After Guitar Hero 5 used a pretty similar design to that of the World Tour guitar, Activision decided to do the most drastic redesign in series history with its guitar controller.
Now, much like the game it accompanies, Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, the guitar controller doesn’t innovate as much as it perfects. In fact, the controller does away with one of the defining features of the previous two guitar controllers: the slide bar. Many people have complained about this feature being missing in action, but from what we’ve gathered, not many people used this feature anyway.
The guitar really doesn’t change much of the formula that fans have come to know in recent controllers. The most drastic change is certainly the fact that the body of the guitar is actually interchangeable. With the removable wings feature, if you buy the guitar and it doesn’t break, but you get sick of the look of the controller, you can swap out the “wings” of the guitar (as shown below) and give your controller a completely different look.
While the Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Les Paul and Guitar Hero 5 guitar were fan favorites, they were very hit-or-miss for one reason: the detachable neck. That detachable neck was a gift and a curse. While it allowed the guitar to be packed up very easily, the risk was not really worth the reward. More times than not, it seemed, the neck connection would become loose and buttons would stop working intermittently.
While steps were made in the right direction with the Guitar Hero 5 guitar, it still remained apparent to fans that the detachable neck design was more problematic than it was worth. With that in mind, Activision did away with that design and made the only detachable parts the headstock (to allow for further customization) and the wings (as mentioned before). The result has worked very well so far. By making the functional part of the guitar all one, solid piece, the guitar seems to perform much more reliably than it’s recent predecessors
Functionally, the guitar is very sound. The buttons feel very good and are comparable to those on the Guitar Hero 5 controller. A few dropped notes were experienced throughout the entire duration of Quest mode, but it’s unclear whether the dropped notes were hardware or user error.
The strum bar seems to be slightly less protrusive than previous iterations of the controller. The bar feels very comfortable, but at the same time, during longer and more difficult tracks, the bar can become slippery with sweat and can hinder performance.
The final difference that is apparent with this newer guitar controller is the fact that Activision completely redesigned the button layout (view the comparison on the right). Rather than having the guide button/directional pad on the pick guard, the Warriors of Rock controller puts it near the tip. This is very convenient and works well to prevent accidental triggering of the guide button.
The back/Starpower button remains around where the bridge would be on a real guitar, which works well for those that like to manually activate Starpower, rather than tilting (which also works well). The only other button on the fact of the controller is the start button, which sits exactly where a right-handed player would rest his/her palm. This is the perfect placement, but sometimes the button can be a bit under-sensitive. We’d rather it be tougher to press than incredibly easy however, which would result in numerous accidental pauses. That being said, we’re glad that the guitar makes sure its player is pressing with intention before it triggers the pause.
The Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock guitar is probably the best stock guitar controller we’ve seen on the current generation of consoles. The solid, one-part body excels in reliability, while the detachable wings and headstock ensure that you will never get sick of how the controller looks, given you’re willing to hunt for some new body-parts. It will just be interesting to what kind of support is given to the wings from retailers, given the poor sales of the controller faceplates of the past.
While the customization options are great, the functional aspects of the guitar is what should draw fans to this controller. The strum bar, though shorter, is reliable, the fret-buttons feel great, and the navigation button layout works well. In fact, the only real issue we’ve had with the guitar lies in the way the exclusive GameStop wings feel slightly inhibiting while trying to play with them attached. Activision seems to be getting better at making these guitars with every go-round, we just hope this trend continues in the next Guitar Hero title.