Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A music rhythm game that can handle ANY real guitar (or bass)? Surely not? But it's true!, 4 Nov 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Rocksmith - includes Real Tone Cable (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
Rocksmith is the latest incarnation of the music rhythm genre. Although Rock Band 3 added Pro modes (including Guitar and Bass) to songs, that game required either a specific guitar (a specially-designed Fender Squier Stratocaster, which is a real guitar with electronics under the fretboard to read finger movements etc, which at the time of writing is incredibly hard to get hold of as it was such a sought-after bit of kit for fans of the game) or a plastic Fender Mustang Pro Guitar controller that had lots of buttons simulating the fretted strings. Rocksmith, by contrast, allows you to plug in pretty much any guitar that can be plugged into an amplifier, and the game comes with a RealTone cable to connect either a guitar or a bass guitar to your console.

Each time you begin a song or an event you are taken to a tuner, where you can check the tuning of each string, and the Precision Tuner automatically activates if the game detects a string being out of tune. The game also highlights which tuning peg to turn.

When you play a song you get a graphic representation of a section of the guitar neck, with the strings colour-coded. Receding into the distance from this is a highway with numbers representing the key frets as marked on most guitars (the game also comes with numbered stickers that you can stick on the side of the guitar neck if you feel that you need these), and, as in previous games in the genre such as Guitar Hero and Rock Band, notes come towards you and you play them as they reach the strike-bar (which in Rocksmith's case is the on-screen guitar neck, and you strike when the note reaches its corresponding coloured string on this neck representation). When you get a note to play you need to notice both its colour (to determine which string you will need to play) and which fret it is above (so that you know where to place your fretting finger). If you are asked to play an open string then it will simply be a horizontal line of the colour of the string. Chords are shown in their entirety in boxes with colour-coded notes marking finger positions and horizontal lines marking open strings, and the game even tells you what chord you are being asked to play.

Initially you will just get ordinary notes, and these are usually comparatively sparse. Rocksmith automatically checks how well you are doing, and adds more notes and special guitar techniques to song sections as you become more proficient, while taking them away if you are really struggling.

There are tutorials and challenges for many of the commonest guitar techniques (slides, bends, palm-mutes, double-stops, chords, barre chords, natural harmonics etc), and if that's not enough, there are even some mini-games in the Guitarcade that you can play to brush up on many of these techniques!

There are about 50 songs on the disc, and more songs are becoming increasingly available as downloadable content. Individual songs cost 240MP/$3 (about 2), and there are some multi-song packs available. Some people have complained about the price of individual DLC songs compared to Rock Band (where most tend to cost 160MP) but they probably forgot that, save for some rare occasions, Harmonix tended to request an 80MP surcharge for anyone wanting a Pro Guitar/Bass upgrade, thus taking the total of that song to the same 240MP that you get charged here. Also, it is worth adding that, when you buy a DLC song in Rocksmith there is usually more than just one arrangement (some, for instance, contain a single-note arrangement as well as chord arrangements or combo arrangements - sometimes this can be seen as the equivalent of having a rhythm guitar part as well as a separate charted arrangement containing single-note phrases and/or solos, which I imagine would be a real blast if you were playing alongside another person. Luckily it is possible to buy a RealTone cable separately, and Rocksmith supports simultaneous two-player on the same console).

Is this game as good as getting tuition from a genuine guitar teacher? Probably not, as there are some techniques that this game does not support (such as pinch harmonics, the squealing notes you often hear in rock solos, but then these are quite advanced anyway). What it arguably does do, however, is make the learning process more fun, which could be a particular godsend for kids who might get bored quickly learning fretting and scales the traditional way.

By and large, what Rocksmith does, it does well. I do have some quibbles with the game, however.

The most notable quibble I have is with the calibration. Although you can adjust video lag in the game, this does not support negative numbers, unlike Rock Band 3, so at the lowest setting it is still not QUITE synchronised. While you can overcome this, as explained in included documentation, by using analogue cables and connecting headphones or external speakers, really you should not have to do this just to play one game in perfect sync.

Another is the default setting of the on-screen strings. For some reason Ubisoft have opted for this to be where the lowest string is at the top and the highest at the bottom. Given that Rocksmith seems to be largely aimed at beginners, this seems a strange default setting, considering that this is not the order that you see the strings when you look down on the guitar, and it is certainly not the order you see strings when you look at traditional TAB, so why make this the default setting and potentially cause confusion? Luckily there is an option to invert this, but I would imagine many guitarists saying that having the bottom string at the bottom would better prepare beginners in particular for what they would see in TAB, and that this variation should have been the default.

While having the different-coloured strings and notes is an interesting idea, I'm not sure that it works all that well. I've had Rocksmith for about a month and still struggle to associate the colour to a particular string quickly enough. This is certainly not as clear-cut as the Pro Guitar and Pro Bass modes in Rock Band 3, where there is no doubt as to which string you should be playing, and this can be ascertained much more quickly by comparison. There is also a problem that the angle that you view the visible section of the highway is not always ideal, which, due to notes appearing at differing heights depending on which string they are on, can sometimes make them look like they are on a different fret to the one that they are actually on; personally I would have preferred a more centralised view of the section where the game is telling you to placed your fretting hand.

Another niggle is that, when you first play the game and select Guitar, you are also asked whether the headstock has tuning pegs on both sides of it or just one side (mine has them on just one side). For my first-ever session with the game, it stored the one-side information, but on second and subsequent sessions it just changed to the both-sides variation, and I cannot seem to find a menu option to change it back to the one-side that I originally selected.

Some of the charting in certain songs seem suss to me. I have come across some songs where bits seem to be charted in a more complicated way than is really necessary, and I do question the authenticity of these bits compared to what the original player played. (It's worth mentioning that the game seems to detect correctness of notes based on pitch, rather than that you are necessarily playing that note exactly as instructed on-screen, so the game probably won't punish you if you play a sequence that contains notes of the same pitch but fret in a different way that you yourself might find less awkward!)

Also, while the cable reads the notes you are playing quite well, there have been times where, as notable examples, I had palm-muted a note or effected a natural harmonic that sounded OK but the game claimed that I had not successfully done the technique even though I had clearly played the note on time. Bearing in mind that the game removes notes from sections when you significantly struggle (or, in this case, thinks you're significantly struggling), this can be terribly frustrating that sections of songs are being downgraded due to it saying you're not playing things correctly when you actually are. I have also had the occasions where the game thought I had fretted a note that was nowhere near where I actually had fretted (a quirk that became apparent when I tried the Ducks and Super Ducks games in the Guitarcade, where you have to match the fret with the one the duck appears in on-screen). I don't know whether this is down to string noise, but this misreading can also lead to frustrating downgrading of song sections.

All in all, though, Rocksmith is a bold step in the music rhythm genre, and is still fun to play despite the aforementioned annoyances. While more experienced players will probably not get much more out of the game bar a bit of added fun factor, beginners should revel in its innovative way of nurturing them on a fairly challenging instrument!

It is worth pointing out that a complaint I saw in a damning review of Rocksmith claims that the game babies you through even the simplest of songs. I found in the menu options linking to practice sessions of each song allowed you to manually increase or decrease the difficulty setting of a particular song section, which potentially overcomes this problem (the game does not come with a printed manual, so it is probably small wonder that that reviewer was unaware of this option).

I've not yet tried the Bass Guitar option in this, but if the Guitar option is anything to go by, then I would believe that a similar quality would persist in that mode.
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