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Customer Review

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely in a league of its own..., 8 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Rocksmith - includes Real Tone Cable (PS3) (Video Game)
The rhythm guitar genre of video games was a peculiar thing really. It sprung up very quickly, spawned some interesting and innovative ideas, spreading quickly to drums, keyboard and even DJ desks... before disappearing almost entirely. Fortunately, before the genre passed away, it produced something totally unexpected and downright marvellous. (Wow, can't remember ever using the word marvellous before...!)

The concept is simple; buy the game, along with any real-life guitar that has a 1/4 inch socket, and you've got your own guitar tutor. The game uses extremely high-quality tone detection to work out which string you're playing at any one time (rather than Rock Band's high-end equivalent, which required a specially made guitar featuring built-in touch pads inside the guitars neck). The game screen shows the neck of the guitar, horizontally along the bottom of the screen, focusing on the frets that you currently need to be thinking about. Each string on the guitar is linked with a particular colour, allowing you to easily detect which string each note should be played on. Different types of notes (including bends, hammer-ons and pull-offs, palm mutes etc.) and chords have specific notation which allow you to quickly identify how you should be playing.

And here comes the amazing thing about Rocksmith: At its most very basic level, it is NOT a game. Sure, you're constantly trying to get high scores to progress through the campaign, but from what I've experienced, the most basic driving force to push you through the game is actually the way you are improving in your guitar playing skills. I started to learn to play the guitar about four years ago, and so came to Rocksmith with a distinct familiarity. But the game caters for players of all abilities. And when I say that, I'm certainly not joking.

Each song features a dynamic difficulty level. After checking/tuning your guitar, you start out playing just one or two notes occasionally, but as you progress through the song, it starts to throw more notes in. And when you've mastered those notes in any repeated phrase, it adds more, until you're eventually playing the whole song. It's a fantastic way to encourage you to keep learning, stopping you from trying to run straight into that particular riff or section that is notoriously complex, and instead letting you pick it up at your own pace. You earn points for how well you play the song (although of course, when you start out you won't be playing all the notes, so you physically can't get the high score. This is only a slight annoyance). When you beat 70,000 points on a song, you unlock the relevant pedals etc. to recreate the sound yourself in amp mode (more on this later!). At 100,000 points, you unlock Master Mode for that song, which requires you to play the song without the note charts.

The game also includes a set of tutorials. These aren't compulsory, so if you already known how to perform a palm-muted note, you don't have to be patronised by the voice explaining in excruciating detail exactly what you should do, then forcing you to play a short riff based around the technique. On the other hand, these tutorials serve as a perfect way to learn the techniques if you've never even heard of them before. There are also specific tutorials for each song, which includes riff-repeaters (which allow you to play a certain section over and over again until you've mastered it).

In addition, you have the option to play a range of mini-games, which utilise the excellent tone-detection technology to allow you to play a set of arcade-style games, based around the different techniques involved in playing the guitar. One of these sees you playing notes on the correct frets to shoot ducks. Another is a slide-based puzzle (like an amalgamation of Tetris and Bejeweled) that utilises the slide technique. My personal favourite is Scale Runner, which requires you to play the scale you select fast enough so as to basically construct a bridge to allow your character to keep running. Its nothing too exciting, but when you stop for a moment, and realise that you're playing a game on a guitar, it seriously makes you smile.

Anyway, back to the actual game. Each 'level' (similar to the short, 4 or 5 long setlists that Rock Band and Guitar Hero games were broken up into originally) features several songs. You must first 'practise' each of them, and achieve a high enough score, before heading to the stage and performing each song in a row, followed by either one or two encores, assuming you've played well enough. The really big twist here though, is that you can actually CHOOSE which songs to play. The game suggests a certain combination of tracks from the games impressive setlist, but you have the option to change any of them, or even add extra ones if you so wish, in order to improve your score for that performance. Its little things like this that really set Rocksmith apart from the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band.

As well as a Quick Play mode, which allows you to select any song, and choose which part you wish to play (chords, single notes, or a combination of the two), you are also treated to the aforementioned 'Amp Mode', which basically turns your games console into a fully functional amp, allowing you to select different effects or choose from a set of predetermined sounds and simply play what you want. You also get the chance to play during loading screens, although very often this leads to frustration, as you get cut off without warning. And this is something else that sets Rocksmith apart from its brethren, and stops me from referring to it as a game: I ACTUALLY THINK THE LOADING SCREENS ARE TOO QUICK! How crazy is THAT?

Whether you're new to playing the guitar, or you've been playing for years, Rocksmith is a great investment. For your money, you're getting so much more than "just another rhythm game"; you're getting probably the most sophisticated digital guitar tutorship possible, and it truly is a treat! Rocksmith is highly addictive, because you're never having to compete against other people. You're not even competing against a high score system. In fact, the only thing you're competing against is yourself, and that is a great motivation to work for hours on a particular song until you've mastered it.

Summary:
More than just a game. The natural progression of the rhythm-game market, and certainly the best thing to come out of the genre since its creation, all those years ago. No more need for cheap, plastic guitars. And the best bit is, once you've mastered a song, you can unplug your guitar from your console, plug it into an amp and actually PLAY!
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