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Rocksmith

 

Rocksmith

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PS3
Category: Interactive Music, Rhythm
 
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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

Features

1-2 players
10MB game save
480p/720p HD output
Downloadable content
Leaderboards
Trophies

As entertaining as games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero can be, neither is particularly adept at really teaching you how to play a guitar. This was a fact that really hit home for me. I just could not get used to the pressing of buttons, switching from lead to rhythm and back, without really learning the song structure. I tried for a spell to adapt to this style of virtual guitar gaming, but I ultimately gave up trying. Rocksmith from Ubisoft is the first guitar video game housed in what I call “the instructional class”. Rocksmith is the answer that everyone’s been looking for, managing to take the long and arduous process of learning how to shred on a guitar and turning it into a fun and engaging video game experience. So without further adieu, here are my impressions.

Graphics

Rocksmith does a lot of things right in terms of delivering an authentic guitar-playing experience in an enjoyable gameplay environment. Some may find the game a bit drab compared to the obvious comparables, but the spartan look is very functional. Compared to other rhythm games, the presentation is far less flashy or interesting. This makes sense to me though as the focus here is on playing a real guitar instead of memorizing a few coloured buttons.

Venues for the most part are dark, but are they not usually this way during a real life rock show? The game has a ton of video clips of song tutorials and close-ups of arrangements scattered throughout; all of which are in HD and load up pretty quickly. Yes, the graphics and presentation of Rocksmith is a bit lacking, but the instruction is top notch. Any graphical shortcomings can be overlooked, given the nature of the game. There are a lot of tunes to rock through and some great content to unlock, yet there is precious little about the visual experience that makes you feel like you are rocking out onstage, but again, it does not affect the gameplay experience.

Sound

I had some doubts of how my guitar would sound through my amp and home theater. In the past, when I was what I consider a much younger man, I wired my guitar through my home receiver and promptly blew up my speakers, as I over drove them with sonic noise. The PS3 plugs the guitar through its USB connection and the game acts as the control panel for your amp. I thought the game sounded a bit on the quiet side until I began unlocking various amps and effects. My Onkyo receiver decided to use its discrete direct mode, which allows the PS3 to do the processing. The game sounds very clean and can be very loud when directed to do so. While it was nowhere near to the sound quality and loudness of my Marshall stack, the game performed very admirably through the PS3.

As with any rhythm/music-based game, the track list is an important thing, and when playing through the games music there is a good number of tracks that should keep anyone wanting to 'shred' on their guitar happy. The following is a list of music tracks that are included in the game:

• Best Coast – When I’m With You
• Blur – Song 2

• Cream – Sunshine of Your Love

• Dan Auerbach – I Want Some More
• David Bowie – Rebel Rebel
• Eric Clapton – Run Back To Your Side
• Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
• Incubus – I Miss You 

• Interpol – Slow Hands
• Jarvis Cocker – Angela

• Jenny O. – Well OK Honey
• Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody
• Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
• Little Barrie – Surf Hell
• Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama
• Muse – Unnatural Selection
• Muse – Plug In Baby
• Nirvana – Bree
• Nirvana – In Bloom
• Pixies – Where Is My Mind?
• Queens Of The Stone Age – Go With The Flow

• Radiohead – High And Dry

• Rapscallions – California Brain
• Red Fang – Number Thirteen

• Sigur Ros – Gobbledigook

• Silversun Pickups – Panic Switch
• Soundgarden – Outshined

• Spoon – Me And The Bean

• Stone Temple Pilots – Vasoline
• Stone Temple Pilots – Between The Lines
• Taddy Porter – Mean Bitch
• The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun
• The Black Keys – Next Girl

• The Black Keys – I Got Mine
• The Boxer Rebellion – Step Out Of The Car
• The Cribs – We Share The Same Skies
• The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry

• The Dead Weather – I Can’t Hear You

• The Horrors – Do You Remember
• The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

• The Rolling Stones – Play With Fire
• The Rolling Stones – The Spider and The Fly
• The Strokes – Under Cover Of Darkness

• The White Stripes – Icky Thump

• The XX – Islands

• Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union
• Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Good Enough
• Velvet Revolver – Slither

• White Denim – Burnished

• Yellow Moon Band – Chimney

The 50 tracks that are available are quite good and offer up some variety in terms of style and genre. Ubisoft also plans to support the game with DLC, so those who start to tire of the original tracks will have new ones offered in the PS Store.

Gameplay

I was an aspiring rock star once upon a looooooong time ago. I learned to play the guitar by sound and a ton of practice. I had very little reading and writing skills in regards to music, but I figured out most notes and riffs by just listening. Fast forward many years later; while I still play the guitar I have little time now to do so in earnest. Having a tool, or in this case a game, like Rocksmith back in the day probably would have helped me tenfold, and who knows where I could have gone.

Rocksmith is the game I personally think that Rock Band and Guitar Hero should have been as it is fun and it teaches you how to correctly play a guitar. There are a few minor hoops to get through before you get rocking though. Rocksmith requires you to own an actual six-string electric guitar and won't work with any of the plastic peripherals you may have lying around. I must admit, for me it is a great excuse to dust off the old axe; but for those that do not have one the high cost of picking up the Epiphone bundle, or a separate guitar, can be cost prohibitive. The bundle retails for $199.99, a bit steep for some gamers out there I’m sure. That being said, wielding a honest-to-goodness instrument of rock is what makes this game so enjoyable.

I remember using the plastic guitars on the other games and wanting to play the real chord or riff and this made me somewhat frustrated. Rocksmith starts you off slowly, builds your confidence and gets you into a rhythm that you do not only feel, but also play. Once you have your guitar in hand, plug it into your system using the included 1/4-inch adapter cable and follow the on-screen prompts, including tuning your guitar away you go. Some gamers may have lag in terms of response times between visual and audio cues. Running the sound out via analog audio cables into a stereo offers the best performance, though there are a few different options to explore.

After just a few minutes of playing, you will find that Rocksmith is an amazing piece of guitar teaching software. The game quite literally holds your hand by walking you through step by step how to perform the basics, enhance your techniques, and ultimately play every song in its library. The career mode, while not flashy, is concise and to the point, it has all the elements that make it enjoyable and, in the long run, it is extremely gratifying. I really like that the miscues and messing up is part of the learning experience.

Rocksmith plays similar in style like other guitar type games, as you see the upcoming notes and you strum corresponding strings on the required frets. Each guitar string is associated with a different color, and the numbered fret onscreen indicates the corresponding location you're supposed to play on the guitar. It looks somewhat complicated at first, but it becomes second nature as you progress and become accustomed to the play mechanic. The game's difficulty adjusts to your apparent skill, and nurses you along as you get used to the progressions. Even with mistakes the game gives you points for the things you do right, this in turn makes you want to improve your overall score the next time. You must qualify the song before moving on, but the game helps you once again by making the qualifying score lower and not so unattainable. The difficulty ramps up as you get better. I am sure a guitar teacher wouldn’t have this much patience. As you work through your songs you can unlock amps, guitars, effects, and venues.

You can access almost the entire song library right from the start of the game which is cool, although there are some songs that I’m sure most have never heard of. There is a great mix of songs, and most of the 50-plus tunes have several different versions that feature single notes, full chords, and the more advanced combo arrangements. While the track listing is geared more toward jams with familiar licks and catchy hooks than current top-40 popularity, there is a pretty nice spread here. New tunes also introduce more advanced guitar-playing techniques, which are accompanied by detailed video explanations, practice challenges, and tutorial help.

There are also a plethora of challenges to partake in relation to a myriad of guitar playing techniques, some of which can make you practice parts of songs or test your speed in arcade style drills. The creativity shown here is quite impressive and I could spend hours going through all of them. For example, the Guitarcade contains a section of mini games that further test both your basic and advanced technique with puzzles, skill games, and other creative and entertaining activities, all using the guitar as your controller. I particularly enjoyed tinkering with my set-up in amp editing mode. Being able to customize a rack of guitar pedals based on what you've unlocked in career mode, then save multiple presets, and assign them to the face buttons of your controller is pretty cool. This allows for quick effects changes in real-time during your rehearsal or performance. The results are again rewarding and will have you coming back for more.

Every note, chord, pick scrape, and mistake that you make is played through the game in real time. I really dig how Rocksmith essentially turns your TV or stereo into an amplifier. I liked using the built-in tuner that you can access from the menu, but I found it tuned my guitar in much higher key than I’m normally used to. After years of tuning by ear, it felt a bit strange to tune through my PS3 and TV.


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