When Ubisoft first announced Rocksmith, it sounded like a novel idea but one met with hesitant enthusiasm. The gist of the title is that it aims to teach gamers how to play the guitar, and allows for the connection of an electric guitar to the Xbox 360, PS3 or PC via the included ¼”-to-USB Real Tone Cable adapter.
Sounds like a cool premise, but can it actually work?
After going hands-on with Rocksmith last week in San Francisco, the answer is, yes.
The publisher has been for the most part coy about talking up the game. In fact, that’s done on purpose as Ubisoft has instead allowed gamers to actually play it and let them decide for themselves if they can actually learn about guitar playing.
Having never played a guitar before, let alone an electrical one, I stepped in nervously at the likelihood that I would make a complete fool out of myself. Luckily, Rocksmith leads you in slowly (though experienced guitarists can jump right into more difficult areas) and while it looks pretty daunting at first, allows for progress at difference paces.
First up in my demo was a simple mini-game called Ducks that served to show me how to hit individual cords while learning about hand placement. Ducks would show up on screen and make their way to the bottom, while it was up to me to hit an individual cord to shoot them down. The ducks would appear on various areas of the screen, which would correspond to the numbered areas of the guitar’s position market on the fret board. Needless to say, I didn’t fare too well, but after two more attempts, I found my scores increasing. It’s a cool way to introduce someone to a guitar, making it more about playing a game than learning an instrument.
My next demo had me playing the Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”. This was a bit more difficult than the mini-game but it gave me the chance to play through an actual song. Over the course of 4 playthroughs, my score kept increasing and I became a bit more comfortable with the guitar. What is most interesting and cool about the game is that it changes difficulty on the fly, depending on how well you’re doing in any given section of a song. After one particular playthrough, I noticed that the next time I played the song; some of the sections of the song suddenly became a bit more challenging, which was due to my decent performance at those parts on the previous attempt. During a song, gamers will see meters that run through the entire song. Those meters fill up depending on how well you’re doing in each section and the more they fill up, the harder it gets, but also means you’re playing more of the actual song – the experience will be different for each gamer.
There is also a freestyle mode that lets gamers swap out amps, effects and even pedals, which essentially turns the game, and surround system into its own virtual amp – a fantastic addition to the game , especially when considering that getting the real deal can cost quite a bit.
The game feature split screen multiplayer and a career mode that lets you play in various venues which also unlocks new songs, amps etc. Multiplayer is not about competition however, but rather working as a unit to learn different parts of a song, with one player able to take lead g guitar while the other does bass.
As for the music, Rocksmith is set to come with 50 songs, some of which were revealed last week including “In Bloom” (Nirvana), “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (The Rolling Stones), “Vasoline” (Stone Temple Pilots), “Outshined” (Sound Garden), “Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd), “Rebel Rebel” (David Bowe), “Boys Don’t Cry” (The Cure) and more. Ubisoft also confirmed that DLC is most definitely in the works.
I came away after playing the full demo feeling like I was actually learning how to play the guitar. There’s a certain level of satisfaction from feeling that you’re achieving something little by little. Rocksmith is the type of “game” that truly must be experienced in order to “get” what it’s about.
The game is currently set to be available on October 18, both as a standalone title with the cable and as a bundle with an Epiphone Les Paul Junior guitar.
We’ll have a full review of the game upon its release.