God of Rock is a Heavy Metal Button Masher

God of Rock Preview

Do you love old-school music and rhythm games? You know, those titles inspired by the scrolling note maps of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and their many knockoffs and imitations. And,\ do you like classic fighting games as well? Prepare for God of Rock, maybe a dream come true for fans of both genres.

Punch it Out to the Beat

This might be a chicken-and-egg situation, but let’s say God of Rock starts as a 1v1 brawler. You have two, rock-star characters punching and kicking the stuffing out of each other. Of course, each has a handful of devastating combos. As in most fighting games, you build up a meter which allows you to unleash some stylish, powerful attacks.

If the above description sounds like every fighting game ever made, you’re right. God of Rock’s big twist is that your fighters are controlled by hitting notes on a scrolling note map. The better you do, the more your special meter builds until you can let loose special moves and finishers. The better you do, the more challenging your opponent’s note map becomes. Each round becomes progressively more challenging. There are players who do pretty well in fighting games by button-mashing their way through, but that tactic won’t pass muster in God of Rock. It’s a game that rewards concentration, fast reflexes, and muscle memory.

In addition to the 1v1 matches against AI or online players, God of Rock includes a map editor, allowing you to craft custom maps of the game’s levels and songs. While there’s a tutorial section that reminds players of the button patterns for special moves, there doesn’t seem to be the ability to slow songs down to practice them. Maybe I missed it.

A Little Out of Tune

If you’ve ever unboxed a new guitar, you know that they never come out of the crate ready to play. They often need set-ups, adjustment, and, at the very least, a good tuning. God of Rock feels like a game that still needs some fine-tuning. It also has a couple of issues that aren’t probably going to go away.

Most music and rhythm games in the Rock Band/Guitar Hero/Beat Saber genre have note maps coming toward the player. This makes anticipating the next move relatively easy. In contrast, God of Rock’s note map scrolls from left to right, and the button prompts are arranged vertically, which is of course nothing like the layout on a controller. The note maps take up the lower half of the interface. Hidden behind the note map are the two fighters and their health bars. You can see how hitting the notes on time translates to a fighting move.

I’m not sure if the intent is to challenge the player with layers of distraction but — at least for me — I was almost never able to pay attention to the fighters. I was concentrating too hard on the note map, which, even at the easiest setting, moves ridiculously fast. After years of playing other music games with a more standard interface, I found the side-scrolling and vertical arrangement of buttons counterintuitive and pretty frustrating. An option to turn off the opponent’s note map would be welcome.

Become the God of Rock

God of Rock features 40 songs, but none are licensed tracks by your favorite rock bands. The metal and hard rock instrumentals are good but pretty stylistically similar. Having a few recognizable hits would go a long way to engage players. The ability to slow maps down for practice would be really useful. There is a practice mode that allows players to isolate difficult sections and slightly simplify the map, but not change the tempo.

While the operatically over-the-top Metal Hellsinger brought together music and first-person shooting, the concept of marrying a fighting game to a music game is awesome.  In its present state, God of Rock is marred by some out-of-tune notes that clash with what could be a really fun experience. I’m interested to see how this unique game develops as it moves toward launch this coming April.

***PC code provided by the publisher for preview***