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Rocksmith 360 Review - -
Reviewed by
Edwin Millheim
Rocksmith 360 Review. Rocksmith has set the next standard in music gaming, it’s hard to envision bothering with fake push button guitars ever again really.

Gameplay 9.5
Graphics 10
Sound 10
Value 10
Distributor: UbiSoft
Review Date:
Mar 2012
Edwin Millheim


Available on:  PC, PS3 & Xbox 360 [tested]

Ubisoft is aiming to set the gaming world on its collective ears, in this case their musical ears with the first game that uses real guitars. Now the statement about the first game may be true to an extent, as some may recall Rockband 3 had a pro guitar mode, though with some limitations….for that one it had to be a special guitar that supported MIDI.


The Rock Gods mumbled and where placated for a time, but something was missing, the Rock Gods wanted their people to rock…

Now here comes Rocksmith from Ubisoft, throwing off the shackles of limitations and banishing the plastic buttoned guitars as the false offerings they are. Ubisoft designed Rocksmith to work with most any electric style guitar you may have handy. I say most any guitar because if you are going with an electric acoustic you will need a pickup for the game to really hear the guitar well. The game ships with a Real Tone USB cable which lets users plug a real electric guitar into a PS3, Xbox 360 or the Windows PC version which is scheduled for some time later in 2012. The electric guitar you use must have a 6.35mm (1/4” Jack) to play the game. Or if you’re lucky to still find them, the game has a bundle that comes with a sweet Epiphone Les Paul Junior Guitar. Get ready for the Rocksmith journey, for those about to rock, we salute you.

I myself looked at several options for my first electric guitar, since I was not only getting it to play the game. If it is your first electric guitar there are some basic things you want to consider. First the pickups on the guitar, these give you several options and tones that you can play. This is the simplified explanation of course. When the strings are played these induce a very small electric current in the magnetic pickups, which are magnets wrapped with coils of very fine wire. That current is then sent through a cable to a guitar amplifier, or in Rocksmith’s case, your gaming system. Magnetic pickups tend to pick up ambient and unwanted electromagnetic noises.

Single coil pickups tend to pick up stronger hum. Some models are more bothersome than others. Though, with some adjustments to the controls, the hum should not be a problem. Rather than a three single coil pickup configuration, I went with a two single coil pickups and something called a humbucker. A humbucker pickup reduces the unwanted humming sound. Humbuckers have two coils of opposite magnetic and electric polarity. This means that electromagnetic noise hitting both coils should cancel itself out. The two coils are wired in phase, so the signal picked up by each coil is added together. This high combined inductance of the two coils leads to the richer, "fatter" tone associated with humbucking pickups.

For my jump in to the world of Rocksmith I chose an AXL Badwater ¾ size guitar. I went with this one because it was a little compact; you may want to go with a full size guitar depending on your needs.

These models have some attitude, designed with a distressed body and antiqued hardware with EMG-designed pickups. The sound is good and clean.

One other suggestion here, while it could be fun to stand up and play, I would suggest sitting while learning for the first time, with the instrument resting on one leg.

So on I went, loaded up the review copy the folks had sent over from Ubisoft, which by the way…it is always a good sign when folks associated with a product come across as proud parents. It tells me they love what they do, and what they put into a product. Well after things loaded up, I plugged the Real tone USB cable into the guitar.

Very first impressions as the game asked a few questions to get things set up; Rocksmith right away had the trappings of a very patient tutor or guide on guitar. The game asks you about the guitar configuration you have, and much to my relief, if you are playing right or left handed. YES, we left hand players can learn to rock too. After that the game went to something called sound check, it just wanted me to make some noise and fill up a noise meter as the virtual crowd roared their approval. With pick in hand I strummed away, at this point it did not need to sound coherent; it was just looking for sound levels. I learned two things…on my own during sound check. First and this was a theme I found throughout the games offerings, you have to sometimes play over the pickup you have activated on the guitar for the game to really pick up the sound.

Second thing I learned at sound check, I could not keep the sound going long enough to fill the meter, and so I was stuck for a time in sound check mode. What to do? I went ahead and fingered the strings instead of using the pick, as a result I was able to play fast enough and load enough for the sound meter to fill up and for the game to proceed past this section.

So far so good, the whole experience is not necessarily a guitar teacher, more along the lines of a couching tool. Can you learn things about the guitar and how to play? Yes, but as with anything worthwhile, you are the vital ingredient. No program, no matter how good it’s approach; will be able to teach you anything unless you have a little dedication and put the time into it. Without any interest, a person can lose interest and not even bother. Only if the game keeps a level of interest, and in turn put the gameplay and practice in, will the player succeed. Rocksmith succeeds as being a truly awesome game, and can be used as a tool for learning guitar because of the aspect of using real guitars.

The game itself puts the player through a form of a career mode, more like a musician’s journey. A journey both in game and in reality really, because it’s a journey of learning techniques, tuning, and guitar in general. It simulates an amateur musician’s hopeful rise, from practice, to small venues and small set lists and then onto larger arenas and sets. When do you know you’re ready? The player practices and rehearses till they get a certain point and percentage score, then they are ready to move on to the show. While going on this musical journey, the game often makes suggestions as to what to practice, be it notes or chords in hopes of bringing up your actual skill level.

Bee bopping along in the game modes I was a little bummed that not all of the input seemed to register all the time. So the game would once in a while not acknowledge I did a note, even if I did. This did not take place a lot, but it was enough to make me wonder what the heck was going on. It is unknown as to if this is actually the game, or user error. Is the game that demanding that the way you do the note is exact? It may well be. And that may well be a good thing. Did I get a short blast of frustration? Yes. Did that go away almost right away when I hit certain notes or strums it asked me to do? You bet. It felt great.

Now there is also a game manual that you can get the low down about the game parts but nothing in depth. Most of the symbols and the way notes are presented and what the game wants you to do are only explained IN GAME, during a practice or technique learning section. So someone just coming into this may or may not feel that the game lay out is intuitive enough for them to know what to do. I kind of figured several things out that it wanted me to do during game play. One was even while hitting the note and the fret it wants you to hit, once in a while there would be an arrow symbol asking me to …what I was guessing, was to move up or down the fret I was on, moving a bit up on the same fret seemed to give the game what it wanted and things progressed.

As you are playing, the screen lay out from top to bottom goes like this. At the top is the Phrase Line, here in this area you will see the song’s position and the lyrics to the song. At the top right is a display for the points accumulated. Around the middle of the screen is the note way… think of this like a freeway that the notes it’s going to want you to play are coming at you towards the fret board.

Further things that I want to draw attention to, is that the game has a color system for the strings, not the actual string names of (E-B-G-D-A-E). Even for a beginner, this may take some getting used to. I would suggest on top of the games color system, that you also learn the strings actual letter designation as well.

During play the camera kind of refocuses from time to time, moving up and down the neck of the virtual guitar, focusing on the frets where the next notes are coming. The strings with an upcoming note are highlighted, and the box on the string and fret start to grow in outline, just moments before it is time to play that note the slotted outlined box will turn and go solid, that is the moment to play the note.

Now when you’re first starting out, you do not have to worry about a hurricane of notes bombarding you, not yet anyway. The game has what it calls a dynamic difficulty system. The game itself can tell how well or how badly you’re doing, and adjust itself to your level, you may start out just hitting one note at a time and this may progress as you are hitting more notes up and down the guitar neck successfully. Until eventually you are playing along with the song, how thrilling is that? Very.

Some parts of the games adaptive scaling to the skill of the player takes place in things like riff Repeater. It takes tougher sections of a song and slows things way down for you and starts building up the speed till it’s at the normal song speed.
Part of music’s coolness and some of our favorite songs and guitar players signature sounds comes from their amp configurations. In Rocksmith, there is an Amp screen where you can access unlocked amps and pedals or make some of your own unique sounds. The Amp Menu allows players to customize sound settings. Setting up the amplifier and effects chain in certain ways, also as the player goes through the game they will unlock Authentic Tone setups and effects, amps and cabinets. Using these together is how you, the player can make your own unique sounds as well. This is also where the controller becomes a pedal of sorts for your sounds. You can have a maximum of three unique pedals in a tone, plus an amp and cabinet. Each of these tone slots can be assigned to one of the X, Y or B buttons on the controller. Pressing any of these while playing a song will change to that tone.

All in all the game is incredible so far, it sneaks in learning about what chords and notes and frets to play and turns it into a game, making practice much more fun than it would have been. It of course does not stop there.

There are several mini games within Rocksmith. This Guitarcade, features old school style games with a guitar twist. Each game in is based on a key guitar technique, helping the player improve skills with the game challenges.

Ducks is a game that helps improve your fret board reflexes and shoot down ducks scrolling up the note way. Play the matching fret on the E string (the thickest string) based on each duck’s location. String together consecutive hits for a score multiplier!
Super Ducks is the game that really tests you; this is like Ducks but with much more. Play the matching fret and string based on each duck’s location and color. String together consecutive hits to unlock the next level. Let a duck get through, and you lose one life.

Scale Runner is the next game, in this one the player selects a scale and key, and then plays the note that is shown by the next runway. The runner speeds up as the player hits the right notes. To avoid pitfalls and falling off the platform you have to hit the next note in the scale in time.

Quick Pick Dash is the game that has the player play the highlighted open string that an ostrich is running along. But play it as fast as possible. Switching strings to jump to different tracks and collecting points to extend the countdown clock.

Big Swing Baseball as you would expect by the name has a baseball theme. Players have to play the note indicated by the fret number and the color thrown by the pitcher. Timing the swing for the most power, the pitcher can also throw curve balls which require bending the note.

Super Slider, is kind of a Tetris like game. Blocks of differing colors drop from the top of a grid, playing the indicated string at the block’s fret number and sliding up or down to move the blocks position is how it’s played. Then strumming all the strings to drop the block right away, the goal is to match colors for the most points.

Dawn of the Chorded is a game where just when you thought you could get into a game that had no reference to zombies, it sneaks it in. Playing the indicated chord activates defenses before the zombies close in and it’s all over.

Harmonically Challenged, finds the player trying to play the right harmonics to disarm a bomb. Strings and fret numbers display before the bomb initiates, playing the harmonics in the correct order renders the bomb safe.

The game hidden within a game hidden in guitar introduction trainer that rocks. That’s Rocksmith. Right out of the box, it comes with a robust song list. To keep the fans interested, the company will have to see about DLC and they in fact have been very forward thinking about DLC since the games release.

So far the franchise has some fairly aggressive Downloadable content plans; with new songs for the game coming out roughly about every two weeks so far. The DLC thus far has been a large cross section of very well known to, known bands and songs. At this time the forums for Rocksmith have an extremely lively board with DLC suggestions. Some of us at Impulse Gamer hope they will do more band specific packs, maybe some of the greats Like Styx, Hall and Oates to name just a couple. At this time there are several songs released as DLC and song packs. Make sure you do not double purchase; some song packs have some of the single song offers.

Worldwide readers will be able to rock out very soon as the game will be releasing locally in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand sometime in a few months, you can pick the game up and or pre order from Amazon, and other outlets.

Rocksmith has set the next standard in music gaming, it’s hard to envision bothering with fake push button guitars ever again really. Again, you still have to have that stick to it attitude to get anyplace here, but it’s a spectacular jump off point for beginners and a blast once you really get going.

Have fun, play games…. Rock On!
Edwin Millheim
Impulse Gamer



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