Review: Rocksmith - PS3 and Xbox 360 versions tested
Great to see that this game has finally got a UK release – a year after it was released in America. I was so impatient to play this game that I actually imported a PS3 copy (no region protection) and reviewed it as an import game.
The PS3 review:
First of all – calling it a game may be a bit of a misnomer. It is a videogame, sure, but it is also a piece of software designed to teach players how to play rock guitar. And it’s different to games such as Rock Band, Guitar Hero etc – there are many little plastic replica guitars on sale for these games, all with brightly coloured buttons and so forth – they feel like toys.
No, the difference is that Rocksmith comes with a cable that allows you to connect a REAL electric guitar to your PS3 or Xbox.
That’s any type of electric guitar – the cable that comes with the game has a 6.3mm jack at one end and a USB plug at the other – so for us failed former guitarists / videogamers, this is the perfect reason to dust off the old axe and try to pick it up again.
The game is played by watching a kind of floating, ethereal fretboard. The strings are shown top to bottom and are marked by colour (this can be flipped upside down to look like guitar tablature if wished). The playing area scolls left and right as necessary – with numbers shown above some frets as well as the traditional fret spots, to help orientate where your fretting hand should be.
The notes you need to play come floating towards you – some are played normally, some need to be muted, some need to be string bends, just like any real piece of guitar music. The game features dynamic difficulty – it starts you off easy, just playing a few of the notes from the song, but get this right and you will soon have to play more and more notes, chords and so on until you are playing virtually the whole guitar part.
It immediately revealed a lot of bad habits – I was trying to do everything with my middle finger, I had difficulty remembering which fret was which, I was slow – generally rusty all round.
But I’ve been rapidly improving. All the old chords have come back to me pretty quickly and the game has taught me many more that I didn’t know. It is currently starting to teach me techniques that I hadn’t got round to learning before, such as drop-D tuning power chords, hammer-ons and pull-offs, proper use of barre chords, etc etc.
A typical session will have you rehearsing three to five songs, in your own virtual lounge, before performing a whole set list live before a crowd. Play well enough and the crowd will demand an encore, unlocking a new song. Get that right and another new song will be unlocked – a double encore. In between there are plenty of mini games such as technique challenges, ranging from chords, harmonics, bends, slides and many more. There is a useful “Rocksmith Recommends” function that helps guide you along the way through all these exercises.
Between sets, there are a lot of tutorial videos showing all sorts of proper technique, fundamentals of guitar maintenance, restringing and more – all ready to be watched and revised. There is also the “Guitarcade” – full of cool mini games such as Dawn of the Chordead – play the right chords or be overrun by zombies! Or best of all – Scale Runner. This is one useful little game – scales are such an important thing to learn in rock/blues/metal. There are a large selection of technique challenges too – these are worth playing and replaying to go for bronze/silver/gold medals in each – it brings out the competitiveness and bloody-mindedness of the player and uses it to improve at something positive...
There is also AMP mode – this lets you play your guitar through your TV as if it were an amp. But thanks to modern modelling technology – as you play the game, many classic amps, effect pedals and more are unlocked for the player to use. This is a nice touch – our surround sound system is now a way nicer amp than my knackered old third-hand Marshall!
So there are real barriers to entry. You need to have a guitar firstly! But is it all worth it? Absolutely. Rocksmith may not be perfect, but right now it is my favourite game bar none. It is helping me realise a long held ambition, to improve at playing the electric guitar, all while having an absolute blast.
But how to score it? Again – this is difficult. If you have no interest in playing the guitar, or don’t have an electric guitar – then it is no use. But if playing the guitar, in particular rock guitar, is something you’ve always wanted to try or something you’ve wanted to improve on, or go back to – buy this game. It has given me the kick I needed to get back into a hobby I used to love and it’s rewarding as hell – to improve at the game while improving myself... Warts and all – it is worthwhile in a way that transcends normal gaming.
My own personal view is that it’s worth a 10. I was tempted to raise it to 11 though...
Read the previous review in full: Review: Rocksmith - Playstation 3 US IMPORT
That was my initial reaction to the game. I have continued to play it on the PS3 up until the release of the Xbox version in the UK. Since then a few things have changed with the game.
Firstly – the game now supports bass guitars. I dug out my old bass as well and have been testing this mode out. Great fun – and dare I say it, easier to play than the guitar part of the game (no offence to all you bassists out there). At a stroke, this almost doubles the playability of the game. For those gamers who don’t have a bass – the game will allow you to play the bass sections of the game just using the bottom four strings of a lead guitar – good idea.
Also, this allows for even better multiplayer action, with two player Rocksmith – one on lead guitar, one on bass guitar. This is great fun – once you have levelled up a bit and the game starts ramping up the difficulty this provides a really worthwhile challenge. You will need two “RealTone” leads though – the game only comes with one, but they are sold separately for around £20. Worth it.
Criticisms after playing if for 7 months? It would be nice to have some form of online multiplayer – at the moment it is local only. Providing online multiplayer would also negate the need to have two cables. But the most divisive aspect of this game is the Dynamic Difficulty.
The game will let you play every song at the best level you played it before by default, but mess up a few notes and it instantly drops the difficulty. It can be really depressing seeing some of the more complicated chords/notes/riffs be removed from a song because of this. You then have to play well for a little while before the difficulty ramps back up.
When rehearsing – you can set the difficulty to exactly has hard or easy as you like. This was vital for me to learn some of the really intricate tunes like Plug-In Baby by Muse. But having spent ages learning that solo part from the song – whenever I play it in the normal game mode, it never requires me to play the whole thing – I have to level up a bit more until I master each song. Mastery then removes all of the notes and you have to play from memory alone – I’ve unlocked that on a few of the songs, now that is really tough…
So having some form of manual difficulty setting would be nice too. But this and the lack of online multiplayer are hardly deal-breakers. The addictiveness of this game has not gone away and I’ll still be playing it for many months, until hopefully a sequel comes out.
My standard of guitar playing has definitely improved greatly due to this game and not only has it encouraged me to bring my guitar and bass back to life, it has also encouraged me to start playing again with my old band – a project a friend and I had given up on a long while ago. This game is going to make some changes to people’s lives…
As I said above – my personal view is it’s worth a 10 and now the bass guitar support is live I really do feel tempted to crank it up to 11…
Rocksmith is out now for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Release date October 16th for PC.