Rocksmith – New way to rock or just a repeat roll?

Rocksmith logo

Let me start off by saying that  I am not a musician. Nor have I ever dreamed of being one. As a matter of fact, in school I purposely stayed away from music classes as much as I could. The thought of playing an instrument just brought on a severe case of boredom. I have always preferred a marker to a mouthpiece, but that’s just me. When Rocksmith was announced, I was instantly annoyed.  Having worked at a video game store during the whole Guitar Hero & Rockband craze, my first thought was: “Been There, Done That!”.  At the time, I felt like  guitar based music games were similar to reality tv, something new at first, but now because of so many of the same old formula, out there,  it had worn out its welcome. The developers at Ubisoft must have created this game for people like me in mind because this one is for the skeptics and the nay sayers.  Rocksmith is not Rockband, nor is it Guitar Hero.  In its own right, Rocksmith is for the people who are looking for something fresh and innovative in the rhythm based genre. If you are one of those people looking for something without that arcade-ish feel to it,  Rocksmith is the answer because you dont button mash on a plastic guitar – you strum along with a pick on a real guitar.

Rocksmith is the first and only video game where you can plug any real guitar with a standard 1/4” input jack into an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3  and play through a vast library of music,  featuring songs from Nirvana, The White Stripes, Muse, The Rolling Stones, and Kings of Leon to name a few.  You are also able to choose from actual lead, rhythm, and combo guitar compositions, on every song.  After plugging in your guitar, you enter a tuning mode that ensures  all six of your strings are in tune, and then you’re on your way to playing the game.

However, “playing” the game, its more like a crash course in learning to play guitar. Rocksmith operates  on a difficulty curve, which grows with you as you play. As you start out, its pretty slow because you only have a couple of single string notes, but as you play the song, the difficulty gradually increases, throwing in more advanced moves, like hammer-ons, pull-offs, and chords. (Most of which I had no idea what they were until I played this game! See? You really do learn something!)

The only problem with Rocksmith’s difficulty shifting system is that you cannot change the difficulty yourself for each song. It’s possible to complete a song one moment, go back to it in practice, but in doing that, you will have a whole new set of notes thrown your way. The game’s options allow for an entire difficulty change that either sets every song to the highest achieved phrase level or the lowest achieved phrase level, but there’s no in between. It was the one thing I found annoying about Rocksmith, because  sometimes you just want to find your place in the game’s setlist without it taking into account every mistake you make on each song.

In addition to the “Journey” mode, Rocksmith features a “Guitarcade” with mini-games to help you  improve their skills. The Guitarcade is meant to teach you the basics like scales, chords, and harmonics through a few standard gaming conventions. For example, when you take out pixelated ducks in a Space Invaders-themed shooter, or fight off a zombie horde by playing the right chord, the Guitarcade teaches you muscle memory while training your hands to better understand their location on the guitar’s fretboard.  “Guitarcade” is pretty fun and like the rest of Rocksmith, it gets challenging. Overcome them, and  your accomplishments are especially handy when combined with the Technique Challenges, which prepares you for other aspects of the game.

Got a need to customize? There is an “Amp” mode for that. The Amp mode gives you the means to customize your tone and use a great variety of different tweakable distortion, clean, post and pre-effects to create something totally new that other games simply did not offer.  Basically, it gives you the ability to turn your system and TV into a high-end, fully customizable amplifier/pedal combo.

Overall, Rocksmith is a decent game. Those of you looking for  a party game, I would suggest you look elsewhere because this is more of a tutorial with some game elements sprinkled in. There is also a co-op mode, but you would need to have your buddy standing next to you for that. If anything will slow you down its the price tag on it. The standard edition of the game, is $79.99, and includes the Rocksmith Real Tone Cable™.  The guitar bundle is  $199.99, and includes an Epiphone Les Paul Jr guitar, along with the Rocksmith Real Tone Cable.  Is Rocksmith enough for me to have a new appreciation for music games, and playing an instrument as a whole? No, but I do appreciate a good game when I play one.

Rocksmith is rated “T” for Teen.