By now you probably know about the spectacular rise and meteoric fall of the Guitar Hero franchise. The series exploded into the mainstream in 2005 and hasn’t looked back. Well, except for in 2009, when the series face-planted like a newbie skateboarder after releasing six different “Hero” titles inside a year (being GH Metallica, GH Smash Hits, GH5, Van Halen, Band Hero and DJ Hero). Activision learned a bit of a lesson from this, making Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock their lone plastic axe foray for the year. But while they’ve made the right move in managing the series, they’ve still fallen short on actually advancing the series’ gameplay.
You almost certainly know the nuances of the musical gaming genre. Warriors of Rock plays like Rock Band’s first two installments, or any Guitar Hero from World Tour on, with the guitar, bass, drums and singer setup, and brings back many of the ease-of-access features found in GH5. While that’s a pretty solid formula, it’s not enough to make Warriors of Rock a must-own.
Working backwards in order of importance, the graphics in Warriors of Rock on Wii are abominable. Part of this is that the exaggerated, quirky style of the Guitar Hero series has worn a bit thin. Most of it, though, is that Activision did a poor job of scaling back the game graphically for the Wii, such that it ends up graphically on-par with the original Guitar Hero for the PS2.
Warriors of Rock also lacks a strong set list. The game has several quality songs, but ends up really forcing a square peg into a circular hole in its desperate attempts to choose gimmicky and/or super-contemporary songs while foregoing classics from the same bands represented in the game. There’s a disproportionate number of songs from 2009 or 2010. As a guy who believes that rock died as of 1995, having to work around songs by female-fronted Christian rock bands and, worse yet, the French, in Warriors of Rock’s “beat-these-seven-songs-to-move-on-to-seven-more-songs” story mode is a bit tiresome.
My complaint about gimmicky-rather-than-good songs is best highlighted by the inclusion of a track off Soundgarden’s most recent album (rather than any given Chris Cornell classic) and a questionable rerecording of “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways (or what’s left of them, at least), rather than the original (or, once again, one of the many classics from any given former member of the band). Many of the game’s songs were just plugs for established bands’ newest albums, rather than actually fun-to-play tracks and it holds the entire game back.
On the subject of songs, the Guitar Hero series as a whole still lags far, far behind Rock Band. Guitar Hero still has beyond pathetic song exporting support. While the majority of GH5 tracks are exportable, Guitar Hero Van Halen’s 44 song tracks remain locked away forever, alongside the entirety of Metallica, and the vast majority of songs from World Tour and Smash Hits. Rock Band’s store remains over three times larger than Guitar Hero’s and is growing at a substantially faster rate. Additionally, the sheer quality of songs in the Rock Band Music Store are on par with those found on-disk. While the majority of songs found in the Guitar Hero DLC catalog are indie or B-List, you can find many iconic songs for download. Hell, just flipping over the Warriors of Rock box, you can find songs like “Losing My Religion” by R.E.M., “Bat Country” by Avenged Sevenfold, “Holy Wars…Punishment is Due” by Megadeth and “Interstate Love Song” by the Stone Temple Pilots right there in Rock Band.
The biggest difference-maker between Warriors of Rock and its primary opponent this holiday season, Rock Band 3, though, is the incredible amount of new content put into RB3 that is lacking here. This is best demonstrated by comparing and contrasting the famed song “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Both RB3 and Warriors of Rock hyped the song’s presence in their respective set lists and, obviously, the song is regarded as one of the single greatest rock songs ever. Rock Band 3 has vocal harmonies that let people actually go back-and-forth with “Galileo”s. It has gamers playing on keyboards, which is critical to such a piano-heavy song. And if the gamer so chooses, they can learn to play the song “for realsies” with RB3’s “Pro Mode”. Warriors of Rock, though, simply has the same ol’ four-person gameplay, and the guitarist splitting time between the guitar and piano parts.
So, all that said, this is still Guitar Hero. You know what you’re going to get. A reasonably good party game at a decent price (as Rock Band 3’s new gear is pretty steep in the price tag department). This isn’t a bad game, but it just ends up as “yet another Guitar Hero” with the set list being the only important difference between Warriors of Rock and World Tour or GH5 or Band Hero. Because of this. I can’t really say that you should rush out to get this game unless you’re a habitual Guitar Hero player. If you’re looking to grab a music game on the cheap, Rock Band 2 would almost certainly be your best bet followed by Guitar Hero 5. Warriors of Rock just ends up being one of many Plan-B’s.