Air Guitar Warrior Review

By Kevin Tavore,
There’s a pre-conceived notion about fans of metal, or even rock in general. It says they’re a people devoted fully to the music and the emotion it conveys. Considering it’s often full of blistering speed, incredible solos and thunderous force, the feelings are often those of power, rage and intensity. It’s no surprise, then, that the other things these feelings are associated with are likewise associated with metal: demons, vikings or death, for example. It all goes into a twisted mixing pot and ends up as the music fans love to hear. You’ll not find many metal fans who haven’t rocked out to a song every now and then — it’s what fans of the genre do. It’s just how the music feels. Air Guitar Warrior for Kinect? Well, it’s a game for those metal lovers everywhere.

Air Guitar Warrior for Kinect

Air Guitar Warrior is full of just about every metal trope you can imagine. Even its concept, playing air guitar, is a trope in and of itself. The look and feel is surrounded by everything metal. The demons, vikings and death mentioned earlier each have a part to play here. Joining them are other fan favorites, from electricity, the Apocalypse and motorcycles, all the way to Greek gods, fantasy lands and dinosaurs. If it’s a metal trope, it’s in this game and it all contributes to a truly special feeling when you play the game. It’s simply oozing with intensity and absurdity in the best way possible from top to bottom.

The levels in the game are separated into themed albums, each of which takes its own slice of the metal pie and it’s exciting to find out what badass world you’ll be in next. When you finish an album, you get to pose for the camera and set your own mark on the album cover with an absurdly metal pose, or even just crossing your arms and staring like any good band member would. As you play through the levels you’ll fight all kinds of enemies and you’ll do so while riding on animals, creatures and other objects that can only be described as badass. We're talking about tigers, dinosaurs, sharks and eagles to name just a few. While the enemies and rides don't change the gameplay much, they do look visually different and it makes the game consistently exciting as you play through it. Only near the end will the variety finally run out of steam, recycling some of the enemies you'll need to fight.

This is a game about playing air guitar, so music is going to be important. Unfortunately, while there are some bits to like, there are also some to dislike. Don't go into this expecting bands you know and love. The bands aren't even credited — these songs are about the experience, not the artist behind them. The tracks are very metal and as you play you'll switch among lead and rhythm guitar; ultimately you'll be constantly playing sick solos as the music blares in the background. The guitar riffs sound good and the songs evoke all the feelings you'd expect. To put it bluntly, it matches the game perfectly. The downside is that none of these songs are memorable at all. Not a single song in the entire tracklist stuck out. This isn't necessarily an indictment on the quality of the songwriting. Rather, each song has you playing music based on your guitar and it makes each song sound basically the same.

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The gameplay sees you playing the guitar to shoot enemies. There are a decent number of guitars available and each plays fairly uniquely. There are guitars that shoot skulls that explode and stick, lasers that pierce, explosive orbs, electricity and all kinds of other things. Trying the different guitars and figuring out which one works for you is one of the best parts of the game. By the time you're done with the game, you'll have tried them all out and the gameplay will have changed quite a bit along the way.

Enemies are generally the same concept with slight differences. Depending on the composition of them, different guitars will be better than others, which can lead to some fun experimentation as you try to determine which guitar best fits your play style in a given situation. Each guitar has four different shooting modes with limited ammo, although you'll rarely run out. The only negative is that the fast lead guitar shooting type is much stronger than the rest. It's not too strong, rather the other shooting types are simply not as good except in rare situations, which limits the gameplay options that might have been available.

The title of the game makes it clear this is a Kinect title and Kinect is an interesting control scheme. The Xbox One's Kinect is fairly good at tracking and here, it's able to cut out your entire body from the background and transpose it on the ground fairly well. Even in good lighting, poor lighting, and with sunlight streaming in, the game was able to pick me up pretty well each time. I did have a bit of trouble wearing a white shirt that clashed with the tracking of my hands, but switching to a darker color that contrasted better with my skin color partially solved the issue.

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Once Kinect is tracking you, the game is mostly smooth. You do what you'd expect: you play air guitar. Moving your hand on the neck of the imaginary air guitar changes from lead to rhythm guitar and is accompanied by onscreen visual identification that works pretty well. No problems were encountered with this. However, significant issues were found actually playing the guitar.

You can play on beat for one type of shot or play very fast for another. The very fast speed is better, but Kinect simply wouldn't properly track my hand at least once per song. Despite strumming like mad, no shots would be fired out. This seemed to happen when my hand would naturally rise higher during a song, which was supremely annoying as it felt like the game should have rolled with it. The air guitar is imaginary — if you want to raise it up, you should be able to do that. Make no mistake, most of the time the game was surprisingly responsive; it's not enough to ruin the game but it's enough to ruin a few songs, which is unfortunate.

While the game only takes three to four hours to finish, don't expect to finish in one sitting. It was literally painful after two hours. Make no mistake, this isn't an active game. On the contrary, you'll spend the entirety of your time standing in one spot moving only your arms. The arm on the neck of the air guitar will move up and down leisurely, which is not a problem, but the arm doing the strumming will be on fire after 30 minutes thanks to how often the game will mandate that you use the fast lead guitar. The developer clearly realized this and made sure each song was only 60-120 seconds long, but it still hurts after a while. Additionally, you'll definitely want to wear some shoes with some kind of support.

Screenshot Saturday 18/3/17

The achievements in the game are incredibly easy. You can finish them all up in less than four hours without much skill. The achievements come in two flavors. You'll get an achievement each time you beat one of the game's 10 albums. You'll also get an achievement for getting a variable number of kills with each of the guitars. There's plenty of content to get through and the target numbers are low enough that you won't need to worry about them as long as you often mix up what you play. The only odd achievement is one for getting rank 30, which will probably require about 20 minutes of grinding once you finish the game.

Summary

Air Guitar Warrior is a great experience that will appeal to any fan of metal or anyone simply intrigued by the concept of playing air guitar and killing monsters. Its presentation is top notch — every element is dosed in something awesome from the world of metal and things are constantly changing as you visit every insane metal cliche in the book. The exciting environments are complimented by a large roster of guitars that have unique looks and playstyles, which also serves to keep you invested in the game. Unfortunately, the controls can be a problem every so often, souring the experience. On top of this, the control mechanics will leave your arm sore for a day after only an hour of play. The music is the star of the show and what's there is decent, but nothing is memorable enough to really get stuck in your head. The complete package is a worthwhile one despite its flaws and should definitely be on the radar of anyone who's got any interest in the game.
3.5 / 5
Air Guitar Warrior for Kinect
Positives
  • Nails presentation with every element feeling like it came straight out of a metal cliche in the best way possible
  • Guitar variety changes gameplay significantly
  • Perfect length at ~4 hours
  • Actually feels like playing air guitar
Negatives
  • Controls can be frustrating
  • Can become very tiring despite little physical effort being used
  • Songs sound indistinct
Ethics
The reviewer spent 4 hours playing through the game and rocking out on the air guitar harder than ever before. He unlocked all of the game's 22 achievements for 1000 Gamerscore. An Xbox One download code was provided through the ID@Xbox program for the purposes of this review.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.