The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Rocksmith teaches you to play guitar, and it lets you use any guitar
with a pickup to do it. The game is an impressive feat in music
education wrapped up in the trappings of a game. While several other
franchises will give you a more enjoyable party game, more robust
unlockables, and flashier graphics, no other video game title offers
such an impressive suite of tools to get you playing an
honest-to-goodness musical instrument.
The technology on display
is remarkable. Plug your own guitar into the game console using a cord
that comes with the game. Start playing. It’s as simple as that. A
simple-to-use in-game tuner helps you keep things sounding right. Songs
automatically adjust the output sound to match the tone of the original
guitar part, and you hear the notes you play as part of the music.
There’s even an amp mode in which you can unlock your own effects to
play freely to your heart’s content.
Rocksmith’s learning system
is squarely targeted at novices, introducing the fundamentals of finger
placement and chords while slowly layering in more targeted tricks like
palm muting and harmonics. At any time, the game will recommend one of
several new tasks you should try next, but you’re free to branch out and
play whatever you like. Technique exercises are prefaced by concise
videos describing the task, and the subsequent practice sessions always
nail home a focused lesson. For variety, there are also some cute
unlockable arcade-style minigames.
The core experience of playing
is built around playing songs through an intuitive tab-style interface.
Song rehearsals start you out at the bare minimum, often playing a
single note every few seconds. That’s where the interactive element
kicks in – dynamic difficulty alters the song as you play, adding in new
notes and chords as you master previous ones until you’re playing the
That same dynamic difficulty will prove
frustrating for more experienced players, since there’s no way to
manually boost the challenge. I also can’t praise the bare-bones
presentation, with its boring UI and constant loading. Finally, for
those with HDTVs, the specter of music game audio latency continues to
rear its ugly head.
Those caveats aside, Rocksmith surprised me
with its depth and usability. The eclectic song catalog stretches from
The Rolling Stones and Nirvana to Radiohead and The Pixies, and on
through Sigur Rós and Muse – around 50 songs in all. Plus, there’s so
much to explore; many songs even have multiple arrangements to learn,
representing different lead and rhythm parts.
Is Rocksmith always a
thrill a minute? No. However, few recent games offer so novel an
experience as playing a guitar part, and hearing the notes you play flow
out of your TV as part of a great rock song. It’s the added incentive a
lot of potential musicians might need to put in the time it takes to
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.