Get Ready for Some Serious Axe Kicking
Back in the heyday of Guitar Hero, skeptics always seemed to have the same thing to say: “Why don’t you just play a real guitar?” Guitar Hero was fun and all, but this was actually a valid argument. I mean, why would you sink hours and hours into learning to play a plastic toy when you could actually be doing something productive? Well, Rocksmith is aiming to end this discussion once and for all.
In a new twist on the “guitar game” popularized by Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Rocksmith replaces the plastic guitar with a real guitar—knobs, strings, pickups, and everything. The game ships with an adapter that allows you to plug any guitar with a standard ¼-inch jack right into your PS3, 360, or PC. Real rock stars will be playing the game with the same axes they take on the road with them.
If you don’t have your own guitar—or if you have an acoustic guitar without a ¼-inch output—you can buy a special Rocksmith guitar. The Rocksmith guitar is an Epiphone Les Paul Junior. Though I haven’t played the official Rocksmith guitar, I’ve played several Epiphone guitars, and the quality can be sort of a mixed bag. I’m going to assume the Rocksmith guitar won’t be something you’d want to take on a tour or anything, but will hold you over until you decide to buy something more authentic.
Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never picked up a guitar in your life; Rocksmith has your back. And if you’re a guitar god already, Rocksmith also has you in mind. The game is able to detect your skill level and give you challenges based on that. If you’re a noob, Rocksmith will be gentle on you. If you can “play the guitar like a… riot,” you’ll be playing with the training wheels removed. True guitar masters will actually get to play the song note-for-note the way the pros do.
This is win/win. If you want to learn the guitar, Rocksmith will teach you. And even if you already know your way around the fretboard, you’ll have the opportunity to learn to play new songs. The game also features chord charts to help you build your skill. In fact, Rocksmith supposedly will have over 1,000 chords that you can learn. (That’s 250 times the amount you’d need to play just about any Ramones song.)
This is more than just a guitar tutorial, however. Rocksmith has a feature that allows you to tweak the sound of your guitar as well. You’ll have an impressive arsenal of digital fx pedals at your fingertips that can be mixed and matched to build your own unique sound.
There are even minigames included in this package. Many of these are designed for increasing proficiency in certain areas. If you want to increase your finger dexterity, for example, there will be a minigame that will help you work on that. Of course, there are also minigames built purely around entertainment. The official ESRB rating even claims there is a minigame that has players “hit the correct chords to shoot Gatling guns at ‘cartoony’ zombies that fall apart when hit.” As Left 4 Dead 2 has already proven, guitars and zombies can be a great combo.
Even the greatest of music games is only as strong as its track list, and Rocksmith doesn’t disappoint in this area. You’ll be jamming along to classics by Cream, The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, The Pixies, David Bowie, The Cure, The White Stripes, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Radiohead, and several more. The full song list hasn’t been revealed yet, but so far, what we have seen spans across decades of rock history.
A couple features that seem standard are missing from the mix, though. For example, you’ll need a standard guitar to play Rocksmith; there’s no bass guitar option. Also, Ubisoft wants to make it clear that this is not recording software. It has many features which would make it useful for that sort of thing, yet you definitely won’t be multi-tracking or doing anything advanced like that.
Rocksmith is in an interesting position. This could be the game to breathe new life into the “guitar game.” However, if it fails to catch on, it’s quite possible the genre won’t be around for much longer. Is this the dawn of the guitar game revival, or is it something we’ll be waxing nostalgic over when we see it show up in a segment on I Love the 2000s ? I guess we’ll find out when the game launches in October.