Want to rock out but don’t have a guitar? As long as you have a PS5 and PSVR 2, it’s no longer an issue.
In Unplugged: Air Guitar, you can get the feeling of playing a guitar without actually owning one. Lead by charming Steel Panther guitarist, Satchel, you’ll learn to become an air guitar master, moving up and down the fretboard and strumming like a pro in the comfort of your home.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, playing a guitar that isn’t there really is convincing. But it’s not quite as simple as placing one hand on an imaginary fretboard while madly strumming with the other. While you’ve not got to worry too much about finger positioning here, you have got to press the right buttons on your Sense controller.
The inside button on your Sense controller places the middle, ring and pinky fingers on the fretboard, for example, and the trigger lays down your index finger. Sometimes you’ll be required to have just one of the buttons pressed when you strum, other times both. And that’s not all: where your fingers are placed up and down the fretboard matters too.
Once your fingers are positioned on the fretboard, an imaginary pick is grasped with the other Sense controller, and then you can realistically strum. You can strum up or down, just like in real life – find the rhythm that works for you. Strumming is perhaps the hardest thing about Unplugged: Air Guitar, however, as it lacks the nuance you have with a physical guitar and pick. Sometimes you’ll use a fast succession of up and down strums depending on the notes and rhythm, and here strums may be registered that you didn’t intend to make contact, ruining your combo.
As you progress through Unplugged: Air Guitar you’ll learn some more advanced techniques, such as solos, vibrato and pull-offs, the latter of which allows you to play notes without strumming. Jump up to hard difficulty and you’ll even find that more notes are added, requiring you to change the angle of your wrist to alternate between blue and green to red and yellow colours. You can hype up the audience to boost your score for a short while, too. It all adds up to create a game that’s easy to pick up and play, but has considerable depth for those who want to get into the nitty-gritty of things.
Over 40 songs are included, from artists such as The Clash, Ozzy Osbourne, Garbage, The Offspring, and indeed, Steel Panther. Some are unlocked from the outset, but there are plenty to unlock as you master your air guitar skills. And there’s another reason to keep playing, too: leaderboards. It’s one thing impressing yourself with your performances, but getting the top spot on global leaderboards and lording it over others is another.
Perhaps the worst thing about Unplugged: Air Guitar is that it’s not all that visually interesting for players not confident enough to lift their gaze from their imaginary fretboard. It’s easy to learn the positions of drums in the likes of Drums Rock, for example, and then hit them naturally without even looking. Here, though, it can be hard to know if your hands are in the right position to strum a note unless your gaze is fixated on them. It means you don’t get to appreciate what’s going on around you.
Other than an issue starting the game – using the PSVR 2’s Standing Playstyle with a temporary play area, interacting with a poster to kick things off seems nearly impossible without going out of bounds – we’ve not really had any technical issues with Unplugged: Air Guitar. The tracking is good, various comfort options are available, and you can even configure your setup to account for lag.
In many ways, Unplugged: Air Guitar feels like the modern-day equivalent of Guitar Hero, without the need for a fake, plastic guitar. Easy to pick up but hard to master, it’s an experience that really can make you feel like you’re playing an instrument if you put in the time and effort to learn its intricacies. And with its impressive setlist of songs, anyone fond of having a good strum should probably pick it up if they have a PSVR 2 and machinations of becoming a rock god.