Guitar Hero returns to rock roots with Warriors of Rock

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      Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (Activision; PS3, Wii, Xbox 360; rated teen)

      The impressive total of 93 tracks included with Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, the most ever on a GH retail disc, offers less persuasive a reason to buy the game than it would have in 2006. Why should living room legends shell out for a grab bag of songs, when they can pick-and-choose from an enormous library of existing DLC tracks, and fully customize the experience?

      But there are compelling reasons to check out the latest GH.

      The guitar controller. The Warriors of Rock bundle ($99) includes the new game and a new axe, which is easily the best-built music game guitar to date. Just the right amount of click and weight, nice tight whammy, no rattle, and glitch-free compatibility with other music games.

      The new Warriors of Rock peripheral is also more compact, easier to hold onto and pass around, and it sports a clever storage compartment inside the neck for its wireless USB dongle (which is now smaller than a thumb drive).

      “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The metal-opera epic is satisfying to sing and click to, and the accompanying animation is damn funny, beginning with a send-up of the trademark four way flashlight-under-the-chin shot in the original Queen video, and achieving indisputable lols when the chorus poke their heads into the frame and chime in with those giant harmonies during the “I see a little silhouette-o” passage.

      “Good” songs. A few tunes will tickle your, um, what’s that called? When your sense of irony collides with your sense of “I actually kind of dig this.”

      ”¢ “Money for Nothing” — Dire Straits

      ”¢ “Fortunate Son” — Credence Clearwater Revival

      ”¢ “Theme From Spider-Man” — The Ramones

      ”¢ “Interstate Love Song” — Stone Temple Pilots

      ”¢ “Been Caught Stealing” — Jane’s Addiction

      ”¢ “2112” – Rush

      Yes, Rush. “2112”. All 21 minutes of nerdy Can-con righteousness.

      Now 42-percent harder-core: Activision has returned the Guitar Hero franchise to its guitar-centric roots (the set list also includes acts like Slayer and Pantera, GH mainstays DragonForce and Muse, and a series of fiendishly difficult unlockable tracks) evidently comfortable doing so, now that Band Hero has picked up the slack, with regards to quenching society’s thirst for Hilary Duff and Village People sing-alongs. Less party and more GH, as an intermediate-to-advanced player, you might actually enjoy playing this one by yourself, or trading off in stunt-playing sessions with a hard-core friend, on some of the trickier expert tracks.

      Additionally, there is a new Quest mode, featuring a “Slay the beast and save rock” narrative and a comic bookish Rock-God-in-Hell aesthetic. You want to compare it to Brí¼tal Legend—but the comedy isn’t really there.

      Maybe we shouldn’t be entirely surprised, with Gene “inexplicable seesaw of irony and clueless sincerity” Simmons involved in the project. The KISS front-man and reality TV star doesn’t appear in the game, but he narrates the quest. And it’s unclear from the writing, and from his delivery, whether the proceedings are meant to be satirical. Saving rock from a demonic Beast, through one’s ability to rock hard enough, just needs to be funnier than it is here.

      Buying advice: Say what you will about the rhythm game genre having hit critical mass awhile back; Warriors of Rock will still deliver lots of fun evenings, for the right breed of gamer. The guitar controller is great, and the presentation is more “pure rock” than we’ve seen in a music game for awhile. If that sounds appealing, Warriors of Rock will likely be a good fit.