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PlayStation 3 Review: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

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If there is one trend that has stood out over all the rest in gaming for the past few years it would almost certainly be the increasing popularity of rhythm games, a group of titles led by Guitar Hero and Rock Band.  Playing air guitar has long been a favorite pastime of many, but these titles allow you to actually play air guitar… and air bass… and air drums… and karaoke vocals for points and with an almost real instrument.  Whether or not they have ever played a rhythm game before, a huge number of people are aware they exist – they have been discussed on radio, in film, and on television shows, they are everywhere, and with good reason – they’re loads of fun.  The games allow friends to get together and play till the wee hours of the morning and while the noise will still bother the neighbors, unlike so many garage bands at least it’ll sound decent.

The latest expansion into the Guitar Hero franchise is the aptly named Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.  The game represents the first GH game to have a Quest Mode.  Narrated by Gene Simmons of KISS (who appear in the game’s 90+ track set list), Quest Mode is the story of the Demi-God of Rock trying to defeat The Beast and saving rock and roll.  It is, in a word, foolish.  I don’t mean that it’s a bad idea or that it’s poorly executed, it’s just kind of silly because it really is just a rebranding of any career mode by slapping some cutscenes onto it in order to tell the tale. 

Now, I don’t want what you to mistake what I’m saying, I’m not using “foolish” as a derogatory term, perhaps “silly” would be a better word.  Quest Mode is a silly mode, but the entire experience of jamming buttons on a plastic guitar neck and hitting a toggle pretending that you’re strumming strings is silly as well.  Silly doesn’t preclude something being a great experience. 

Quest is a new wrapping for an old game and as such works really well.  Through Quest Mode, Activision and Neversoft have been able to take some of your favorite Guitar Hero characters like Johnny Napalm and give them special abilities to help earn you more bonus stars.  The idea of the Quest itself is that you need to recruit nice folks like Napalm by earning enough stars within each character’s set list.  Doing this transforms the character into something of a superhero alter ego – Napalm becomes Warrior Johnny and joins your team.  There’s no real action involved save in cutscenes, Quest is just a new way of going through and unlocking songs (many of which are already available at the start of quickplay) and venues.  

The pick-up-and-play Quickplay, branded Quickplay+ here, features the addition of certain challenges within songs (long note streaks, high scores, etc.) as well as the ability to use various warrior powers obtained in Quest Mode.  There are also both Party Play and Competitive multiplayer modes, which is to say that while there are some new tweaks here and there to the title, it’s Guitar Hero again.

That really isn’t a bad thing if you think about – Guitar Hero is fun, unlocking venues and characters is fun, and playing the songs is fun.  Rocking out with your friends is fun.  Having Gene Simmons tell you a story about how a bunch of crazy rock gods saving rock and roll for the world is fun.  Also fun is the ability to change out the wing pieces on the guitar to give the thing an entirely new look.

Now, if you own a version of Guitar Hero already, you’ll be happy to know that some of your old music from World Tour, Smash Hits, GH5, and Band Hero are all importable (if you still have the back of your manual and that handy-dandy code on it).  There are also, as of launch date, more than 300 downloadable songs (which have challenges for Quickplay+) .

If you’re already a fan of rhythm games the ultimate decision on whether or not you wish to purchase this title probably revolves around the set list, which is (as you would expect) very hard rock heavy.  The 93 tracks include Rush (there’s an extended 2112 sequence in Quest Mode), Queen, Poison, KISS, The Rolling Stones, The Runaways, The White Stripes, ZZ Top, Twisted Sister, and more (the complete list is available here).  It unquestionably skews heavy, however I am not a particularly huge fan of that breed of rock and I was able to find plenty of songs within every character’s set list that I knew or liked once I got to know them.

In the end, whether or not you care for the story that gets unspooled in front of you, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is Guitar Hero and there’s very little bad about that.  There are loads of songs included, some great venues, and hours on end of gameplay fun.  There are still lots of difficulty levels, a good tutorial, and you can still create your own rocker.  It is a good time and a fun game.  If only all the downloadable tracks were free.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Lyrics, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes. This game can also be found on: Wii and Xbox 360.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.