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Guitar Hero is one of the pioneers of the modern rhythm game. Before Guitar Hero, rhythm based gaming was purely a niche market and most developers refused to take on the added cost of plastic peripherals that were necessary to the game. The first Guitar Hero blew the doors off the gaming community and managed to redefine the worth of tiny plastic guitars and simultaneously lower the inhibitions of millions as they bore their souls to the rock gods. Millions of broken whammy bars later, we arrive at the 6th major iteration of the popular franchise. Does this one live up to the spirit of its predecessors?
The answer is yes and no. Most players are familiar with the Guitar Hero system; for the uninitiated you hold a combination of fret buttons with one hand and strum gems as they scroll down the screen. This mechanic is one that is easy to learn but extremely difficult to master. There are, of course, certain intricacies to the way you hold notes and strum multiple sustained notes. If you’ve played a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game before, you won’t have trouble with this one.
Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock, or Guitar Hero 6 as I will call it in this review, is schizophrenic to say the least. From the onset the setlist appears to be a heavy metal godsend. You get heavy punk songs right from the start and you expect the “heavy” trend to continue, but you would be mistaken. The songs quickly become less and less rock based, reaching rock bottom with Fall-Out Boy’s “Dance, Dance.” Why this song is in a heavy metal themed title is beyond me.
The Quest focuses on 8 “warriors,” who are tasked with obtaining a legendary guitar and using it to free the Demigod of Rock from his prison. Some of the warriors are former characters such as Casey Lynch and Axel Steel You may ask how he became imprisoned being that he is a demigod and all. The answer is simple, he became mortal so that he could better feel the music….or something….that makes sense right? Let us just say that the story is not a good one, not even by Guitar Hero standards, which up to this point have been brief animated cutscenes with nameless bands. It is notable that Gene Simmons narrates the game; however, Gene’s voice sounds disconnected and it really feels like he’s reading from a script. A badly written script at that; it really is such a waste of potential talent.
Activision took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach and it shows through. The gameplay is fundamentally unchanged with the exception of different power ups in the quest mode. These advantages don’t add a lot to the total package; instead it seems like a cheap tactic to squeeze more life out a brief and unexciting quest mode. No one really cares if Lars Umlaut has a 6X multiplier and becomes a hideous man-pig hybrid if there’s nothing to really play for. Once you do complete the quest, which could be done in a lazy afternoon, you have the ability to play through again and earn all the stars with additional powers, but once again, there is not a single thing left playing for, save achievements. And, well, that’s something.
The standard Quick Play mode has been expanded and features challenges similar to those from Guitar Hero 5. The challenges range from obtaining a certain number of points to alternately strumming a certain number of notes (strumming up and down.) They definitely are not groundbreaking but do add a layer to quickplay which was previously unavailable. You can also complete challenges from imported songs from GH World Tour, GH 5, Band Hero, and GH Metallica, which is a nice touch.
You may have noticed that I have failed to comment that other instruments are available to be played in this game, but I find hardly anything redeeming in the band play. You have a very cookie cutter set up for the other instruments and they do not feel fun to play. The Guitar Hero moniker is for more than for simple name recognition. The game insists that you play guitar because the other instruments are so boring to play you may feel yourself slowly slipping into a coma. The songs are tailored around the guitar and bass. Using the drums or microphone is a far more passive experience than it should have been.
The online matchmaking does not add to the package but rather subtracts from it. Matchmaking is slow, and there isn’t a community for it. Trying to play online without a full band is similar to finding a needle in a haystack. The multiplayer modes are all variations on your standard Pro Faceoff mode and the variations are not any more exciting. The bottom line is if you are a solo player, then do not bother trying to play online, it will only lead to frustration over the exceedingly home wait time.
The main problem with Guitar Hero 6 is that it aims for a mark and falls short of it simply because it sabotages itself. The quest mode had all the making of being interesting but is sunk by a lackluster story and a setlist that cannot establish an identity. The second part of the quest can also get obscenely difficult; even seasoned players might have to drop down the difficulty to make it through the wall of notes that encompass some of the songs in the final couple setlists. The multiplayer is weak, simply because of the bad matchmaking. No one is willing to wait 20 minutes to be thrashed by some 8 year old that can play Megadeth’s songs on expert. The one bright spot, Quickplay, is unable to support the overarching failure that is the Quest mode. Even the streamlined menu navigation from GH 5 is gone, to be replaced with a frustrating new one.
If you are a diehard fan, chances are that you have already picked this game up. If you are new to series I would recommend you more towards the rock band camp. Guitar Hero does not deliver on the goods this time around. With such a focus on refining the core gameplay, the fun seems to have been lost in the process. Some of the new songs fit in quite well, and it is a shame to have to struggle through the bad ones to get to the fun, addicting songs. Something happened from GH5 to GH6; I’m not sure what that was, but maybe it is time for Guitar Hero to head back to the studio.