Review :: Rocksmith

A Great Product If You Know What You Have In Your Hands

Written by Super User

Published Wednesday, 02 November 2011 20:00

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Over the last twelve months, the music game genre - which was extremely popular at one point - was affected by a major decline of interest from consumers. One can certainly blame the large numbers of similar games invading store shelves in a very short period of time. However, Ubisoft is sailing against the tide by making the bet that there are still people out there willing buy and play yet another new music title with Rocksmith, a very different music game that is unlike any we have seen before. We recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with it. Does it earn your attention amidst all the Rock Band and Guitar Hero titles out there?

To be very honest with you, Rocksmith is a hard product to review simply because it is more of a piece of learning software rather than a real game. The “gaming” aspect is only present in the sense of having fun while you are learning the various facets of the instrument in order to make you a better guitarist. Of course, some would argue that Seven45 Studios did try this once before with Ubisoft with Power Gig: Rise of the SixString, which unfortunately received a rather cold response from critics and consumers (see our review) alike. It seems many found the title too complex to really enjoy it. Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, the folks at Ubisoft seems to have analyzed the mistakes made with Power Gig, as they obviously chose a much different approach the Rocksmith project by exploiting the player’s desire to learn to play guitar while being entertained as the primary goal. In fact, while having fun with the video game look and feel of the software, the player is able to learn and acquire some pretty complex guitar techniques.

The concept behind Rocksmith lies in the use of a real electric guitar, regardless of the model or the brand. For those without a guitar, a bundle with both a guitar and the software is also available ($200). The game comes with a USB adaptor that allows the use of a regular quarter-inch guitar cable to plug it into the console. Therefore, the analog signal of the guitar is being transformed into digital so it can be used by the software. Speaking of software, the interface has been designed to be appealing for the first time guitar players in order to motivate them to jump fast into the action and quickly play a few notes, complex chords and full songs.

When you start Rocksmith for the first time, immediately after plugging your guitar into the console, you will be invited to watch a short introductory video that ends with a sound check to make sure that all connections needed are good. Then, you will have to tune your instrument by following the instructions on the screen. This tuning menu will come back at the beginning of each lesson and whenever it feels your instrument needs to be tuned again. Regardless of your personal skill level, Rocksmith has something for you because it will adapt in real time to your level. If it sees that you can take more notes on the screen at the same time, you will get more complex sequences to reproduce. If you have problems, it will take off notes and invite you to follow more tutorials and participate in more mini-games to assimilate the techniques needed to go on. For example, you will be able to learn the position of the different notes by sliding your fingers across the neck to kill ducks in the screen. There is even a zombie killing mini-game called Dawn Of The Chored. As such, leveraging the video game aspect, you will be motivated by the score you can get and if it is not high enough, you will try again until you have enough points to move on to the next lesson. While you are playing songs, the way the notes are being presented on the screen is vaguely reminiscent of games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but not much because it uses the standard method of displaying numbers associated with the strings and frets instead of just colors. Eventually, as your progress, the real names of the notes (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C) will be used.

Rocksmith is divided into several stages. At the beginning of your career there are few songs to play and few exercises to perform, but you soon after, you will move to more challenging tracks that will require some additional work. If your goal is to become as good as Jimi Hendrix or Eddy Van Halen, be advised that you will have to work very hard (let me say that again: VERY HARD) to get there. Of course, Rocksmith is a great tool to get the job done, but it will not happen in a blink of an eye, as the lessons offered in Rocksmith require plenty of practice. First, you’ll start with simple segments to master, drawn from the popular track (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones. You will learn the basic techniques for playing that song and some other easy ones as well. At the end of a year (in-game time, not a real year), you will be asked to play before a virtual audience that will react according to your performance. Make some mistakes and the virtual tomatoes will start flying (not literally). As you progress through the lessons, you will unlock new guitar pedals and amplifiers, providing new sounds and new experiences. Those unlocked items also serve a dual purpose as you will be able to use them to play in free mode and show your off your new-found skills to your buddies.

As any music game fan will tell you, the included track list is paramount, and will make or break any budding IP. What Rocksmith brings to the table includes various music genres, enough to satisfy the beginners and the talented players alike. Each song has its own level of difficulty, and keep in mind that the system will always adapt to your ability to make sure it is challenging enough while not being overly difficult. The goal is to be able to play these songs without the help of the game itself. The track list is composed of 50 well-known songs from old to new, classic to contemporary. According to Ubisoft, there will be downloadable content available soon for the game as well (and some, such as Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s Freebird has already been announced). The disc includes such act as the Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, The Cure, and many more...

Final Focus

Rocksmith is a great buy, but only for those wishing to learn to play guitar while having fun. Not everybody is comfortable to follow lessons with a real instructor and for that, Rocksmith can at least provide an alternative. The price of the software, at $80, is still by far less expensive than an intensive private guitar lesson. If you consider buying this, you must understand that it is more educational than a entertainment. You will have to take it seriously and follow the instructions to improve your skill set; otherwise it will not work at all for you. Also, those folks who were very good at Guitar Hero and Rock Band can use that knowledge to their advantage, allowing them to absorb some of the basics faster than others. Considering the fact that Rocksmith can transform your TV or home theater into a powerful guitar amplifier with distortion, tremolo and reverb, it is an inexpensive way to equip the amateur shredder. The only problem I I found is that many of you may see this as a game, and really, it isn’t even close. This is a strong piece of learning software under the guise of a game. As long as you understand that, you should be good to go.


+ Very efficient method to learn to play the guitar + Learning while having fun + Great Epiphone Les Paul Jr guitar included in the complete bundle ($200) + Overall very good conception + Adaptive system is spot on
- $80 can be a bit expensive to some - Need a second USB adapter (not included) to play with a friend ($29.99) - Does not support online play (specifically for the free mode) - More educational than fun, which may be a bit misleading

Final rating
8.5 / 10
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Game details
Release date : 2011-10-21
Platform :
Publisher : Ubisoft
Developer : Ubisoft San Francisco
Gameplay : Music,Tempo, Dance

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