Review: Rocksmith (360)

Review: Rocksmith (360)

Until you become a fantastic guitar player in your own right, don’t expect to 100% anything in Rocksmith. Why? Because Rocksmith is the ultimate troll. What’s that, Player 1? You’re so close to mastering the chords of Plug In Baby? Well, I think that calls for a celebration! And by celebration, I mean I’M GOING TO INCREASE THE DIFFICULTY SO THAT YOU WILL ALWAYS BE JUST ALMOST GOOD ENOUGH! What, you mad bro? Too hard? Fair enough, let me lower the difficulty for you just a little…come on, it’s safe…I’m here to help after all. See? You’re progressing really well, OH LOOK AT THAT I’M HARD AGAIN, FOOL!

Welcome to Rocksmith, the most entertaining way to learn how to play certain songs on guitar, that I know of.

Allow me to clarify. Rocksmith is not Guitar Hero, and it is not Rock Band. The closest it comes to those two games is that it allows two guitars to be plugged in at once, and it allows a microphone for singing along to the songs. Aside from that, it is not a party game, and it is not meant to be. Rocksmith is meant to be an entertaining, interactive way of learning how to play guitar. When taken in a very literal context, you do learn how to play a guitar if you spend enough time on Rocksmith. When taken in a more general context, the problem is that you will learn to play a guitar, but only for the songs that are included with Rocksmith. You do not learn how to read guitar tablature, so you will not have an easy time of applying the chords and techniques you learned to other songs. This is the beginning of Rocksmith’s only problem: it teaches song memorization, not guitar understanding.

That being said, the education you will receive from Rocksmith will provide you with a solid foundation for continued learning. As of right now, that additional learning is not something that Rocksmith provides, but going into guitar lessons with the techniques and skills that you learn from the game will definitely make your path easier and shorter. There is a list of technique challenges that are graded bronze, silver, or gold depending on your performance. Here you learn various playing skills that will help you actually perform full songs successfully. The Guitarcade contains various mini-games that teach you basic techniques and skills as well, from using tremolo to get your space ostrich to keep running down its technicolor 8-bit track, to matching and playing zombie-spawning chords in order to unleash turret-gun-hell upon them, and a fantastic Duck Hunt rip-off that improves your fret recognition so that you can switch frets more easily and quickly without looking. The chord library lets you look at the chords for each song and learn them one by one, at your own pace and in your own time. While a list of chords, independent of songs would be a great way to just go through and learn chords specifically, the chord library is still a wonderful tool. I love the electronic tuner, but it doesn’t teach you how to tune without one unless you learn to tune every string accurately by ear. In a simple Google search, I found a method for tuning by ear that would have been a great addition to a game dedicated to teaching you how to play guitar.

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The best, and simultaneously most frustrating feature of Rocksmith, however, is the dynamic difficulty mentioned in the opening paragraph. Rocksmith will always challenge you as a player. You start off on an amateur level, and as you keep playing, Rocksmith judges your skills and abilities, and adjusts the game’s difficulty accordingly, keeping perfection out of your reach, but dangling it so close that you can’t help but continue reaching for it. While this can be frustrating for a game, it is essential for a learning tool. The intuitive path that Rocksmith guides you on changes as your skills improve. Rocksmith provides you with a learning path that it determines, starting you off with a couple of songs to gauge your ability before creating a customized series of events, challenges, and mini-games to bring your talent along smoothly.

Does Rocksmith teach you how to play guitar? Yes and no. It teaches you how to literally play a guitar, and it does help you memorize a handful of songs. It does not, however, teach you how to independently tune your guitar, or play music that is not drilled into your brain by the game itself. With the skills you do learn in Rocksmith, however, you would be tantalizingly close to being able to independently play anything you wanted, with just a little bit of an education in tuning and reading tablature. At $79.99 for the game with the plug-in cord, or $199.99 for the game, plug-in cord, and a guitar, you’ll learn a lot of technique and skill for a lot less than guitar lessons, and at a pace that is your own. If you’re looking for a party game, this isn’t the game you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a way to build a solid foundation of guitar skills to lead you into really understanding how to shred an axe, this is practically a steal.


Scaling difficulty based on your performance and skill
Technique challenges, Guitarcade, and chord library for independent learning
Good song selection
Narrator volume is not equalized properly to game volume
Doesn't teach understanding, only teaches songs
Doesn't teach how to read music, in case you want to play on your own to new songs
80 out of 100

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