Along journey of self-discovery and the tireless quest to unlock inner potential: the story of Warriors of Rock could just as
easily be applied to developer Neversoft itself, a studio that admits it "lost its soul" with past Guitar Hero outings as they've tried to grapple with the challenge of carrying the brand Harmonix founded and then resolutely smashed with Rock Band.
Whether cribbing from ex-Activision-turned-EA rock-opera Brütal Legend was an ethical way to go about reclaiming its lost roots is open for debate, but Warriors of Rock certainly feels like a truer Guitar Hero than any of last year's updates.
In the world of rhythm action titles, Warriors of Rock is the teenager drunkenly slumped in the corner with nails painted black and barbells through its nose.
It's a grungy game which, in introducing the notion of superpowers and unleashing demi-god beasts lying hidden inside characters through good play, finally finds a fitting home for its awkward cast list of Lars Umlaut, Judy Nails and the rest.
So fitting are these lycanthrope mutations and the subsequent power-up-laden songs it's surprising Neversoft has never done it before - Warriors of Rock feels like the game Guitar Hero III was trying to be back in 2007.
BEEN CAUGHT STEALING
But the timely resolution of Guitar Hero's identity crisis brings with it new issues. Tracks such as Nickelback's How You Remind Me are completely at odds with the artistry targeting the hardcore players, and this mask slips even further when you're playing Losing My Religion with band members including a ceiling-crawling lizardman and a headless rocker with a pumpkin on his hip. Not what REM had in mind, we're sure.
More worrying still, the notion of earning up to 40 stars per song places so much emphasis in the superpower-centric meta-game, the gimmicks are in danger of drowning out the one feature that needs to take centre stage: the music.
Relentless bombardments of special moves and awards are often too much to digest, especially in the heat of an insane solo.
It can be exhilarating to see the star counter rising as miniature bars on different parts of the HUD fill up, but it can be off-putting too.
There are moments - when you're charging through Rush's 2112 with a band full of freaks and when Gene Simmons is providing the booming overtones of your Quest's narrator, for instance - where Warriors of Rock's eccentricities make sense.
The shift in tone, however, may alienate long-time fans of the game. This is a daring evolution of the brand, but next month's Rock Band 3* is a more welcoming proposition.
The gamiest music game to date by some distance, it'll probably put the 'casuals' off.
- Interesting Quest mode
- Mixed bag of tracks
- Bloated extras
- Mixed bag of tracks