Ever since 2007, the plastic instrument genre has been a two party system, much like the United States’ world of politics. And, similar to that world, a third party will every so often try to sneak in and grab a piece of the proverbial pie. We see it with Independents and Libertarians in US politics and we see it with games like Rock Revolution and Power Gig in this particular video game genre.
Unfortunately for Konami’s Rock Revolution, sales and reviews tanked, and the fact that it used nearly all covers didn’t quite help either. The game ended up showing up under the $5 mark in many places and even then, it didn’t really sell.
Seven45 Studios hopes their game, Power Gig: Rise of the SixString, will be different than that previous third-party horror story. They already had a head start on Rock Revolution in that Power Gig, at the very least, has a few tricks and gimmicks up it’s sleeve.
The game has many doubters and they might have reason to doubt, with consideration to where the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series have gone lately, but will they doubt the game after they play it? Does the game live up to the hype that the company has pushed in a very stand off-ish manner, or will the title be filed away alongside games like Rock Revolution? Check out the rest of our review to find the answers to that and more!
To say Power Gig looks dated is an understatement. The game has less graphical prowess than Guitar Hero II when it came over to the Xbox 360. Take a moment to realize what that means. That statement implies that this game’s graphics are not only worse looking than a game’s that came out in early 2007, it’s worse looking than that of a game that came out on 2006 on a previous-generation game console and was then prettied up and ported over to the current generation. If you were to compare the graphics of Power Gig to a 2007 game that was built for the current generation, like Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Power Gig would lose by not just a little.
This is obvious in screenshots, but it is most apparent in video footage. During gameplay, the characters literally stand in the exact same spot the whole time. At least in games like Guitar Hero II, the guitarist would walk around stage a little bit or do some sort of special animation when he or she went into Starpower. Instead, we get what appear to be robots playing guitar. The stiff animations are only half of the issue, though.
The character models in general just look unnatural. We know that the title is supposed to take place in a fantasy realm, but the characters are still supposed to represent humans. In fact, only a select few characters look proportioned out properly. The game is also full of graphical glitches, with the most common being the guitarist’s strumming arm freaking out on double or triple-strummed sections of songs.
Perhaps the biggest and most pressing issue has to be the way the note-chart is presented. The game looks almost identical to Rock Revolution in this regard. The 2D vertical note highway just doesn’t seem to work well in the plastic instrument genre. The timing never quite feels right with the 2D note highway and it just doesn’t feel good when compared to the 3D note highways of Guitar Hero and Rock Band.
We will say that one thing they got right on the presentation side is the sound quality. The tracks all sound to be on-par with Guitar Hero and Rock Band and they don’t hinder the game experience at all. It’s definitely nice to hear Eric Clapton blasting out of your sound system when you feel like playing Power Gig. Also, the drum animations are much smoother than the rest of the band animations.
To be honest, there aren’t many features. Just as we compared the graphics to that of Guitar Hero II, one can compare the features list to that very same game. You have two main modes that you’ll spend most of your time. There is a career mode that’s called Unite the Clans mode, and then there’s quickplay. Both modes operate in very similar ways.
The career mode features a storyline about a dictator named “The Headliner” that has oppressed the other rock groups and thrown them in jail. In order to defeat the headliner, the bands must use their combined “Mojo” to defeat them. Mojo is the name for Starpower or Overdrive in this title, and it means different things for each character. The most common will just result in score multipliers or streak rewards, so the Mojo effects are not nearly as dramatic as the Warriors of Rock powers that we saw in the latest iteration of Guitar Hero.
The main issue with the career mode is that the game requires you to play the same songs over and over again in order to progress through the career and unlock more songs. The game also makes it so you need to select songs that possess certain types of mojo from a list of about 20 songs. While this seems like a potentially interesting dynamic, the game, in a sense, is just providing you a list of songs to choose from as a false sense of free choice. You can’t help but think about how much more streamlined the experience would be if you could just play the songs to unlock the next tier of songs.
Another reason it is comparable to Guitar Hero II is possibly the most glaring issue of all: the fact that there is no online mode. Seven45 Studios has stated that there will be DLC, which we can assume will consist of a lot of Kid Rock, Dave Matthews and Eric Clapton, since that is something that they can Power Gig can bring to the table that Rock Band and Guitar Hero cannot. No word on when we will see the downloadable content.
Most players agree that the song list can make or break nearly every music game. Many people don’t claim that the background graphics or the features list doesn’t matter, as long as the song list is good. If you count yourself in that group, then Power Gig might actually be able to win you over.
The song list consists of many songs that have yet to appear in either Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Included in the artist list, aside from the obvious Eric Clapton, Kid Rock and DMB tracks, are Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Buckcherry, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine and others. Unfortunately, the decent songlist is not enough to overcome the various other difficulties that present themselves in this title.
The gameplay of Power Gig is largely similar to that of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. Notes come down the note highway and your job is to hit them. As we mentioned before, the 2D note chart doesn’t quite work as well as a 3D chart, but the core gameplay is still the same.
Now, there are certainly new features introduced, with the six string gameplay that features a power chord-based mode and the Airstrike drums, which use no impact in the drumming. We can’t report how those work due to the fact that we didn’t get a chance to try out those peripherals.
One major issue we had was one that was similar to an issue we mentioned in our Warriors of Rock review; calibration. Instead of using a “strum when you hear the click” mechanic that is used in Rock Band, Power Gig has decided to use the method of “adjust this slider until the alignment is correct”. There are many reasons that this is flawed, but the main issue is that it relies heavily on trial and error in order to get the settings right, rather than one or two simple calibrations. We still don’t fully know if the issues we experienced with hammer-ons and pull-offs and chord changes are a result of the engine, the note highway, or the calibration.
The only addition to the core Rock Band/Guitar Hero gameplay that Power Gig brings to the table is that they have actually introduced open notes on guitar. They actually help a lot with the diversity of the song charts, which are actually a lot better than you would think. There were very few moments where we were able to say that a specific chart was bad. The only questionable moments came from the actual use of the open notes and the lack of three-note chords on parts that probably should have used them.
Power Gig: Rise of the SixString is a very peculiar case. On one hand, you have a company trying to make its mark on an already very full genre, but on the other hand, they are trying everything in their power to sever any ties between them and their competition. Whether they like to admit it or not, Power Gig took many of the elements that made Guitar Hero and Rock Band successful and unsuccessfully plugged them into their own formula.
Unfortunately, for a company that has tried everything to gain separation, they have taken so much from the very titles they tried to separate themselves from without making much of it, that it just feels like an outdated and overtly unnecessary attempt at jumping on the bandwagon of music games. The gameplay feels stale and the only gimmick that does, in fact, make this game different will rarely be utilized due to the high buy-in price. In addition to that, the fact that the “play a real guitar” style of gameplay is currently done much more realistic and engaging in Rock Band 3, makes the title all the more skippable.
If you’ve been dying to try out Power Gig, than you would probably be alright to pick it up. If you are simply curious about the game or its soundtrack, we can’t recommend this game as anything other than a rental. The obscene lack of features and the extreme lack of polish is just inexcusable for a game that featured a marketing campaign that included throwing Guitar Hero controllers into a volcano and calling out Rock Band 3’s Pro-Guitar. Power Gig: Rise of the SixString will likely be filed away alongside other failed attempts (see: Rock Revolution) to take down the two giant game franchises.