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Musicians finally have a game to call their own. Rocksmith delivers the most realistic music experience with a great track list, tons of options to tweak your sound, and progressive difficulty to test all abilities.
- Progressive difficulty adjusts to your true abilities
- Authentic guitar experience
- Eclectic track list
- Audio setup, lag management a bit frustrating
- Event presentation is a bit of a letdown
- Overall pricetag, general difficulty may keep beginners away
Ubisoft has created the best music game to date. That’s not to say popular titles like Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and DJ Hero are bad in comparison, it’s just Rocksmith is the first real game for musicians on this generation of consoles. It is advanced enough to test the abilities of a guitarist with 16-years of experience, like me, but easy enough for beginners to pick up any six-string and learn the very basics. With an eclectic track list, local split-screen multiplayer, a plethora of arcade-style mini-games, and a nearly complete virtual playground filled with simulated amps, pedals, and even microphones, Rocksmith finally gives musicians—and wannabe musicians—an experience worthy of rock guitar’s long and historic existence.
Rocksmith is possible via Ubisoft’s Real Tone Cable (¼” jack to USB), which allows the magic to happen through your PlayStation 3. Plug in any real guitar with a ¼” output jack to your PS3, and you are ready to play. It’s important to note that you need a real guitar, so don’t expect to use your old plastic Guitar Hero peripheral. This makes Rocksmith one of the more expensive overall gaming prospects, unless you already own a guitar. You can expect to spend $199 for the complete Rocksmith package, bundled with an Epiphone Les Paul Jr. Guitar, but you can likely find a cheaper axe at your local music shop. Sadly, what makes Rocksmith so great—the fact it’s an actual music game, played with an actual guitar—may mean some people simply can’t afford to give it a try.
The game’s built-in tuner teaches you how to tune your guitar, and in no time you’ll be ready to try your first song. If you are absolute beginner, it will probably take some time to move beyond the basic single root note progressions. But, even if that’s your starting level, the game quickly adjusts to your abilities, and you may be able to add a chord or two to the mix. The presentation is extremely similar to other guitar games, but it mimics a real guitar neck. Notes will fly at the on-screen guitar neck, the strings are color coded, and the frets are even highlighted to give you a general idea of where to keep your hands. Beginners will play the bulk of each song on the E string (red) generally in the first five frets. But, as you prove to the game you have the skills to move beyond that root note progression, you will move up and down the neck, play different strings, and swap between playing the rhythm or lead arrangements.
There is a small campaign-like section of the game that puts players in the shoes of a nameless and faceless guitarist. You’ll start as a relative nobody playing very small venues and eventually build up enough skills so you are the world’s best, touring only the biggest venues, and likely dating a B-actress or a former Victoria Secrets model. Your event manager acts as your hub. You earn points in-game by, you guessed it, playing the notes on the screen properly. You must practice each song until you reach or surpass a specific point level, and when you’ve unlocked each song for that specific event—usually three to six per event—you’ll play the setlist at the venue.
The progression from practicing a song to performing at a venue is only mildly noticeable. This is one of the aspects I wished Ubisoft took a bit further. When you are practicing the songs in a set for the upcoming event, you do so one at a time and tune your guitar before each song. When you play the actual concert, you tune once at the beginning (unless a song calls for a different tuning) and simply play the songs in the set in succession. You play these songs in front of a life-like crowd, but even at the bigger venues, the crowd feels small, and bored, no matter how well you play each song. In between songs you’ll hear a pin drop even if you nearly maxed out the previous song. On occasion, you’ll hear the crowd cheer when you land a nice streak of notes, but it isn’t until your last song is over that you tell how well the crowd thinks you did. ... (continued on next page)