A genre mashup like few have attempted before, God of Rock is the kind of weirdness you have to experience to believe. Described as a rhythm fighter game, it’s Street Fighter meets Guitar Hero with everything that’s great about both franchises – heart-wrenching gameplay, a burst of face combos, a head-banging soundtrack and a hefty dose of frustration. When you fail your timing in a row. This is one for a true rock star… a rock legend, you need quick reflexes and skills worthy of Jimi Hendrix in his prime.
We will, we will cripple you
The hands-on version I was able to experience lacked some notable features like the story mode, which is planned for the official launch, but it offered more than enough to grasp the concept and enjoy the inner workings of what might seem like a shallow game at first glance. Reinforced by the frenetic speed at which the notes are shrunk on the keyboard, this is a complex game that requires a lot of practice to master. You won’t have to become Brian May to take down your opponent, but you must be deeply focused and bring a brilliant display of skill to the ring, or a knockout will come your way.
The playable build featured seven of the dozen planned fighters, each featuring an over-the-top brief that could fit a true rock icon. While most of them appear to be a combination of influences or an original take from a divine rock entity, one is a blatantly obvious tribute to Elvis Presley, right down to the voice work and the name: King. It’s certainly an eclectic bunch, but it’s not all looks either; Their unique moves can make them better suited to a certain playstyle, so it’s worth experimenting with the full roster before deciding who to pick.
Unlike Guitar Hero and Rockband, God of Rock does not include popular songs in its soundtrack. Instead, he opts for a completely original set consisting of more than 40 tracks. From what I understand, these are purely instrumental, so don’t expect any catchy chorus to the song; However, there are some hard-hitting tracks with enough riffs to make those speakers explode and your neighbors bang on walls, making for a solid compromise. Despite the commendable work put into an entirely original and fairly diverse selection of tunes, there’s no escaping the fact that some of the mainstream appeal is lost along the way, as fans of the genre might have expected some radio hits. How this will weigh on general audience acceptance is something we’ll have to wait and see.
Building up the timing of the notes is part of what makes a successful music battle, but flawless execution of the special abilities is key. This is where the inspiration for the loud fighting game comes in, along with combos that should be memorized and fully mastered to deliver with impeccable timing. There are three levels of special moves, super move and ultra. You can reverse your opponent’s special move by paying close attention to the center dial and giving a higher level special. Bar for the odd exception, every special has a cooldown, so spamming is out of the equation.
Each fight begins with the typical fighting game introduction, with both contestants stylishly entering the ring and unleashing their mighty one-liners. On top of the screen are hidden the two health bars and the actual factor that defines your victory or defeat, since your goal is not to complete the music efficiently, but to take out your opponent. The fighters take up most of the screen, but you really want to be focused on the bottom part where the clickpads are, where the button prompts come and go in the blink of an eye.
Play it again, Sam
Herein lies one of my problems with God of Rock. It takes an almost uncanny ability to be able to pay any attention to the fighters when you’re concentrating on the musical notes. Since you technically don’t have any control over your character, you might as well ignore it completely and focus solely on the rhythm part of the game.
Imagine the fight scenes just like the bands playing in Guitar Hero – elaborate but non-interactive choreography that delightfully brings the scene to life for viewers, but you, the player, might completely ignore. In fact, it’s actually recommended during the first few hours of practice as you’ll need all your focus to fully grasp the mechanics and win some medium-difficulty battles.
And you will need practice because the rock god is very difficult to control. Apart from the memory aspect which includes all the skills and counters you have to activate at the right time, the simple act of hitting the musical notes with brilliant precision can be a frustrating exercise. It looks hard, almost nail-bitingly hard, and it can make you question your ability to pull it off. With practice and occasionally switching to easy mode if needed, eventually you start to feel more comfortable and the combinations will start to chain together more naturally… Let me emphasize the In the end Some, because the rock god takes no prisoners and is certainly not for those who give up easily.
For those who are about to make noise
There’s an undeniable appeal to this surprising genre mashup that could easily capture the attention of any Guitar Hero fan, as it clearly leans towards the rhythm side of things, leaving the combat part as a more cosmetic choice. With local and ranked online multiplayer, God of Rock ingeniously taps into the wildly competitive spirit of many gamers who will do their best to excel in these battles. Nevertheless, the lack of mainstream tracks and the high overall difficulty cannot be ignored, making this game even more of a niche game than it first appears. God of Rock ranks high on the originality scale, but despite some exciting showdowns, this rhythm warrior game still has to prove it’s more than a one-trick guitar.
MP1st was given access to build a preview of God of Rock for our hands-on session. God of Rock is due out on April 18, 2023 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch.