It was once said that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to become world-class in a field, and this is a rule that Rocksmith takes to heart. Forget the plastic peripherals and the overnight success story of a guitar hero; Rocksmith is about the nitty-gritty of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. It is about the hours of practice and rehearsal that it takes to be the best.
That’s not to say that Rocksmith isn’t fun; it certainly is. But each game mode, regardless of how it is presented, is geared towards making you a better guitar player. And that takes both time and effort. Rocksmith needs to be approached with the right mindset, as if you’re willing to put in the effort, you will benefit from the experience.
Unlike most music games to date, Rocksmith requires a proper guitar or bass and uses the Rocksmith Real tone cable to connect this to your PC or console. The overall presentation is reminiscent of Guitar Hero or Rock Band with notes scrolling from the top of the screen to the bottom, but each corresponds to a particular string and fret number. Adjusting to this presentation takes a little time, but reading notes in this format soon becomes second nature.
Rocksmith’s main mode is Learn a Song. More than 50 tracks are available from the get-go, and you can approach these in any order you want. There are classics like The Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black and Rush’s The Spirit of Radio to more recent hits like Arctic Monkeys’ R U Mine. Guitar virtuoso like Joe Satriani and Avenged Sevenfold grace the track list, but you can also take on something more welcoming like the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop or Weezer’s Say it Ain’t So.
Initially, players will be tasked with hitting individual notes and occasional chords, but as they prove their prowess, the game will increase the difficulty automatically. The end goal is to be able to play every note of a song. It’s rewarding to see additional notes coming down the track, though adjusting to this new level of difficulty can occasionally be tricky as you first process the note and then fight built-up muscle memory to take the latest notes into account.
One tool to make the learning process easier is the improved Riff Repeater. This can be accessed quickly at any time during a song and used to repeat a segment at a particular speed and difficulty. Players can repeat segments as often as they like and see which notes are causing them difficulty. Or players can set the difficulty to the highest level, but slow the song down until they learn the notes and are ready to increase the pace.
If you are in the mood for more of a traditional game, the Guitarcade mode features a variety of mini games. The catch is that they are both educational and fun. Each game is designed to teach players techniques and skills from fretting to harmonics, and everything in between.Highlights include String Skip Saloon, which teaches string skipping; and Ninja Slide N, which will toughen up the fingers with constant slides. With elements such as leaderboards and missions, it’s very easy to miss the fact that “getting better” at the mini game means that you’re developing a real skill.
The beauty of Rocksmith is that it caters for players of all skill levels. Players who have never picked up a guitar before are taught how to hold a pick, what the strings are called, and basic techniques, while more experienced players will make great use of the Riff Repeater to crack those difficult solos, enjoy their time at the top of the leaderboards, and challenge themselves with the Session Mode or Endless Play.
Rocksmith doesn’t necessarily provide the instant gratification of other rhythm-based games, but you will have earned every additional note, mastery percentage, and callus. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got blisters on my fingers to attend to.
Rocksmith 2014 Edition was released on Playstation 4 and Xbox One on November 4th in North America and will be available in Europe on November 7th. It was released last year on PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.