It seems silly to describe the "new features" that have been added to Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock without acknowledging the basic stuff the franchise still doesn't get right. For example, do you want to see the difficulty of a song before jumping into it in campaign mode? Nope, you can't do that. Want to filter and sort songs by multiple criteria? Forget about it. Compared to Rock Band 3's feature set -- keyboard, vocal harmonies, "Pro" mode -- it's clear that Activision has been surpassed. But maybe all you want from Guitar Hero is a "story" and the ability to bust through the five-star ranking system. 32x multiplier and 60 stars, YEAH!!!

You could argue that Warriors of Rock isn't regressive; it's an homage to the franchise's origins, a celebration of hardcore guitar music. The 90 songs included on the disc support drums and vocals, but it's clear what the focus of the game is: being a guitar hero. If the franchise's penchant for crazy note maps hasn't satiated your strumming skills, you'll be glad to know that Warriors of Rock ups the ante by including the entirety of Rush's "2112" -- as a boss, of course.

Final boss? Yes, Warriors of Rock's big new feature is a Quest Mode, narrated by KISS' Gene Simmons. While I could rant about how it feels like it was written by (and for) twelve year old boys, I'll let Activision do the work. The fact sheet describes it as a "journey from the infamous stage of CBGBs to the molten lava fields of rock treachery ... to help the Demi-God of Rock take down 'The Beast' and save rock 'n roll." Tim Schafer would be rolling in his grave (if he were dead).
In order to defeat the Beast, you'll need to recruit the five eight Quest Mode rockers featured in the game: Johnny Napalm, Echo Tesla, Judy Nails, Austin Tejas and Lars Umlaut -- are some of the characters that should be familiar (and endearing?) to Guitar Hero fans, with the exception of newcomers Echo and Austin. By playing through their setlists, you'll be able to transform these characters and equip power-ups. For example, you might be able to enable a power-up that grants you additional star power as soon as you hit ten consecutive notes. Or, you might be able to double or triple your multiplier whenever you activate Star Power.

Activision has essentially "Tony Hawked" the Guitar Hero franchise.

You'll eventually be able to level up and combine these powers, letting you achieve ridiculous scores that go above and beyond the traditional five-star ranking system of the original games. With all my powers activated, I was able to reach 38 stars in one song. Would an absurd high score make you feel more like a rock god?

The powers can be utilized in other modes of the game as well, such as the enhanced Quickplay+ mode. This mode promises to "push fans to the limit" by adding 13 challenges to each track on the disc, and "most" of the songs in the Guitar Hero library. Some of the challenges include meeting a certain score requirement on a single instrument, or using the story mode powers to reach a certain star threshold. There will be an element of strategy to these challenges; certain powers will be more beneficial than others, depending on the song.

It's hard to gauge how engaging the new powers and challenges will be in the long run. Do the challenges add more replay value to songs? Perhaps. But do they change the gameplay in any meaningful way? No. Activision has essentially "Tony Hawked" the Guitar Hero franchise -- focusing on features that appeal exclusively to point-chasers, without broadening its appeal, or fixing core aspects of the game. Although Warriors of Rock is the fifth full sequel to the franchise, the series has yet to even make a streamlined, attractive UI. (Strange, considering DJ Hero manages it just fine.)

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock isn't a bad game, per se. It's just a bad idea.



[Update: Made some corrections thanks to the feedback of @laSg14. "2112" is a boss, though not the "final" boss; Austin Tejas is also a new character; and the Guitar Hero games traditionally have five-star rankings, not six-stars, though Guitar Hero 5 exceeded the five-star limitation.]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock's song list (so far)