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Rocksmith PS3 Review - -
Reviewed by
Jamie Kirk
Rocksmith PS3 Review. What is truly intuitive about Rocksmith is the fact that it works, let alone the fact that it works so well. Once the guitar is plugged in the learning begins, and there is a lot on offer in Rocksmith.

Gameplay 9.0
Graphics 7.0
Sound 9.0
Value 10
Distributor: Ubisoft
Jamie Kirk
Review Date:
Oct 2012



Rocksmith is what many have been waiting for since Guitar Hero exploded on to the scene a few years ago. Yes, it was great to grab a plastic guitar and jam with friends, but in the back of everyone’s mind the thought lingered – “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I could do this with a real guitar?”. Well Ubisoft has made that thought a reality, and created a marvelous learning tool along with it. 

Setting up is simple, the cord provided connects any electric guitar in to the PS3 and from there the game just needs to be booted up. Once started, a soothing voice will guide you through the first steps. The game lets you choose between guitar and bass, checks which hand you strum with, and even helps tune the guitar.  Once the guitar is calibrated it is straight on to the songs. Mercifully, unlike Guitar Hero, all the songs listed are available to play straight away if preferred. If you choose to go with the games career mode, Rocksmith will gradually introduce new songs. Once they are mastered an opportunity to perform in front of an audience presents itself. If the guitar is played well enough, there is a chance to do an encore with an entirely new song. Once you have progressed you move on to the next songs, gradually drawing bigger crowds and nicer venues. There isn’t a spectacular amount of meat to the career mode, but this doesn’t matter in the slightest, as the actual gameplay is robust and full of options. 

Rocksmith’s presentation is fairly similar to Guitar Hero’s, just a little more complex because of the increased interactivity. A guitar neck is displayed and notes travel down it on certain areas of the fret board. Once the note hits the end you have to play it. The strings are colour coded to diminish confusion. It will take a few turns to get used to, as not all the frets are numbered and the colours need to be memorized, but the system works, and it works well.  The presentation isn’t as cartoonish or extravagant as the other rhythm games available, but this is probably for the best, as you will need to concentrate when playing. The songs work on a sliding difficulty scale, and are geared at amateurs. When first playing, the game will only present you with a few notes to play at a time to get used to the song. As you get better at the song, Rocksmith recognizes this and begins to throw in more challenges. The great thing about this is that you genuinely see yourself getting better the more you play. After a few rounds of ‘Slow Hands’ by Interpol, Rocksmith was throwing more challenges at me and I was starting to respond, my hand was moving up the fret board of my guitar easier, and I was having little to no trouble moving between the strings.  It may be frustrating for seasoned players as the difficulty can not be manually adjusted, but as a way of teaching beginners its approach is very user friendly. 

Once outside the career mode there is an even deeper wealth of options available to help you learn. The songs have different arrangements based on the way you want to tackle them. The single string mode focuses on plucking notes, the chord mode will focus solely on chords, and the combo mode will fuse the two together until you can play the song the way it was meant to be played. In addition to this there are various ways to learn the songs within these choices. Feel like practicing one specific part of a song that you really like? Then go into the Riff Repeater. Here you can isolate that one part of the song, and gradually build yourself up until you have mastered it.  There are three different methods for this, the first will freeze every time the wrong note is plucked, waiting for you to find the correct note before moving on. The second will start the song very slow, and gradually build up speed as you hit the correct notes. The last will start with the most basic arrangement of the riff, and every time you complete it successfully it will level you up, and add difficulty. If you fail, you get to try again. If you continue to succeed you will eventually hit 100%, being able to play the whole riff at full speed. It is a clever way of breaking down songs in to manageable segments and making even the most complicated of guitar riffs seem achievable. 

In addition to the songs, there are a variety of mini games and technique challenges to be unlocked during the course of the game. The mini games play like old school arcade games, from shooting ducks by plucking strings, to hitting baseballs by bending the right note at the right time. These are good challenges to get your skill level up, and serve as a welcome distraction if frustration at repeating a song endlessly starts to creep in. Technique challenges involve teaching the players various techniques, from power chords to hammer ons. The guiding voice will explain the technique, accompanied by a video, and then give you a chance to practice, before making you play a certain section of a song which features the technique chosen. There is also a chord library mapped out to each song, so if you are having trouble with one specific chord, you can work on it first by playing the individual notes, and then practicing strumming the chord. 

Outside of the game modes there are a wide variety of amps and pedals to unlock that can be used on songs for a different sound.  There is plenty to experiment with once you get better at playing, or even just to mess around with.

There are some minor issues with Rocksmith, but they will not get in the way of enjoying the game. The first has to do with audio setup. The developers recommend using component cables for your TV audio, or for the best performance to plug in composite cables through a sound system. If using a HD TV, which is fairly standard these days, there may be some lag between playing the notes and the game registering them. I haven’t noticed the problem too much when the TV is switched on game mode, but for optimal performance you might have to shell out a bit more, and the game is already pricey if you don’t own an electric guitar. The other issue is that despite all its technological innovations, there isn’t much actual ‘game’ to Rocksmith. As a method of learning guitar it is unique and well put together. As a game it lacks the visual flourishes of its predecessors, and due to its very nature, it isn’t the sort of game you can invite friends round to spend the night playing. However the sense of joy from finally mastering a real riff on a real guitar more than makes up for that. 

What is truly intuitive about Rocksmith is the fact that it works, let alone the fact that it works so well. Once the guitar is plugged in the learning begins, and there is a lot on offer in Rocksmith. Being able to use your Playstation to teach yourself an actual skill is a rare thing, and Rocksmith should be praised for the great leap it has taken in rhythm gaming.  It has a wide range of informative guides and methods of teaching you how to play guitar. Apart from that it is also incredibly fun to play,  and your hands will eventually begin to hurt after many hours of promising “just one more song..”.  There may be some small areas to improve upon, but what Ubisoft has done here deserves to be commended.


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