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Can Guitar Hero 6 save music games?

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis ponders the healing power of Warriors Of Rock

Frantically clicking buttons in time with a blob of colour that scrolls down your screen.

Original Guitar Hero creator Red Octane must've had to push hard when it first pitched the game to explosion-hungry publishers.

Luckily, the headbanging franchise's path had already been lubricated by the success of Dance Dance Revolution and its kin in arcades up and down the country.

A weird-sounding concept it might have been, but Guitar Hero became an indisputable phenomenon within months of hitting shelves. It sparked a whole genre of button-tapping rhythm-action. Guitar Hero, DJ Hero, Band Hero, Rock Band, Head Band, we've seen it all. Except Head Band, I've just made that one up.

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But after 14 games in five years bearing the Guitar Hero name, each sporting a smattering of new tracks and/or some sort of band allegiance, the format has been become as predictable as Axl Rose's poor timekeeping.

It's a feeling that's started to show in the sales, too; with the music video game market dramatically decreasing in revenues year-on-year.

For me, Guitar Hero: Van Halen was the last straw.

Sure, throwing drums and bass into the set-up adds to the experience; add some vocals and you've got yourself a party, buddy. But, as an oft-solitary axe wielder, I was beginning to wonder "Is this it?"

Apparently this thought has been slopping around the Activision brain as well - since the shiny new Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock (GH6) actually folds in a progressive story, complete with XP in an RPG-style twist.

"But how?!" I hear you wail down the microphone. It's as simple as it is ridiculous.

The game's Quest Mode sees players take on a "larger-than-life, epic rock journey", according to the official blurb, with venues ranging from the classic New York punk-rock club CBGBs to - and here's the crazy bit - "the molten lava fields of rock treachery" where players help "the Demi-God of Rock" defeat "The Beast" and save rock and roll.

Demi-God of Rock? Beasts holding rock and roll hostage? If it all sounds a bit Tenacious D, that's because it absolutely is. But don't kick the idea into the Mosh Pit just yet. Like a semi-ugly but really enthusiastic groupie, this idea has at least some worth.

THE POWER OF ROCK
First of all - unlike many of the talisman of the bands it pays homage to - it isn't ugly. Quest Mode sports the familiar colourful characters in Guitar Hero's stocky cartoon style, with plenty of vivid cut-scenes (complete with Gene Simmons narration).

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Each character rocks so hard they transform into their own unique mutant warrior. Johnny Napalm, for example, turns into a blue teleporting gargoyle. Disciple of death metal Lars Umlaut morphs into a demonic pig-headed beauty.

The concept does a decent enough job of distracting you from the 'seen it all before' mechanics that lie beneath the surface.

Each muso has their own block of songs and a certain number of points they need to obtain before they can transform. Watching the metre creep to completion adds a vital extra bit of incentive - and you'll find yourself frantically returning to the most difficult songs to squeeze out a few more stars from your performance.

Once you've managed to upgrade all of the characters so that they're suitably ready for battle it's off to fight the beast (with the power of rock of course) - in order to snatch a captive guitar, which represents your music genre of choice.

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