Review: Rocksmith

For many years there has been music games wanting to recreate that feeling of being a rock star on a stage. The market was flooded with music genre games battling each other on who made the game best and then the instruments that came with them, but after a while it became redundant and oversaturated causing a decline in the demand. The next step for the genre was to introduce the ability to play on guitars that were close recreations of the real thing. Ubisoft takes things to the next level and allows players the ability to use any real guitar to learn what it takes to become a guitarist one cord at a time.

When first introduced to the ideas of playing a video game to learn how to play a real guitar I was reminded of the few other games that attempted this, but their attempts was quickly forgotten, I had a different feeling about it this time around. I first got my hands on the game when I was in attendance for the Vans Warped Tour this summer and after playing it for about twenty minutes I was hooked. So while waiting for the game to launch, I kept a close eye on the development and anxiously waited. I have been playing for the past two weeks and I openly admit that other than messing around with a guitar with a few friends who are musicians, I have no experience playing the guitar.

When first starting the game, there is a built in tuning and guitar identification that will help prepare the user. The player will have the advantage of having the tutorials presented by real guitar players giving instructions. I found that the live presentations and instructions found in the game to be very helpful along with the other tools that will teach the player each section of the guitar as they advance. The game has a dynamic learning curve system that will watch the progress of the player and will adjust the notes, cords, and advanced techniques as needed. When first starting the game there is basic one cord notes spread out through the songs that will allow the new users to get used to idea of finger placement and plucking the strings.

When I was able to get the first few notes down the game was able to track how well my performance was doing and add more notes as I played the song again. When playing songs repeatedly the user will gain experience and the game will determine when more notes and cords can be added. The game provides a point system called RSP which stands for Rocksmith Points that gauges the user’s experience. The game has recommendations on how well the player performs and will then give opportunities to do events after scoring enough points to qualify on each song. If the player performs well enough during the event there will be encore opportunities and an ability to do the songs without the onscreen visuals in the masters mode once the player has reached that level. The songs are a great mix of current and classical rock, the song library can be expanded with downloadable content when released. I found that I was able to quickly play the fully upgraded Queen Of The Stone Age’s “Go with the Flow” the easiest as showcased below. As you watch the video the top section of the screen shows how much of the song has been unlocked with the different color bars. The higher the bar is to the top of the screen the more notes and cords are playable.

The game features multiple technique challenges, arcade games, and a full chord book that players can learn from to help understand the many nuances of playing the guitar. Playing through the different songs will unlock different technique challenges that will be essential in the progression of playing songs later in the game. The arcade games I found to be the most interesting part of the learning process, as I played the duck shooter that helps find finger placement on the neck I was able to do a few shots and then I was blindly starting to master my finger movement after a few rounds. One of the things that I did find a little concerning was when the camera needed to move across the screen for the new cords to be displayed on the neck it didn’t represent the upcoming cords well enough to distinguish my finger placement on the guitar leading to a few errors in playing.

While this is essentially a game, it defines itself more to being a learning tool to playing the guitar. So I would say that for the casual person this wouldn’t be something to invest in, rather this is something that will require months of practice for the dedicated users that want to get the full learning experience. Those who are already familiar with playing guitar might not find the game holding their attention as much as this seems to be a learning tool for newcomers mostly, but there is enough to do within the game that it can find some rewards.

Overall I would say that for those who are willing to invest some time into the game and in the long run want to play guitar, Rocksmith is the best thing that I have seen than going to private lessons. I look forward to playing more and learning what it takes to playing a guitar and thanks to Rocksmith I might finally have my chance. This is the step in the right direction for an instructional music game that still has the ability to provide entertainment along with providing a real world skill such as playing an instrument.

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