Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Game Review: Rocksmith for XBox 360

Long time readers may remember my thoughts about Guitar Hero (and Rock Band) - a hugely enjoyable way to pretend to play the guitar, without needing to actually learn how to play.

Up to a certain point there isn't anything wrong with that.  However, once you have got to the stage where you are playing on "Expert", and have poured more hours than are healthy into it over a couple of years it should become apparent that if you had spent that time learning to play an actual guitar you would be well on the way to being a decent player.

The problem, of course, is that learning to play an instrument is pretty frustrating at first.  I've tried (over a number of years) to play the guitar and haven't got much further than playing a handful of chords.

Rocksmith is Ubisoft's answer to this problem: a game that teaches you to play for real, but keeps things fun.

This isn't a cheap game, the £50 asking price gets you the game and the USB guitar cable.  You'll need to provide your own electric guitar (although a game and guitar pack is available from some retailers).

Going back to Guitar Hero - the game had a number of selectable difficulty levels -  with the player progressing from easy songs to the harder ones as their skills improve.

Rocksmith takes a different approach by automatically adjusting the difficulty levels depending on how you play.  Play well and more notes and chords will appear, play badly and it will simplify the song for you.  Personally I find this works well and keeps things fresh.

The big difference between this and the "plastic guitar" games is that you can plug into an amplifier (or use the built in amplifier function) and play the arrangements that you have been learning.  So, for example, I can now play the main lead riff from "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by Lenny Kravitz (in fact I can play most of the lead parts).

Many songs have multiple arrangements, such as single note, chord or combo (a mix of the two).  This also gives a good incentive for repeat play.

This brings me to another important difference between this and the Guitar Hero games - the arrangements.  You play the proper guitar parts - so you don't, for example, end up playing a synthesizer part on the guitar just because the guitar wasn't playing during that part of the song (something that the later Rock Band games was especially guilty of).  This means that if you are playing lead, and there isn't anything happening then you need to wait.

As a teaching tool this is worth it's weight in gold, and as a game it is pretty good fun.

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