Having already seen a demonstration of this game at E3 this year, I was happy to be able to get my hands on the guitar to actually play it myself and see just how receptive this game really is.
As a musician I have to say, it's beyond impressive.
After selecting my pedals I wished to use as I played, which would alter the sound of my guitar in the game, I was whisked into actual game-play mode with guitar in hand. At the beginning of each song you must pluck or slowly strum the guitar so the game can be sure you're in tune. Once I strummed, the game swooshed to a visual of the fret - the neck of the guitar - that Guitar Hero fans will already be familiar with. As the music played, a coloured notch would head toward me, showing me the string (based on the colour of the notch) I'd have to play, and the location on the fret where my finger should be. If I played it wrong, the game would show me where I should've gone; if I was right, I was rockin'.
While it wasn't at the demonstration, I was told each copy of the game will come with coloured stickers for your guitar. They will help you learn as you go, since the colours along your guitar strings will be the same as the colours they show in the game when you're strumming tunes. A nice option to have for those who wish to use it.
As I played, the game would gradually increase in difficulty in baby-steps, making sure I was comfortable with the current level before it would slightly bump itself to another level. Twice the game thought better of me and increased the difficulty a bit further than I could play, but before I could genuinely panic the game would' already notice it was too advanced for my ability, and it adjusted itself so I could continue to play at a comfortable level.
Sometimes the notes I had to play would move down the fret, and the game would highlight in advance that we were going to move down the fret before it would continue having me play in the new area. All transitions were very smooth, keeping you interested and comfortable as you played.
Upon completion, my score was shown to me, earned by how well I hit the notes I needed to hit as opposed to how many I played. I wasn't all that bad.
In addition to regular game-play, there are also 8 mini-games available to play. The mini-games have you learn different techniques, while under the guise that you're just playing a silly game. I tried one called "Ducks," where it had a similar feel to Nintendo's Duck Hunt from back in the day. The fret of the guitar was pictured on screen, and a duck would appear and start to 'fly' away in one section of the fret; you have to place your finger on the string in the right fret and strum the string to 'shoot' at the duck and gain points. When the number of ducks increases on screen, you'll find your hand starts to fly as you try to shoot these ducks down. Once you finish, you realize you're that much more familiar with the fret and the placement of your hand and fingers as you play, and yet all you wanted to do was shoot down that darn duck.
With more than 50 songs available to play, plus another 10-20 confirmed for future downloadable content, it gives players a lot to look forward to. Add on the ability to play 2 guitars and have a singer sing simultaneously, and you can have a new-age Rock Band party where you're actually playing real instruments. Your band days begin at home on October 18 2011, on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.