STAFF REVIEW of God Of Rock (Xbox One)

Monday, April 24, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

God Of Rock Box art I always applaud when developers take a chance on something new. Maybe this is adding a twist into a genre that’s been done before, or maybe sometimes they attempt to blend two vastly different genres together, like God of Rock. Modus Games has done just this, attempting to merge two completely different game types into one, and while on paper it should work, it never really feels all that cohesive. Being a massive fan of music based games, I was quite excited to try a new rhythm game, as I’ve played an endless amount of Rock Band, GuitarFreaks, DrumMania, Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution and many more.

God of Rock attempts to blend the melodic notes of a rhythm based music game fused with the excitement of a fighting game with 1 on 1 matches against a handful of opponents. You’re tasked with fighting to the beat, though the core gameplay is more that of a rhythm game with some fighting game move sets thrown in. A dozen playable characters, eight diverse stage backdrops and over forty songs should make for quite an interesting game.

As you pick one of the characters, they will have a brief storyboard narrative about themselves or some situation they find themselves in. Each character eventually gets invited to a sort of tournament where if they can get through the gamut of other challengers they’ll be able to face the mysterious God of Rock himself, which will grant their wish or desire if defeated in a musical battle. The writing for each character is very campy and brief, and even when you do finally defeat the God of Rock and get their ending, it’s nowhere near satisfying. I’m not expecting much of a narrative for a rhythm or fighting game, as that’s not what they are known for, but there’s really not all that much here for story at all.

Story mode is where you’ll probably be spending the majority of your time, picking your fighter of choice and battling your way through the tournament in hopes to defeat the titular God of Rock for a small story snippet of your character at the end. There are local and multiplayer options if you want to face off against a friend or foe in person or online. There’s a training mode to learn the basics and special moves, something I’d highly suggest going through each so you know how do not just hit the notes, but what all the meters mean and how to do your special moves, this is partly a fighting game remember.

If you want to try something really interesting, why not make your own tracks. While you can’t add your own music, you can design your own notes from scratch for the included soundtrack. The track editor allows you to finely tune how and where you want to place each note, lining up each exactly where you want. You can then try the songs out against others to see who the best really is. I’m sure those that used to make their own songs in Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero and other rhythm games will surely spend some time here creating some insanely difficult tracks.

God of Rock’s premise is simple, hitting notes to the beat while also throwing in some Street Fighter moves to eventually win the match once the opponent’s health is empty. The majority of your time will be watching the playfield where the notes come across to hit the notes, but you’ll be challenged not looking elsewhere to see the fighting or being distracted by the flashing lights. Songs will start out easily enough but quickly ramp up and be quite challenging, even on the easier difficulties.

There are a handful of characters to choose from, each with their own fighting moves and style, as well as a variety of different moves and specials. Some are more healing based while others are offensive, each are unique in design though. Some are designed with a fine line between tribute and parody, some clearly a knockoff of Elvis, Freddie Mercury and others, whereas some are more original in design. They all have a few one-liners before their matches that are cheesy, but such is par the course for fighting games, though the lip syncing that doesn't match well is a little of a distraction.

Now where you’ll need to keep most of your focus is the horizontal lanes where the notes come from the side into the middle where you’re supposed to hit the note with accuracy. Now, the vast majority of rhythm games are vertical scrolling, and for good reason. Here though, it’s horizontal and very challenging to learn and master.

You’ll also be using all four face buttons, each on their own horizontal lane. On simple songs this isn’t too much of an issue, but when songs become much more chaotic, it’s quite difficult to deal with the buttons laid out in that horizontal pattern when they are overlapped. The confusion does get easier over time, but it really didn’t ever feel natural, even after almost beating every single character’s playthrough. It becomes even more difficult when you have to combine button presses that aren’t beside each other on the controller, unable to do so with a single finger, like ‘X+B’.

You and your opponent have a health bar, as this is partly a fighting game, and every time you land notes on beat and use your special moves, it will slowly deplete their health. There’s some nuances though, as if you and your opponent perform the same move at the same time (notes are the same for both players) damage is negated, but that’s where the special moves come into play. While the note charting is decent overall, what’s interesting is that songs become more challenging the longer it goes on, so if it’s even match between you and your opponent, eventually the challenge will ramp up until one is left standing.

Landing normal moves to the beat slowly builds your Special and Ultra meters which can unleash higher powered moves. If your opponent does one of these special moves, you can unleash a higher tier move to override theirs, so there’s a constant push and pull of offense and defense, that is if you can remember the move list or manage to do so between the regular notes.

This is inherently where part of the problem lies, having to pull off fighting moves like Street Fighter (simple quarter and half circles ending with Right Trigger), but you need to do so in-between the regular notes. There are three tiers of moves, EX Moves and an Ultra, but trying to perform these while not trying to miss notes is near impossible if there’s not a quick downtown moment in the song. You can even perform reversals, but it’s all a matter of keeping track of what meters you have filled or not.

While the horizontal note scrolling is quite jarring and my biggest complaint, the other is the whole fighting game component. Trying to fit in fighting moves in-between note hitting is hard enough, but having the UI layout the way it is makes for another distraction. Your Special and Ultra meters are right above the note playfield, but your health bar is way at the top of the screen. This is part fighting game remember, so you need to keep track of the health bars. This means you need to take your eyes of the note lanes to glance away, which generally means missing some notes before you reorient yourself.

I was quite surprised that God of Rock had online multiplayer, as I didn’t expect it to from a smaller studio. There’s Quick Play and Ranked, and while I was able to find a few matches, it did take some time to find opponents. I highly suggest mastering the gameplay before going online, as you’ll lose quite handedly if unsure how the whole move tiers and reversals work.

Visually, God of Rock is quite appealing. The character designs are done quite well, as are the stages backgrounds, all with a flashy package. Fights are animated well, but the problem is just how flashy it all is, literally. Every time notes are matched from both players and blocked, there’s this bright flash on the screen, and when quicker paced songs are playing, you can imagine how distracting this is, and I didn’t see any options to disable or dampen them. There’s an odd lag once you defeat your enemy where the framerate drops for a moment, nothing that affects gameplay, yet another distraction.

For a music game, the audio and music is supposed to be what stands out the most, and while there’s a good variety of over 40 songs, there’s really none that stood out. There’s no vocals in the songs and there’s nothing licensed, and even after multiple playthroughs, there wasn’t a single song that was very memorable. I didn’t feel compelled to add any to my Spotify playlist, not that any were ‘bad’, but part of the problem is the audio mixing. By default you hear more of the fighting thuds and attacks instead of the music being the forefront. I had to turn up the music volume and other audio down just to enjoy it more.

God of Rock is an interesting title that blends the odd pairing of fighting and rhythm games, and while it may not always stick the landing due to its odd design choices, there’s some entertaining moments here and there. Even with online play and a track creator, it’s clear extra effort was made to have God of Rock be something special, even if it misses a few notes.

**God of Rock was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 5.3 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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