Unplugged – Rocking VR Air Guitar – VRFocus
Everyone’s strummed a little air guitar at some point in their life – go admit it – whether it’s in the shower or when you hear a great solo on the airwaves. But mimicking your wild arm in a cohesive, hand-tracking virtual reality (VR) video game is a whole other business. It’s a challenge that the independent team Anotherway decided to take on, and with the help of Vertigo Games behind them, began to show what rock dreams are made of in Disconnected.
Unlike all the other rhythm action guitar titles where you had some sort of plastic controller with fret knobs and a whammy bar to hold, giving that pseudo feeling of being an ace player, Disconnected the use of manual tracking is in bold. That’s because until now, manual tracking on Oculus Quest has revolved around slower, more methodical genres like puzzle video games; cubism recent implementation is proof of this.
Without having a guitar to “feel” where your hands are on the neck when entering Disconnected for the first time, it’s like stepping into the unknown, as this level of complexity is expected to not work (or work well). And first impressions are certainly mixed when it comes to playing a manual track guitar in VR.
The demo of Disconnected VRFocus got to play offered the essentials of the experience, an introductory tutorial, and four songs to try and master, each with three difficulty levels. I have to say that Disconnected looks extremely polished, from the tattoos on your virtual fingers to the inclusion of Steel Panther’s Satchel as your rock guide, it’s very well presented. Even the buttons to select the different menu options have a nice push on them, a small but important touch.
When it comes to actually playing virtual guitar, the neck is divided into five sections with each of your fingers color-coded so you can play specific notes. This means that you have to pay attention to where the notes are going to hit the fretboard as well as the correct combination of fingers. You also have to scratch of course. However, from what has been shown so far, there aren’t any epic individual finger solos like the ones you used to have on Guitar Hero, most tend to be all four. fingers, three and the occasional two-finger notes. And it is certainly sufficient.
Even on easy Disconnected is not particularly simple. Without that physicality, playing tracks like Creedence Clearwater Revival Wealthy son or The Offspring The children are not well requires focusing all of your attention on the neck of the guitar so that you know exactly where to place your hand while ensuring optimal tracking of your fingers. The downside to that was forgetting where that important scratching hand needed to be. Quite often notes were missing not because of improper finger placement, but because of that selecting hand moving around during an awesome rock solo.
You can play Disconnected both seated and standing, the latter tending to be the easier option. There is also the option to adjust the position of the guitar relative to you, moving it up / down, in / out as per your preference. While this really helps, the strumming always seemed to be the main issue as it is difficult to keep your hand very close to the same point in the air during an entire song. Or maybe a lot, a lot more practice is needed.
Fortunately, Disconnected doesn’t just have notes you have to scratch. Pull-Off notes are by far the easiest to play as you can move your hand up and down the neck for real rock air guitar! The same goes for Virtuoso Notes where you receive a blank flaming box to stir those numbers as you see fit. These are the times when Disconnected comes to life, coordination and precision come out of the window, letting you enjoy the song to the fullest.
At the end of each track, you can then pump up the crowd for more points and hopefully a leading position in the leaderboard.
Disconnected is going to be the biggest test of Oculus Quest’s hand tracking and possibly quite controversial as to whether it can really offer a viable alternative to those physical rhythmic guitar action games of yore. No doubt it works with a few flashes of shine, but the learning curve is huge, especially when trying to complete those higher levels. With a launch slated for fall 2021, it’s not long to wait to see if Disconnected is the hardest air guitar you have ever played.