powers in use for the duration of the battle, which make losing the battle almost impossible. For example, one warrior is capable of protecting your streak from single mistakes, and one makes Star Power last twice as long. I know for certain there are a lot of people who think this is lame. All that hype of "ultra-difficult guitar solos" for nothing. I know. There's one more gig left after the final battle, as the Demigod of Rock joins the party and slams the most difficult songs in the game on the table, including ones by Steve Vai, John 5 and Dragonforce. You have the special powers in use on this gig, as well. Effortless. Dominating the quest means getting 40 stars for each song by replaying every song with the special powers - might sound difficult, but as you might've figured out by the game's end, you can once again change the difficulty level at any time, without suffering any punishment.

Quickplay+ can easily be considered the game's main mode instead of the Quest. The structure of the drum tracks is still kinda awkward, but since all mechanics have been improved to the point of minimal hardware compatibility issues and the detection of hardware flaws - also sadly meaning that timing and precision is not nearly as important as it used to be - it's fun to keep going for the Diamond in each challenge issued by each of your favourite songs, for a while. My instrument of choice is none other than my own lungs, and there are many songs in the retail, among the imported songs and the DLC, which are extremely fun to sing. The retail especially delivers with "Holy Wars..." by Megadeth, "Modern Day Cowboy" by Tesla, "Uprising" by Muse, "Burn" by Deep Purple, "Burnin' for You" by Blue Öyster Cult, "Bat Country" by Avenged Sevenfold and "Jet City Woman" by Queensrÿche. Indeed, all of the songs, including each imported and downloaded song, have challenges carried over from Guitar Hero 5. There's nothing specific, though - all of the songs have the same series of challenges. Conquering the challenges, and just beating the songs once earns you stars as always, and these stars raise your rock rank. With each new rank, up 'til 100, you unlock an item. Getting to 100 will take time, patience and a whole truckload of songs - I'm at 91, and I just can't seem to find enough interesting challenges to conquer to reach the cap, anymore. I did all I really wanted in just a couple of weeks of time; I would've expected a lot more challenge and true life besides the Party Play from a descendant of Legends of Rock.

Axel on lead vocals? That's just wrong.
Most critics have seen it fit to criticize the game's lack of new multiplayer modes besides the lack of new features in general. I have just one thing to say in response: GET REAL! First of all, how did they expect the developers to radically change the franchise? When there's a Guitar Hero game coming, you know exactly what to expect from it, I don't get people who acted somewhat disappointed of how it turned out - another solid rhythm game. Secondly, I think that with all the new multiplayer modes they introduced in Guitar Hero 5, they pretty much reached the limit of anyone's imagination. I know, I know: "why did they make the game then?" I'll tell you: to deliver another Guitar Hero 5, but this time, with a much more satisfying and contextual tracklist.

The Trophies and Achievements for this game are, once again, not too good. The positive surprise is that there are very few multiplayer and online exclusives, but the bad news is that much of the Trophies are very random and being able to collect them is all up to luck; for example, there's a Trophy that requires you to beat a song with a score that has "000" as the last three digits, and one that requires you to beat a song with a guitarist and a bassist, and both of you have to get the exact same score. I currently stand at 82%, so a lot of the Trophies are quite easy to get, while the rest are damn near impossible.

I'm personally satisfied with how Guitar Hero went down, and I prefer the game over all other installments that followed Guitar Hero III's suit, due to the large library of mostly good song material. I might've chewed this thing to the bone myself, but it's still a good, underrated party game.

SOUND : 9.3


a.k.a. Guitar Hero 6, Guitar Hero VI

GameRankings: 74.51% (PS3), 80.06% (Wii), 75.30% (X360)

Strangely enough, the game cannot be found in the MobyGames database as of November 10th, 2011.

A cover version of "Paranoid" was included in Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The version of "Paranoid" in this game is technically a cover as well, as it is performed by Ozzy Osbourne featuring Metallica, instead of Black Sabbath, who contribute with "Children of the Grave".

A cover version of "Sharp Dressed Man", recorded by WaveGroup Sound, was included in the first Guitar Hero game.

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