At this year's E3, Ubisoft showed off one of the coolest innovations we've seen in a music video game -- an AI-controlled band that responds to your real-life guitar playing with remarkable speed and musicality.
While much of Rocksmith 2014 remains under wraps, Ubisoft took time behind closed doors at E3 to offer additional detail about Rocksmith beyond what we saw from Alice in Chains' Jerry Cantrell's onstage performance at the Ubisoft press conference a few days ago.
Anyone who has ever played guitar while using a drum machine or pre-recorded backing tracks will be the first to recognize just how cool Rocksmith's session mode is, but the rest of the music game enthusiast crowd won't be far behind.
Session mode lets players set a variety of features before beginning to play. These settings determine the nature of a fully artificially intelligent band, built to play alongside you as you rock out on your electric guitar. Choose funk or hard rock, select a synth, a particular type of drumset, or any number of other instruments, combinations, and styles. Then select the scale or mode that you want to play in, all of which can be learned in other sections of the game before tackling session mode.
With your settings selected, you can begin playing, and without prompting your backup band will pick up on what you're doing. Play slowly and softly, and the drummer keeps things light and in tempo. Increase the intensity, and the drummer naturally amps up alongside you, keeping pace and changing in response to your playing. The AI makes decisions and dynamically adjusts how it's playing at every juncture.
As you play, onscreen indicators help clarify what you're already hearing, showing you when you're playing notes that sound good in the jam, or whether you're playing notes that don't match with the key and scale you're currently playing in. In addition, a full fret board is visible onscreen, highlighting notes you could include in your solo that match well with the current session.
Even with this surprisingly cool session mode, many questions remain unanswered about Rocksmith -- not the least of which is the full selection of songs and the more fundamental approach to song play. Even so, it's heartening to hear that Ubisoft has taken the time to go back to the drawing board to address concerns players had about the first installment, and we're hopeful that the developer can make good on its promise -- to be a genuine learning tool to become a guitarist.