Everyone has shrunk a bit of air guitar at some point in their lives (admit it), either in the shower or when you hear an awesome solo through the waves. But mimicking your wild arm by becoming a cohesive, hand-crafted virtual reality (VR) video game is another endeavor altogether. It is a challenge for the independent team that Anotherway decided to tackle and, with the help of Vertigo Games, has begun to show what rock dreams are made of. Offline.
Unlike all the other rhythmic action guitar titles, where you had a kind of plastic controller with fret buttons and a whammy bar, which gave that pseudo feel of being an ax player, Offline the use of manual tracking is bold. This is because so far manual tracking in Oculus Quest has focused on slower, more methodical genres, such as puzzle video games; Cubism the recent implementation bears witness to this.
Without having a guitar to “feel” where your hands go around your neck Offline for the first time it’s like getting into the unknown, as the expectation is that this level of complexity may not work (or work well). And first impressions are definitely mixed when it comes to playing a manual tracking guitar in VR.
The demonstration of Offline VRFocus I was able to play: the main content of the experience was offered, an introductory tutorial and four songs to try and master, each with three levels of difficulty. Needless to say Offline it looks very polished, from the virtual finger tattoos to the inclusion of Steel Panther’s Satchel as a rock guide, it’s very well presented. Even the buttons to select the various menu options have a good boost, a small but important touch.
When it comes to playing the virtual guitar, the neck is divided into five sections with each of the fingers color-coded to be able to play specific notes. This means that you need to pay attention to where the notes will touch your neck, as well as the right finger combination. You also have to stretch, of course. However, from what has been shown so far, there are not just individual epics with the fingers as was done with Guitar Hero, most are usually the four fingers, the three and some occasional two-finger notes. And that’s safe enough.
Even in easy Offline it is not particularly simple. Without this physicality, reproducing themes such as Creedence Clearwater Revival Lucky son o The Offspring’s The kids are not well it requires focusing all your attention on the neck of the guitar so that you know exactly where to place your hand while ensuring optimal finger tracking. The downside to this was forgetting where that important hand had to be. Very often the notes were being lost not because of the incorrect placement of the fingers, but on the hand moving out of place during an impressive rock solo.
You can play Offline both sitting and standing, with the latter tending to be the easiest option. There is also the option to adjust the position of the guitar in relation to you, moving it up / down, in / out according to your preferences. While this really helps, it seems like the main touch is the main problem, as it’s hard to keep your hand very close to the same point in the air for an entire song. Or maybe you need a lot more practice.
Fortunately, Offline not only does it have notes you need to search. Pull-off notes are by far the easiest to play, as you can move your hand up and down your neck for a real air guitar. The same goes for Virtuoso notes, where you are provided with a blank flaming box to move the digits as you wish. These are the times where Offline comes to life, coordination and accuracy come out the window, allowing you to enjoy the song to the fullest.
At the end of each track, you can increase the crowd to get more points and hopefully a ranking position.
Offline it will be the biggest test of Oculus Quest’s hand tracking and probably very divisive about whether it can really offer a viable alternative to the physical guitar-playing action games of yesteryear. There is no doubt that it works with some flashes of brilliance, but the learning curve is huge, especially trying to complete these higher levels. With a release slated for fall 2021, there’s no need to wait to see if Offline it’s the hardest air guitar you’ve ever played.