Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

The Beast is back

It's 10am on a dank Tuesday morning, and I'm at GamesCom in Cologne. I have a hangover and already I'm beginning to question quite how I propose making it through the day. In front of me stands what I can only describe as a bearded madman - Neversoft's Brian Marvin. He's wearing sunglasses, a smile and he appears to be drinking a freshly poured German beer.

Previous Guitar Hero efforts lacked 'soul', Marvin contends, as a result of misguided efforts to broaden the game's appeal by embracing a wider range of musical genres. In Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, however, the developer are going back to basics - delivering a heavy-rock focussed tribute that would make Jack Black grin like a Cheshire cat (maybe).

Unashamedly heavy, this new look Guitar Hero aims to focus in on what made the series a success, and as such will also include a story-based Quest mode, narrated by Kiss lunatic Jean Simmons. This new story mode takes players on a rock journey to rescue the demigod of rock of while doing battle with 'The Beast'. En route, your character will evolve via the transformative power of music, building up strength ahead of a show-down.

The premise of the new Quest mode could have been inspired by Brutal Legend, a coincidence I avoid pointing out given Activision's previous controversy over that title. Still, the mode looks set to approach guitar-playing from a structured point of view, giving Neversoft the opportunity to diversify their visuals into the bargain.

Score doesn't matter in this mode, progression being all about the collection of stars - up to forty per-track. Our hosts take us through a few rounds, playing Buzzcocks, The Cure and Muse before the player character is 'transformed' in some suitably over the top scripted sequences.

The basic, rhythm-based gameplay itself has changed little, it's worth noting, the developer having seemingly instead opted to focus on everything that surrounds the core mechanics. That said, everything plays as tightly as you'd expect, while the backing animations demonstrate an enhanced range of settings and a touch more dynamism. You get the impression that Neversoft are trying their damnedest to breath fresh life into the formula; to invigorate things.

Along the way, Marvin reveals that players will be able to savour a whole set of Dragon Force tunes, inspired by the high level antics of Guitar Hero 3. Purists will no doubt adore this, as well as a Megadeth-penned challenge titled 'Sudden Death'.

With a plot that sees a future devoid of rock on course for emancipation, as well the usual multiplayer modes, Party play, and the studio music creation tool, this could be the biggest Guitar Hero ever. Tack on an amalgamted online system that allows the sharing of songs between this game, Guitar Hero 5 and Band Hero, and you also have a title that shouldn't be short on longevity.

Still, having played the game (wonderfully over the top guitar-controller in hand) there's still the nagging doubt that the series, and the genre, is evolving little. It'll be interesting to see whether Activision can change my mind when the game launches worldwide next month.

E3 Trailer