God Of Rock

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Rhythm
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: Modus Studios
Release Date: April 18, 2023


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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'God of Rock'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 31, 2023 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

God Of Rock is the next step forward for fighting games: rhythm-based attacks from the most powerful musicians on the planet.

Rhythm games are still considered rare, although the PC space has quite a number of them. Competitive rhythm games are even rarer, and most focus on playing through the whole song and winning based on points. God of Rock has a very different approach to competitive rhythm games, and while it isn't necessarily new, it feels fresh.

That freshness comes from the concept that takes the basic rhythm game and adds a fighting game twist. You start by selecting a character and selecting a stage. Unlike most fighting games, stage selection is important because it determines which songs you can select. Once you select a song, you and your opponent get note highways that appear horizontally, with notes going toward the center of the screen into the note area. Hits on an opponent are determined by your accuracy, with the person who gets a higher accuracy rating scoring the hit. During the match, players can input a set of directions combined with a button press to throw special attacks, like inflicting double damage per missed note or adding more notes to the opposing note highway for a short while. Those moves can only be unleashed once you have enough of a meter built up for it. Unlike most rhythm games, there is no end to the song until one person loses all of their health. Also unlike most fighting games, matches only last for one round.

That sounds like it can be complicated, but the game does a very good job of easing you into the process. For starters, there's no difficulty level chosen for the songs, so you can't accidentally throw yourself into the highest difficulty level and die immediately. The difficulty gets progressively tougher as the song goes on, so you can't have extended battles unless both players are very good. Special moves are handled by a different set of controls, so it's difficult to grasp initially, since you are also trying to stay on beat with button presses. It doesn't take long before it becomes second nature, though. There are several button options so you can go from the keyboard to the Xbox button scheme, DualShock buttons, or even the Switch Pro Controller buttons, so there's no mental juggling needed if you change control types.

Interestingly, the game does abandon one fighting game convention: a differentiation in characters. The commands for the special moves may differ between your choices, but their base strengths and damage seem to be the same initially. On the one hand, that makes character choices mainly aesthetic ones. On the other hand, it ensures that you can't play cheap and pick an overly strong character to play fewer overall notes.

As far as the presentation goes, the demo is packed with some good stuff. The 40+ songs offered up are all instrumental rock songs created specifically for the game, but they all sound quite excellent because they vary a bit in terms of melody and pace. Graphically, the characters are outlandish, but the models express this well in 3D without looking odd. The backgrounds are similarly colorful, but there's decidedly less going on there, and most of it is obscured by the larger note highway and other meters at the bottom half of the screen.

While the graphics of God of Rock are pretty good, you'll never see much of it because you'll be so focused on the note highway at the bottom left or right of the screen. All of the fighting appears above that, and since you'll rarely get a break, you'll hardly ever see yourself landing attacks, such as a jab or a super move. This also comes with the drawback of not seeing the health meters, since they're at the top of the screen as in most traditional fighting games. Just like in Rock Band or Guitar Hero, most of the visuals seem to be done for the benefit of the audience, since the player has to sacrifice seeing that to put on a good performance.

The demo features both local and online multiplayer, but the lack of a large online audience during the preview period meant that we couldn't test the online performance. That said, the demo featured something unexpected: a Track Editor mode. Essentially, you choose a background and an existing musical track to play, and then you can start laying down notes for every possible step. Considering the fact that the demo only features a progressive difficulty system per track, this is a good option for those who just want to get to the difficult stuff. It's unknown if there's going to be a sharing system in the full game or if it will open up for players to put custom songs in the game and make charting easier.

The game already works on the Steam Deck, and it looks good initially. The characters are a bit soft but look good, and after an initial long loading time, it's fast to move between various menus. However, the game features no graphical options, and that is problematic. For one thing, a full charge only provides about two hours of playtime. The frame rate isn't quite at 60fps all the time, and while it is high enough that it won't throw you off, the hitching that occurs when big special effects or something new is used is enough to drop the frame rate enough that you'll miss a few notes. It always seems to happen during the first 30 seconds of a song and doesn't appear again, but for a rhythm game, the performance needs to be rock solid during crucial moments.

God of Rock is fascinating. As mentioned earlier, the concept isn't new, but it places the competitive rhythm game into a context that most people will immediately understand. The instrumental rock music is great, and the rhythm/fighting game controls work well once you get used to the layout. Make sure to play with someone else watching, so someone can appreciate the visuals or tell you how you're doing. While the demo is out on Steam for a short while, the full game isn't too far behind, with a proposed release date of Apr. 18, 2023.

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