While dance games like Dance Central and Just Dance have kept the once-mighty music game genre afloat, the category as a whole has largely fallen off the radar. The backbone of countless geek gatherings for years, dueling music games Guitar Hero and Rock Band are currently out of commission, leaving gamers with piles of plastic instruments to Tetris into closets and cram into garages.
But while its two greatest hitmakers are on hiatus, game makers have turned their attention away from plastic button-mashing and instead are trying to transform gamers into legit musicians.
That concept worked out pretty well for the original Rocksmith, which has sold nearly 1.5 million copies since its 2011 release. A new iteration is on its way this holiday – along with a new competitor in BandFuse: Rock Legends.
Rocksmith 2014 arrives first (October 22 | PS3, Xbox 360, PC) and focuses on expanding the teaching methods that made the original 2011 Rocksmith a sizable hit for publisher Ubisoft. Rather than mashing five plastic buttons, gamers can learn how to play through over 50 songs using any electric guitar – or, new to this year’s model, bass.
But where the first Rocksmith was a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition due to some noticeable lag between when you strummed and when you’d hear the music, the new game has been exquisitely refined. You’ll still attempt to follow a note highway while shaping chords and learning other techniques – a hard bargain for first-timers – but now the game will help lead you to the right training areas to help shore up your weak spots and move at a pace that suits your skill level. An improved ‘Riff Repeater’ makes it easier to replay tricky spots, while a dozen or so new games in the ‘Guitarcade’ section offer a playful respite from all the theory.
It’s also backwards compatible, so if you gave the original game a shot, you can use all those songs in this one. That’s a big help; it’s much easier to power through a power chord tutorial when you’re playing along with a song you know and love. The more material, the better the chance you’ll find something you actually want to learn how to play.
(Credit: Realta Entertainment)
Though if you can’t find it in Rocksmith, you could always opt for its upstart competitor. The debut effort from Realta Entertainment, BandFuse: Rock Legends (November 19 | PS3, Xbox 360) looks and plays much like Rocksmith, but with some key differences.
Chief among those is the interface. Where Rocksmith offers a twist on Guitar Hero’s vertically scrolling note highway, BandFuse lays it out horizontally to mimic what you see when you look down at the fretboard. The result is a bit easier to grasp for newbies, but to sweeten the pot, Realta has lined up the likes of Slash, Bootsy Collins, Zakk Wylde and four other musicians to appear in a variety of in-game tutorial videos. Beats your weird music teacher from third grade.
BandFuse matches Rocksmith note for note in the other big categories with a riff repeater, over 50 licensed songs on disc and plenty of virtual pedals and effects to tinker with. Bass support is here too, as is the ability to grab a mic and sing along. That’s something of an odd fit – having your friend wail off-key to Pearl Jam’s “Alive” while you try to work out the chord changes is a little discombobulating – though I suppose you could argue that that’s what playing in a real band is like, too.
And ultimately, that’s the goal of these two games. Will they revive the ailing music game genre? That remains to be seen, but if they do their job well, you’ll be too busy gigging to care.
- Arts & Entertainment