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.