Transforming a franchise in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

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There are two paths a developer can take when making a music game. One, it can inch ever closer to recreating the music experience as closely as possible, sacrificing potential traditional videogame fun at the expense of realism. The new Rock Band 3 is inching ever closer to this. On the other end of the spectrum is Guitar Hero.

Not bundled with a keyboard, lacking any sort of realistic professional mode, and even ditching some of the hardware features of previous titles (say goodbye to the slider bar), there is a lot that is missing. But the popularity of the franchise is undeniable. With a new plot-focus, heavy metal inspired aesthetic, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is a return to the game-centric nature of the original. Is it a return to form for Activision and Guitar Hero, or is it a continuation downward?

Unfortunately, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock represents an end of an era. RedOctane, instrumental in creating Guitar Hero, was dissolved earlier this year, and the music game division of Neversoft was equally eradicated earlier this year. Not a good sign, but despite it all, there is some good promise with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock.

Follow the jump to see.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)
Developer: Neversoft
Publisher: Activision
To be released: September 2010

An interesting turn of form is the return to classic rock ‘n’ roll. No longer is Guitar Hero going to be appealing to everyone, Warriors of Rock is a plot-driven music game in which the musicians must save rock from The Beast…through the power of rock.

Yeah, it’s the same plot device we’ve seen in loads of other films and games (Heavy Metal comes to mind), and the game feels a bit like a Guitar Hero version of Brutal Legend. I like this return to a specialized genre of rock. Working through a rocker universe is different from the traditional venue transition, but these insane levels almost feel truer to the Guitar Hero license than going through realistic venues. Some people will hate it, and the focus on harder music may turn people off. However, the specialized approach could benefit in that it can appeal to a much more specific audience.

A new development in the franchise is the addition of power ups. Each of the eight characters (six returning such as Lars, Casey, and the always popular Judy Nails, as well as two new rockers) will have power ups that will do things like add a shield to your meter so you can make a mistake without losing a multiplier. Other abilities can be an instant revival, and there are even more. With a team full of these heroes, you can have a multitude of power ups going off all at once, so in the end game it can be quite chaotic. In addition, each version of the rocker has a brutal monster version, like a snaky Casey Lynch, or a mummy Axel Steel, or a warrior pig for Lars Umlaut. It’s all over-the-top, borderline campy rock. Considering the heroes are journeying through a rock world narrated by Gene Simmons, it’s all good.

In addition, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock has seen a major graphical overhaul. The characters move with much more fluidity, and with the heavy metal aesthetic, the over-the-top rock of the game fits. It’s not subtle like Rock Band, but it doesn’t look like it needs to be.

Gameplay, it’s the Guitar Hero you’ve played for years now. Personally, I think it’s good to have a franchise return to its more traditional rock roots, but it’s a bummer that fans of other genres of rock will have to make do with DLC. There will be a way to play all of your previous DLC music in the game, but it seems like only the new DLC will be brought into the story mode. Making a return is the party mode, where players can just jump in and play at any time.

Hardware-wise, the most radical changes have been made to the guitar. Coming with a generic “battle ax” design, this guitar can be broken down so that different designs can be placed into it. Called “wings,” the external plastic outside of the neck will have some different options for people to buy. The start and select buttons are now a part of the fret board in a much more accessible way. Interestingly, gone is the slider bar, and the strum bar is much thinner and less clicky. It seems like good and bad things have happened to the design, but if you are looking for a new guitar, this should be serviceable.

It seems like Activision has a decent approach to the title. It is an attempt to be a return to the themes of the original Guitar Hero, and the currently announced set-list should fit that pretty well. The new plot elements are a little weird, but it doesn’t look like it’s anything that will get in the way of the game. Honestly, I feel that if you want a game that recreates being a rock star, with a variety of musical choices or a realistic approach, you’re not going to find that here. Instead, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock will scratch the itch for a very game-centric rock experience. It’s almost a music game for gamers, compared to Harmonix’s music game for wannabe musicians. It’s a big difference, and if there ever was a time for these two separate titles, this is it.

Currently confirmed setlist

A Perfect Circle – The Outsider
AFI – Dancing Through Sunday
Alice Cooper – No More Mr. Nice Guy
Alter Bridge – Ties That Bind
Anthrax – Indians
Atreyu – Ravenous
Avenged Sevenfold – Bat Country
Bad Brains – Re-ignition (Live)
Blue Oyster Cult – Burning for You
Bush – Machinehead
Buzzcocks – What Do I Get?
Children of Bodom – If You Want Peace…Prepare for War
Deep Purple – Burn
Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar on Me (Live)
Dethklok – Bloodlines
Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
Dragonforce – Fury of the Storm
Drowning Pool – Bodies
Edgar Winter – Free Ride
Fall Out Boy – Dance, Dance
Five Finger Death Punch – Hard to See
Foo Fighters – No Way Back
Foreigner – Feels Like the First Time
George Thorogood and The Destroyers – Move it on Over (Live)
Jane’s Addiction – Been Caught Stealing
Jethro Tull – Aqualung
KISS – Love Gun
Linkin Park – Bleed It Outlandish
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Call Me The Breeze (Live)
Megadeath – Sudden Death
Muse – Uprising
My Chemical Romance – I’m Not Okay (I Promise)
Night Ranger – (You Can Still) Rock in America
Nine Inch Nails – Wish
Pantera – I’m Broken
Poison – Unskinny Bop
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
Rammstein – Waidmanns Hell
Rise Against – Savior
Rush – 2112 Pt. 1 – Overture
Rush – 2112 Pt. 2 – The Temples of Syrinx
Rush – 2112 Pt. 3 – Discovery
Rush – 2112 Pt. 4 – Presentation
Rush – 2112 Pt. 5 – Oracle: The Dream
Rush – 2112 Pt. 6 – Soliloquy
Rush – 2112 Pt. 7 – Grand Finale
Silversun Pickups – There’s No Secrets This Year
Slayer – Chemical Warfare
Slipknot – Psychosocial
Soundgarden – Black Rain
Steve Vai – Speeding
Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Song
Strung Out – Calling
Sum 41 – Motivation
The Cure – Fascination Street
The Hives – Tick Tick Boom
The Offspring – Self Esteem
The Ramones – Spiderman
The Rolling Stones – Stray Cat Blues
The Runaways – Cherry Bomb
The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
them Crooked Vultures – Scumbag Blues
Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It
ZZ Top – Sharp Dressed Man (Live)

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