The Attic: Musical Prostitutes

I’ve seen a lot of eras in video games come and go, this is the result of having lived so long vicariously through a controller. Not just gamings fictional empires mind you, real ones too. In a similar manner, trends are a dime a dozen, their existence dependent on the whim of the public. You’ll see people move from one weird to the next, without ever questioning themselves.  Along will come these creatures of popular habit, lacking any real devotion to a particular cause. They in turn, become professional, in their attempts at being topical.

When the weird turn pro?

When the weird turn pro?

Some trends last longer than others, however. Many thought Pokemon was a trend, yet, it’s gone on to become the second best selling video game series of all time. Other trends, like shooters, seem to phase in and out of relative popularity, with major examples setting precedence. The music genre is another good example of something that seems to phase in and out of existence, as if a genre without a game, and a paradox that endlessly troubles.

Or put another way, a grin without a cat.

Or put another way, a grin without a cat.

As with many video games, the music genre was just one more I enjoyed. Going back to my earliest days with PaRappa,  to my fondness of getting heavy with DDR in the waning days of the arcade, my interest has come and gone with the genre’s champions. Guitar Hero represented a new take, and a certain potency of entertainment the likes of which I was unfamiliar. I was rocked, shredded, and jammed deeply into the plastic music scene like never before.

Somewhere between this.

Somewhere between this.

Somewhere between this.

And this.

The halfway point between made up and unreal.

Immersing yourself so greatly into anything this distracting has it’s down sides, however. Between finding it more difficult to lead a balanced gaming lifestyle, and the always regular rowdy social outings involving Guitar Hero (and eventually Rock Band), the game took it’s toll. Despite the sacrifices, I was always on high when playing the game, enjoying the titles intrinsic arcade sensibilities, with the substantial mix of new music exposure to always fuel my rage. The genre seemed destined to succeed, and remain on top, a conclusion of my delusion, and one my fever pitch seemed to induce.

Then this, as you may recall, this happened.

Not all too surprising for anyone following gaming news with any regularity. Bobby Kotick is infamous for his brutal business sensibilities,  and used Guitar Hero as a whipping boy of low quality chum entertainment. The series started out and lasted in a top tier quality for awhile, but once the wheels of success started to turn, all hell broke loose on the farm that was Guitar Hero. I was so busying enjoying the ride, I never stopped for a second to look down to realize what had happened.

This shit died long ago.

This shit died long ago.

Despite this, and never being one who gave whim to trend, I stuck by the series, long after it’s declared time of death. I played the series long before it became popular, and and nothing would change long after it had expired. The last title of note that came out, Guitar Hero (6): Warriors of Rock, was a bitter sweet swan song, and the focus of my last review from gamersinfo.net I will look at in “The Attic”. Weirdly enough, it also marked the last review I ever wrote for the site, before I moved on to other personal projects, and continued my freelance endeavors else where.

All in all, a punctuation mark in many regards, and one I hope you will enjoy in it’s finality.

This review (which has not been post edited), was posted on November 24th, 2010.

And now, our feature presentation.

The Attic Presents:

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

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What seems like a lifetime since the last installment — at least compared to the torrent of regularity we witnessed on theGuitar Hero front last year — the joyous inevitability marches on. Another Q4 means another metric fun ton of gaming to carry on our shoulders, running to and fro with the burden of what many would consider an excess of entertainment. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock tries its best to solidify and streamline one heap of an experience, rather than spread its epic self thin across several titles.

GH6 Pic 1

Songs, plastic instruments … I hope anyone reading this has played at least one Guitar Hero-related game sometime in the past five years. By now, the formula has been noticed, rediscovered, engineered, stabilized, experimented with, tortured, abused, re-imagined and exhausted, much like this description. You pick up your music controller of choice and either strum, slap, strike or scream your way to victory.

Between the guitar, bass, drums and vocals — and any band combination thereof thanks to recent innovations — there should always be something for everyone who wants to jump in. The only thing friendlier than the ways to play is the amount of difficult tuning involved. Ranging from picking a song and letting no fail do its work, or sweating out every ounce of effort while trying to FC (100 percent) the hardest song in the game, there are few rivals in the gaming universe that involve such constant evolution as far as the chance to understand and continually improve your skill and involvement in the experience. The instruments may be plastic, but to conclude that you couldn’t spend literal years mastering any one instrument and still not be anywhere near close to perfecting the craft is nothing short of a reality. Easy mode exists, too.

GH6 Pic 2

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock takes all of this for granted going in and already has all of the basics under its belt. The main focus of the game is to remind any wayward Guitar Hero fan why they loved the series in the first place by providing an amazingly diverse yet endlessly fun set list, with an array of ways to play, challenge and enjoy. The two largest portions of the game you’ll be spending most of your time with will be Quest mode and Quick Play+, and both are executed with bloody goodness.

Epic cheese is a great way to describe Quest mode, and the mood begs for nothing else. Narrated by Gene Simons (with a precise amount of corniness in his delivery), the tale of the quest to save the Demi-God of rock and music itself could only be undertaken by the Guitar Heroes that have been featured throughout the insanestorylines. Quest mode itself tries to play with what you would expect from a basic presentation of the set list and pushes itself to impress and dazzle you without ever shifting the focus away from the rightful heir to everyone’s attention, and that’s the music at hand.

The mixture of the set list with the cinematic presentation of the story is really what creates the charm of quest mode when combined with the all new rock transformations. More than just distractions, the rock powers acquired after said transformations add not only to the on-stage visuals, but fundamentally change how you will play and score in any of the songs. Some might reward you for hitting a lot of notes with more star power, while others actually bail you out in case of failing so you may continue playing without delay. Taking the journey with all of the different Guitar Heroes, watching a ministory unfold and then having their powers combine was way cooler than I was expecting. Top it off with an awesomecameo by Rush (the entire 2112 album), custom songs made exclusively for the game by Dave Mustaine and an ending that hilariously defied expectations, Quest mode starts, continues and ends with mindfully ridiculous style.

GH6 Pic 3

Though Quest mode offers a lot of bang for your buck — and a very cool new way of playing — the core experience of picking a song and rocking out still rightfully exists in Quick Play+. The + signifies the amount of options you have from here on out. The sizeable set list (93 songs) at base value (without any of the downloadable content or imports available) has instrument-specific challenges for you to accomplish even past that infamous five-star rating that might push you to see the set list to its insane ends.

Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock has a decided focus on harder rock and metal, doing its best to emulate what Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was known for, blistering fast passages and awesomely thicksolos. Though, as to stifle any concerns about learning curve, the many features and charting quirks of Guitar Hero 5are also present. So although the hard rock and metal focus exists, the extra features, such as no fail and, even in its simplest musical form, variety, makes sure everyone will find a favorite tune that doesn’t require head banging to enjoy.

GH6 Pic 4

found myself intrigued and downright addicted to several bands I had either never heard of or didn’t spend more time listening to. Some of the acts in question include Blind Melon, The Runaways, The Cure, Band of Skulls, RX Bandits, Red Rider, Snot and Arch Enemy, to name but a few. Half of the songs mentioned aren’t even extreme shred fests and are just good old-fashioned musical talent and note charts that entertain without being boring or trying. The game seems to have the most thoughtfully varied set since Guitar Hero III, somewhere between surprising and superb, without a boring chart in the mix, even on the slower numbers.

A good time to mention on top of the large pile of improvements I’ve mentioned is the redone music store, the borrowed (and very slick) lobby system from Guitar Hero 5 and the party play mode (press a button and you’re playing). The team at Neversoft seemed to have thought long and hard about what best parts from the Guitar Hero series to pick from, and from my perspective, cherry-picked all of the best to borrow. The game from its tip tops to its low bottoms are a special kind of polished, which might be a direct result of them focusing on one project instead of several.

GH6 Pic 5

You might be wondering if I’ve saved the next half of the review to bitch and complain about all of the negatives I forgot to mention in the first half. Nah, they are few and far between. One of the only major letdowns is the online community seems to be already in the process of destabilizing. I can’t count how many different times of any number of different days in the week I tried getting games only to have my bandmates pick the same four songs and then promptly rage quit out. I wasn’t able to discern if some unforeseen network issues existed or if everyone in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock is really that sporadic when coming to terms with what song you might want to play, but I do know it was one of the only Guitar Hero titles I had such extensive trouble with online — and from a very early time after release. The functionality there works, and the integration with unlockables and progressing through set lists with friends definitely exists, but don’t be expecting many random jam sessions to work online, as it didn’t for me.

Still, a nice feeling washes over me as I sit back and listen to some nice tunes from the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rockmenu, satisfied after a solid week of almost nothing but rocking out and looking forward to the intense replayability that awaits me. There exists a feeling of something bittersweet as well. Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock marks Neversoft’s last entry into the Guitar Hero series, after working on the games for more than half of the lifespan. This final entry drips with thank you, and the quality there definitely shows.

GH6 Pic 6

I have no reservations recommending Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock as a definite music experience and would push everyone, even those who had better luck in full rock bands than as standalone Guitar Heroes to invest. From here on out, the obvious uncertainty might indicate this might be the last time convenience and reliability meet with such ease, but you never know. Entertainment and appeal aren‘t synonymous. A game series doesn’t need to cater to millions and millions of people to be fun … that’s just how you make a ton of money.

GH6 Pic 7

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Needless to say, you can see a decided improvement in writing style, and quality from my Space Giraffe review I posted three years prior. At this point, I had written dozens of reviews over a series of years with consistent regularity, with GH6 being a fine culmination of my writing experience. More so in compartmentalizing what we already knew about Guitar Hero, without being redundant and remaining entertaining. I normally take this moment in The Attic to go into greater lengths about several mis-steps I made in the review or it’s erroneous ways, but this one represents a step up. Far closer to a more modern sense of how I produce work and execute it.

To add a relevant and interesting side note, I was immediately going to book end this review with a write up of Rock Band 3, due to me being a massive fan of both. This didn’t end up happening, due to a weird restructuring of the site, and my own personal agenda. I had lived in NH for my entire life up to this point (I was 22), and had recently found an opportunity to move to Colorado. This was written and posted just one week prior to the massive change in scenery, not just in my physical life, but my virtual one as well.

I never got around to writing the RB3 review, but irony rears it’s ugly head, as it so often does with the contradiction that is life and hobby. I refer in regard to the quality of both GH6 and RB3, at least in my humbling contrasted opinion. I thought GH6 represented an appropriate and high quality mix of the best GH had to offer, and was a far more solidly built game with few flaws overall. In contrast, I thought RB3 was, in many ways, a disaster. From engine problems, to odd design ethics, and tertiary execution, the game had a list of problems far outweighing that of it’s counter part, GH6.

Despite this, I ended up playing RB3 far more than GH6, and enjoying it for a greater amount of time, with play sessions happening to this day.

At the end of any rationale  a music game’s greatest strength lies in it’s set list, and Rock Band’s focus on a digitally fueled downloadable library, provided a breadth of ease and quality GH just couldn’t match. In many ways, GH was a victim of technology, which was the very same element that made it a power house.

With the recently harsh reminder Rock Band DLC was to come to an end, and Guitar Hero remaining dead, after having been killed by abusive masters, I arrive at just one more observation in a long line. We repeat ourselves, endlessly so. From a CEO who doesn’t know to leave well enough alone, to the sad untimely demise of a series we love. This deafening record skip of moving forward, is a painful mimicry of repeating the past. Upon retrospection, some of us are lucky enough to notice these doomed repeats of history, but are normally without voice, or any real power to change it.

As an industry, we become mis-guided, and often astray due to this ever lasting focus of finance. In turn, we as gamers, are led by a song and dance we don’t even know is forcing us to move.  We commit to these actions without awareness, and thusly, sell ourselves without question to these unjustified values of betraying movements.

Very often, we all just give in to becoming musical prostitutes.

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