Just when you though the music game craze was over and done with, Ubisoft is back with the first and only game that lets you plug in any real guitar.
If you’re ready to hang up your plastic peripherals in music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, you’ll have a blast rocking out with Ubisoft’s Rocksmith.
While the game might be a bit intimidating for non-musicians, Rocksmith is worth the price of admission for its engaging gameplay, great music and perhaps most importantly, real-world applications, as you can really learn how to play guitar in a fun and interactive manner.
If you already own a six-string, Rocksmith costs $79.99 for the game and a “patch cord” converter cable that has a quarter-inch jack on one end (to plug into your guitar) and a USB connection on the other end (to plug into a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or Windows PC). If you don’t already own an electric guitar you might opt for the $199.99 bundle, which includes a Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Junior guitar, as well as the game and cable. The Epiphone is an “entry level” guitar, my musician friends tell me, but two bandmates who came over to play said they were impressed with the quality of the guitar after holding and strumming it.
Similar to previous music games, you’re tasked with jamming along to popular rock songs from today and yesterday. But instead of pressing buttons on a plastic peripheral with large colourful buttons that trigger samples, you’re really playing notes or chords to rack up points. Think of your television as a guitar amplifier as what you play can be heard through the speakers. The game offers some helpful tools to get started, such as an easy-to-follow string tuner and a way to adjust guitar latency (the lag between hitting the strings and hearing the sound). There is no paper manual in the box, but the in-game tutorials will help newbies nicely.
The game includes more than 50 rock songs on the disc, including The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel,” Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” Nirvana’s “In Bloom” and The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump,” to name a few — many of which need to be unlocked by performing well. Each of these tunes feature the real lead, rhythm and combo guitar licks, but Rocksmith automatically adjusts to your skill level; the game gets easier if you’re having trouble (slowing down and switching to single notes instead of chords) or it will get more difficult if you’re breezing through the tracks and racking up a lot of points.
While not tested for the purposes of this review, the game includes a split-screen multiplayer option to play with friends or family. There’s also a variety of in-game effects or “pedals” to tweak the sound – such as distortion or reverb – and you can unlock and play various mini-games to hone your skills, such as racing, action and puzzle diversions.
Visually speaking, the game isn’t too impressive – the dark environments and lackluster audience aren’t much to look at – but this is more acceptable for a music-focused game. Plus, there’s no support for other instruments (drums, bass, vocals, synthesizer, etc.), so those expecting a complete Rock Band-like experience might be disappointed.
So, who is it for, exactly? I’d argue the game is ideal for those who’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar — and likes rock music — but it’s also a “game,” too, therefore fans of Rock Band and Guitar Hero who want a deeper and more challenging experience will also find this a sound investment. You’ll save a bundle if you already own a guitar, of course, but $200 for an electric guitar, cables and a 50-song game isn’t a bad deal either.
Also, here’s a trailer to the game: