Rocksmith Review

What we liked:
+ Very user-friendly
+ Cool song progression
+ Adaptive difficulty
What we didn't like:
- Doesn't cater to advanced players
- Audio lag issues
DEVELOPER: Ubisoft   |   PUBLISHER: Ubisoft   |   RELEASE: 10/18/2011

Now you can learn to be a real rock star.

I am not going to lie, when I heard about Rocksmith, I rolled my eyes; another rhythm game featuring a guitar that I will never find space for among my collection of plastic instruments. Then I realized that it uses a real guitar, and not a semi-real guitar, but any actual guitar. So, I plugged in my Gibson Explorer and started down the path to stardom once again only to be stopped at the gate. Rocksmith is actually more like a training tool for wannabe guitarists, and actually a damn good one at that. While you won’t be lighting up encores anytime soon, Rocksmith can certainly teach you the fundamentals of playing guitar.

There are two bundles for the game depending on your preference and bank account. If you already own an electric guitar, you can simply buy the game with the included cable. The jack will fit any electric guitar, and in fact, the game has a built in amp mode that allows you to jam out. This is cool, because it has a nice selection of effects and distortion to play around with. This can make the package worth it alone to serious guitar players who might not have the space for an amp.

Before you go diving in, it is important to know that Rocksmith is designed to progressively teach you how to play guitar. There is no “expert” setting here for you to rock plastic keys and think you are the next Van Halen. Instead, the game slowly teaches you fundamentals like frets, strings and chords. Then, eventually, it moves on to more sophisticated things like hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides. Each song is treated as its own entity, meaning the more you play it, the harder it gets depending on your performance. It is actually quite genius and works surprisingly well.

This scaling difficulty is really cool but can also come with some downsides. For example, practicing a song over and over is not always an option because, the more you play, the more notes the game starts to toss into it, depending on your performance of course. It is also worth noting that you cannot simply choose to play songs with all the notes from the outset. You have to slowly build them up over time, so an experienced guitar player is not going to gain as much from Rocksmith as a beginner might. That doesn’t mean there is nothing here for more experienced players, it just isn’t designed for you.

The selection of songs is actually more tailored to the game than delivering fan service. These tracks are all great beginning songs for their various parts. Nirvana’s ’Breed’ will teach you the benefit of chords while Muse’s ’Plug In Baby’ will have your fingers performing a workout. Thankfully, there is a lot here, and most of it recognizable. Bands such as The Rolling Stones, Stone Temple Pilots and Eric Clapton round out a decent selection of more than 50 tracks. There is also a store for future DLC to expand on your skills. The songs can also be broken down into separate parts for you to practice. The game really treats each song like a separate entity.

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean that Rocksmith is flawless, quite the opposite in fact. I ran into several issues while playing the game. My first gripe is the sound lag. If you are using HDMI or high-end sound, you could end up with issues. I noticed my guitar strums were just a tad bit off, making playing a chore at times. You can remedy this by plugging into analog audio, but this is actually quite a hassle for those of us using the higher-end setup. Second, the presentation is just plain messy. Menus are not intuitive, and I got lost and confused several times just trying to change a simple option. The bland presentation also doesn’t help matters.

Even with these minor quibbles, though, it is hard not to appreciate what Ubisoft has done here. This is a really great tool to teach gamers how to really play guitar. Experienced players will grow bored with the core campaign mode, but the additions of the amp and arcade mini-games in Guitarcade will test your fingers for sure. If you are one of those guys that have a dusty Fender sitting in the corner you bought years ago to learn, Rocksmith might be your excuse to get it back out and learn a thing or two. It is an incredibly well-designed tool that anyone can play.

Review copy provided by publisher.


Ken McKown

Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.

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  • Anubis

    The Lag problem has never happened to me on my TV, In my room I have a 55″ Samsung 3D LED TV, to add additional information it is a 8000 Series, There are TV’s similiar to mine….Samsung LED 55″ that are a lower series and much cheaper, I’m currently in college and yes, the college that I go to allows Junior and Seniors a completely different Dorm Room. What they call it now is stupid, so everybody still calls it the village, It’s basically a Larger room and its not just one big building, Anyway, back to my TV Samsung 55″ LED 3DTV 8000 Series, which is the most high end Series they make, (There is a 9000 Series, however, in my opinion it’s not desireable for the money because, at least the last time I saw one (5 months ago) you could not hang it on your wall because all the cables went through the bottom of the TV stand. Anyway I got Samsung because I personally Like The LED over the Plasma, Previously I had a 50inch Panasonic Plasma, If you’re buying a TV best suited for 3D, and it’s in a room with low lighting, you may like the plasma better. I got the 3D version They say the difference is that LED’s have brighter more “exaggerated” colors, not my words, but tV gurus, if you go to best buy if you go to the magnolia room, which is much darker than any other part of the store, most of the TV’s are plasma, however, my TV was also in the Magnolia room, but the TV has a very cool feature where it automatically adjusts to the lighting in the room (if you haven’t turned that feature off in the menu), But, the problem with LED and Gaming was, LED’s Typically run at 60 Hertz, plasma’s run at a faster level. I got the 3D version because it had a much higher Hertz Rating,(basically, if something is 30 hertz, that means 30 times a second, Since TV’s are actually just a bunch of still pictures played at a high speed, like a flip book, the higher the hertz level the more frames it’s able to display in a second, which enables them to simulate motion. which is good for gaming, if you have a samsung TV and play games make sure you turn off the “LED Motion Plus” option, I almost returned my tv because of that. Anyway, I just wanted to establish that I have a High end TV that is less than a year old. On my TV Rocksmith works PERFECTLY, however, when I go to my parents house, there is noticeable lag, it doesn’t make it unplayable, but it is something that takes getting used too. Now my parents have a cheaper LED TV, even though it’s a Samsung, it’s the lowest Series 55″ LED that samsung makes. Also, I’ve heard other players of the game talk about this and I think it can be easily summed up, if you have a cheap or a brand that isn’t in the top 4 brands of TV for what type of TV you have you may get some delay. A High End Samsung is the best for LED’s, if you prefer Plasma, then you want to go with Panasonic. It’s worth mentioning but at our house we also have what we call the “theater room” because it has a Very large Panasonic Plasma TV, Hooked up to a high end Surround sound system and the chairs are like theater chairs, just alot more comfortable, my parents even put a real popcorn machine in the room. I also hooked up my console to this TV and experienced NO lag whatsoever. So, if you happen to have a High end TV (the screen size doesn’t matter when it comes to lag) then you probably won’t experience any audio lag, however, interestingly, The cheaper LED Samsung my parents have which is either a 3000 or 5000 Series (I think), had a bit less lag when using High End Component Cables versus HDMI. But, we had some “cheap” X-mart cables (X-mart’s HDMI selection often includes High end “Monster Cables”, but they also have cheap HDMI cables, using cheap HDMI cables on any tv gave differing amounts of lag on each TV I tested, so if your experiencing some lag playing rocksmith and can’t afford a better TV, you should invest in either High Quality, or, if you can afford it, Ultra High End Component or HDMI cables, because, at least with this game I know that when people tell me that all new HDMI or All Component Cables work just as well is definitely not true, not in this case. No matter what TV you have the better the Cables your running the better off you are. Also, if you have a High End TV with extremely high quality cables, there is absolutely NO lag. BTW, check your volume and gain before playing, and make sure that your guitar is properly tuned with a decent tuner, I prefer a tuner where I plug a regular electric guitar Cable into the tuner itself, and if your tuning the G chord if you are new to real guitars, make sure your not tuning String 3 to sound like String 4. Some guitar tuners can tell you that a string is in tune, and in a way it is….if t were String 4 instead of String 3. Also, newbies to a real guitar the brand and type of strings you use is also important, Some people don’t agree with this but, I was always taught to string my guitar up and tune it, then after a couple days re-tune it because new strings have to be broken in. Like I said, that’s what I was taught, it may be completely unneccessary, but it’s something I always do. BTW, if your planning on purchasing a new guitar, buy it from a real music store, and don’t be afraid of looking like a newb, the salesman your talking to most likely plays guitar himself and even if he plays the drums he will still know a good deal about guitars because he is most likely in a band or was in one. This is totally something that different people will differ on, but in my opinion, if you don’t know anything about guitar strings, I would go with DRs’, their not expensive and they sound good. I apologize about this post being so verbose, but, I know that now this game has brought some newbies to the guitar that would not have played guitar if not for this game. I remember the first (and only) time I played Guitar Hero, I remember thinking, and this is my opinion….”Why in the world would this be a good idea? The game takes alot of time and practice to become good at, even if you play the guitar for real, if you’ve never played guitar, then it takes even more time and skill that could be put toward playing a real guitar. I would rather be a mediocre guitar player than the best Guitar hero player in the world. I knew kids that put in enough guitar hero time that they could have, at the very least, learned some power chords and would have been able to play alot of the less complex songs out there very well. Alot of people are going to experience some lag, however this doesn’t make the game useless or unenjoyeable, I hope this isn’t the last game where you use a real guitar that can take you from not knowing what a fret is to being able to play real songs on a real guitar, because this is the first game that uses a real guitar there will be some bugs, but, if you don’t want to jump into the game now, Since it seems like it’s a relatively cheap game to develop, If there is a rocksmith 2, or if a year from now a game similiar to this one comes out, they will have ironed out pretty much any glitch in hte game. However, even with delay, this game will help newbs to learn to play guitar even if they are experiencing some lagging, just knowing what this game will teach you makes it definitely a good idea for anyone who wants to learn to play guitar. I also think that since learning the guitar is not a skill one learns overnight. That as soon as you have a real electric guitar, hook it up to your amp and make a sound recording as you play around with the strings, then after learning a little bit make another recording, but not a rocksmith recording a recording of just you connected to your amp, and you could even have a stomp pedal, the point is to record JUST you playing around, not what rocksmith plays. Because after awhile you can compare the recordings of JUST YOU, your guitar and amp, to a more recent recording, this can show you how much better you have gotten and will encourage you. Once you become good enough that you can play a song or even most of a song, chances are you will be hooked. Not to mention, if your a newb right now, and your like in your early teens, being able to play guitar is something that is extremely fun, and it also is a great outlet for stress, or sadness, this may sound like a cliche’ but playing guitar will not turn you into a male supermodel, but, chicks dig guys who can play guitar, I’m not saying it makes you an absolute chick magnet, because if your4 foot 10 inches and weigh 350lbs and your 50years old and bald, being a good guitar player won’t make every woman want you, but it WILL make some women want you that without the guitar would have had no interest. Sorry the comment is so long but on my youtube channel alot of people have been asking me alot about this game, I’ve tried to go into every detail down to TV specifics for those people new to the guitar to decide if this is something they want to learn. If your wanting to learn only because you think you’ll be the next great famous guitarist, if that’s the only reason, you will give up LONG before you can play a medium difficulty solo, it has to be fun for you to become good. If your here from the link on my youtube page, or you asked me a question regarding the game, and I gave you this link, if you have a response please don’t call me by my youtube name, it is already hard enough to respond to all the messages I get, and please if you know me don’t use my full name or my middle name, just keep it as “John” or “Anubis”. If I didn’t mention it in this post, then I probably don’t know the answer.
    Over 11 years playing guitar, ever since my 10th birthday.

  • MagicMan

    that was pretty long post. But between the article and what Anubis Posted. This is a question that wasn’t talked about alot in the Author’s article, I remember him saying something about if you have a dusty guitar in the closet this is a reason to pull it out, but it’s kinda old and I don’t know if it’s a good guitar. and Anubis you didn’t mention it either, this is a open question to anyone who reads this. What Brand and Model is the best guitar? would a 13 year old Yamaha Pacifica that my much older brother got new for christmas, he said that he put it up about 2 months after he got it because he wanted to be a drummer and its been in his closet this whole time even though he’s not living here because of a medical internship in Orlando. He also has an amp and the guitar works. This would be cool because I could get it for less than the cost of the game.if you have lagging can you still learn to play guitar from it, I’m more interested in learning to play than playing the game itself.

  • MagicMan

    Oh, I have a PS3 and a XBOX360, is it possible one has less lag than the other? would anyone reccommend the game on one console than the other? on my XBOX360 I use a HDMI cable but I also have Component cables that with the flip of a switch you either use 3 cables or 5 cables. on the PS3 the only hookup I have is HDMI.

    • Ken “ZeroTolerance” McKown

      Well I recommend going 360 then because the lag is known to be caused by the digital audio. I am not saying everyone has it, but when the game suggests switching, it is obviously a known issue. As for the guitar itself anyone will work to teach you the basics, perhaps start on the lower-end model and work yourself up and perhaps pick up a more expensive one such as a Fender or a Gibson.