Rocksmith Review

Forget plastic axes; this guitar game is the real deal.

With the oversaturated and ailing rhythm game genre in a state of decline, it seems ill-timed to launch a new guitar-focused music franchise. But Ubisoft has pulled one out of left field with Rocksmith--a guitar game that successfully bridges the gap between musical gaming and actual rocking. It's advanced enough to give seasoned guitar players a more realistic challenge than Rock Band or Guitar Hero, yet accessible enough to teach inexperienced guitarists the ropes of rock and roll.

There are a few minor hurdles to get through before you get rocking. Rocksmith requires you to own an actual six-string electric guitar and won't work with any old plastic peripherals you have lying around. It's a great excuse to dust off the old axe if you have one, but the high cost of picking up the Epiphone bundle or a separate guitar will be prohibitive for some players. That said, wielding an honest-to-goodness instrument of rock is what makes this game so fun. Once you have the requisite guitar in hand, you plug it into your system using the included 1/4-inch adapter cable, but it takes some fiddling to get a comfortable response time between the visual and audio lag. Running the sound out via analog audio cables into a stereo offers the best performance, though there are a few different options to explore. Once you get that mess sorted out, it's time to melt faces. Well, eventually.

Rocksmith adapts your skill level on the fly.

Rocksmith's light campaign mode eases you into tunes by having you practice small groups of songs to get a feel for them before playing the more advanced versions back-to-back in concert at packed venues. It starts you off at the ground floor with simple licks, single notes, and slow pacing to get you accustomed to the basics of guitar playing and how to decipher the elaborate note runway. Each guitar string is associated with a different color, and the numbered fretboard onscreen indicates the corresponding location you're supposed to play on the guitar. The gameplay is reasonably lenient, since you can't "fail" mid-song for performing poorly. You may have to replay a tune if you don't reach a certain minimum point score by the end, but repetition is required for learning, and it's a common theme across much of Rocksmith. You're good to go as long as you hit the right notes or chords when prompted when they come down the runway. What's awesome is that you're not docked points for noodling. For folks who already have some level of guitar skill, this is one element that Rock Band and Guitar Hero sorely lacked. Even better: the game scales to your playing ability automatically. If you start nailing power chords instead of single notes, you'll level up the phrasing and soon start seeing chords coming down the screen at you. The reverse happens if you mess up too much, giving you a chance to recover if things get too busy for you. It's a very cool, dynamic system that's forgiving without gutting the challenge.

Earning rock points with each performance unlocks more venues, songs, and bonus content. As you increase your rank and playing skills, the game gradually ramps up in complexity to add in full chords, solos, and eventually, note-for-note phrasing. There's a great mix of songs, and most of the 50-plus tunes have several different versions that feature single notes, full chords, and the more advanced combo arrangements. While the track listing is geared more toward jams with familiar licks and catchy hooks than current top-40 popularity, there's a solid spread here. You'll find classic rock hits from Cream, The Rolling Stones, and Tom Petty, alongside Nirvana, The Cure, The Black Keys, and more recent groups. New tunes also introduce more advanced guitar-playing techniques, which are accompanied by detailed video explanations, practice challenges, and tutorial help. The extra level of handholding is optional, but it's there if you need the support or the additional practice. Arcade-style minigames present a really fun option for continuing to hone specific skills while taking a break from the straight-up rocking, and the way Rocksmith goes above and beyond to offer you so many different ways to learn new guitar tricks and improve your ability is impressive. Some activities are more enjoyable than others, yet there's a broad toolbox to draw from for players learning the guitar for the first time.

Every note, chord, pick scrape, or sound you make is played through the game in real time, and it's amazing how Rocksmith essentially turns your TV or stereo into an amplifier. Thankfully, there's a built-in tuner you can access from the menu, and you're prompted to check your tuning between songs. Reverb and distortion are added to your guitar's sound on a song-by-song basis too, but you also unlock different amps, effects pedals, and guitars to fiddle around with in the game's absorbing sandbox-style amp mode. Here you can customize your guitar sound with tons of different layers of tones and effects. It's easy to spend hours testing all the sounds out and free-form jamming through the TV.

Chords can get a little crazy at high speed.

For everything Rocksmith does right in terms of delivering an authentic guitar-playing experience married with enjoyable gameplay, it's still lacking in some areas. Compared to other rhythm games, the presentation is far less flashy or interesting. While that makes sense, given the focus is on playing a real guitar instead of hitting just a few colored buttons, it could have used a more upbeat, engaging way to draw you into the experience. Venues are dark, drab spots populated small seas of realistic-looking fans who are equally lacking in personality. The campaign structure itself feels pretty weak too. There are a lot of tunes to rock through and some great content to unlock, yet there's precious little about the experience that makes you feel like you're rocking out onstage or making real progress through your virtual career.

There's definitely room for improvement down the road, but Rocksmith's debut has one thing going for it above all else: it's the real deal. This ambitious guitar game delivers on its promise of intense rhythm gaming action tied to the act of actual guitar playing. It has something to offer players of all skill levels, whether you're picking up and learning the guitar for the first time or have been playing for ages. After years of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and a slew of imitators, it's refreshing to see someone finally make the big leap and succeed.

The Good
The technology works very well
Tons of learning tools for beginners
Great song selection
Difficulty scales to your ability
The Bad
Presentation and campaign are weak
Intimidating at first for newcomers
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Rocksmith

About the Author

Discussion

12 comments
Ashlek
Ashlek

I've been playing guitar for quite a long time now but never got to the next level because scale practicing and speed build up bores me to death, just got this game and I'm hooked, kudos to the people who made this, very creative, I'm having so much fun I forget I'm actually practicing, definitely recommended to newcomers who wants to rock out and don't know where to start, even advanced players will have a blast with this game.

Dazler1
Dazler1

Guitar and Bass are both included in the bundle packs you buy in the shops and you dont have to download it as a dlc its included. There is also a good selection of extra songs you can download as dlc if you wanted to add to the already massive list included when you buy it.

Dazler1
Dazler1

Wow is all i can say, Ive had a bass guitar gathering dust because my m8 said hed give me lessons which never happend. I bought this yesterday for £55 and my word is it fun and intuative, and well worth the money. You get the lead with the game or trainer if you will and just plug it in and play.

It Is really easy to use has a ton of great music to play too. When you start its easy to get into and as im a beginer i was expecting it to be difficult but i feel im playing a long like slash already! If you do well at it then it figures what level of skill your are and throws you a few more notes but dosnt matter if you miss them at first like i did. I loved guitar hero when i first got it and was the closest thing to feeling like a rock star but this blows that out of the water imo!

There are mini games you can play to practice certain skills too and info on how to try diffent techniques are very informative and easy to follow. The only thing bad i have to say about this is its bloomin addictive and my fingures are absolutely killing me and can only play for no more than 2 hours at a time and even though ive lost all the skin off my finger tips i always want to keep on playing :) BUY THIS YOU WONT REGRET IT

conquerorsaint
conquerorsaint

im looking to learning guitar and this may be the perfect push i need! i hope there's a bundled guitar at the local retailer and i dont have to break the bank though.

rezarazor
rezarazor

you pay for a game and get a great game + best effect and distortions in the market ...

SirReeL
SirReeL

i've been a bass player for years. As usual the bass isn't even mentioned. Anyone know if you can use a bass guitar? Are there bass parts to the songs?

ArticRecon
ArticRecon

Correct me if I'm wrong.. You CAN use any electric guitar..??? Just making sure b4 I go buy. Interesting to see just how much it scales. I'd say I'm an intermediate player already. Can play most of Metallica's songs.. Nothing else matters, One, lots of other bands suffs too.. May'be I'll see if I can rent

masakri50
masakri50

you got some off point gripes there fella.

NickyWithATicky
NickyWithATicky

 @SirReeL I believe there's a bass DLC being added in Autumn. I think it's a DLC for Americans - I'm British so it's being included in the full game when it eventually comes out here. You can plug in a bass guitar and play the bass parts. You can even use a guitar to emulate a bass so you don't actually need to own a bass to play bass (though I don't think that applies to you). I think there's also bass specific tutorial and practice content.

Akijo
Akijo

Yes there is, but I believe the only song with Slapping is a Red Hot Chili Peppers' song (don't remember the name) @SirReeL  @NickyWithATicky

Rocksmith More Info

  • Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • Xbox 360
    Rocksmith is the first and only game where you can plug in a real guitar.
    8.7
    Average User RatingOut of 324 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Rocksmith
    Developed by:
    Ubisoft
    Published by:
    Ubisoft
    Genres:
    Music/Rhythm
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Lyrics, Mild Cartoon Violence