We have all tried it: Rhythm based music games with a plastic guitar. That is now history. Ubisoft has made the real deal and now it’s time to dust off the old axe in the basement and be ready to feel like a true Jimi Hendrix.
”Anyone can play guitar and bass, whether you’re an experienced musician or have never played a guitar or bass in your life” is the daring promise on the back cover of Ubisoft’s new game Rocksmith. True or not – I, as a beginner, will put this promise to the test and for a person who has never touched a guitar, there will be some work. For starters how to plug in the guitar is very simple and Ubisoft has made a quick tutorial on how to plug your guitar to the console, and how to tune your guitar and now it’s just game on, sister!
Rock on, dudette!
As we’ve seen in both Rock Band and Guitar Hero, there’s 5 different colored dots on the fretboard and one strummer to indicate a string. Now, in Rocksmith, you have 21 places to put your fingers on the fretboard and six strings to strum. Instead of the colored dots to indicate the frets, the colors on the screen indicate the string you want to play. The fret board is shown to you with numbers and if a note is shown on fret 4 you will have to put your finger to fret 4 and strum the right string depending on the color of the note. This is easier than it sounds and my confusing moments happens when Rocksmith wants me to change strings as I have to move both hands to another string.
But Rocksmith is great at suiting the difficulty to the gamer, so it starts easily with one string and very few notes. You do not have to choose difficulty, it knows when you are ready to move up. If you nail every single note it will automatically make the game harder with more strings and more notes and if you make mistakes and don’t hit the notes correctly it will automatically go down in level leaving you with few notes and very little string changing.
This is quite nice for me as it seems every time Rocksmith wants me to change to another string I hit the wrong fret or string and the game leaves me in my safe zone with one string to concentrate on. Though it will eventually make me change strings again just to see if I have been learning since last time. As you progress in your training, the game will teach you guitar techniques like hammer-ons/pull-offs, slides, bends and 9 more presented in a challenge and the better you do this, the better you’re suited for the songs later on.
So what’s the soundtrack like?
The selections of songs has a nice variation as you’ll see old classics like The Animals, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Rolling Stones while the game also offers new songs from artists like White Denim, Red Fang and The Cribs. Every single one of these songs have to be nailed in your own pace to go from a garage concert to the big concerts where you can’t see to the end of the screaming fans. So this is another game where you have to qualify for a big concert and this is not something you can play and then leave for weeks and think you can nail it when you come back. For many music games you can just play the song and leave if you want to but for Rocksmith it actually requires that you practice to become better and if you do not progress you will not get qualified for the next concert – simple as that.
The graphics are, unfortunately, like many other games with big gatherings of people: boring, flat, multiple copied people jumping out of sync with the music and with blurred faces. I don’t know what this is supposed to look like but it’s not exactly inspiring looking at and for my personal point of view I would rather have a game with practicing only in a calm environment instead of a “concert” implemented to make me do my best and if you succeed your concert you will have to play an encore which is a whole new song you have not been playing before and this is where I fail miserably.
The arcade games is a great addition and I enjoy practicing with this, as it actually makes me want to get better to get a higher score because it’s a playful way to learn your finger moments. For beginners I can recommend one of the games named “Ducks” as you have to play only one string and then you have to shoot the ducks by hitting the right note before they fly away. Sounds easy? It is in the beginning but as the time goes by the ducks are faster and they tend to reach fret 15 and higher and then you have to count fast to shoot the ducks. When you’ve gotten more used to the guitar, try out the Dawn of the Chordead arcade game where you have to play the right chord to shoot the zombies before they reach you and, of course, you have to do this faster as time goes by – this is, for me, more stressful than useful at the moment though.
Guitar game or guitar tutor?
For a person who has never played a guitar in their life, I’ve learned a lot and yet nothing. I hit most of the notes and the game makes me feel like I know a lot of how to play guitar and nail the different techniques. Yet I have no idea what the name of the strings are, I don’t know the names of the notes I make. I just follow colored dots on the screen and I certainly don’t know how to hold a guitar right as it seems my finger joints are killing me just after 15 minutes of intense gaming.
I don’t know how to actually play these songs, I have been learning and practicing, without turning on the game and I know that guitar tabs exist but I have no idea how to convert the knowledge from Rocksmith to real life which makes me a “slave” of the game to make anything good come out of the guitar. I bet this is a great game to supply any guitar tuition but to learn how to play guitar from scratch from Rocksmith is just not possible.
Miss; You need real life guitar lessons along with playing the game if you really aim to actually learn to play the instrument.
Need; Moar songs, but this goes for all music games, doesn’t it?
This article is written by Woon.