The Birthing Of A Noble Endeavor

I chimed in a few days ago about Ubisoft’s authentic guitar game, ROCKSMITH, and promised an update. Here goes…

First off, If you don’t know how to play guitar, the game is way too difficult for someone going in cold. However, the variety of video tutorials and technique building mini-games, are excellent training aids. If you don’t play guitar, but you are ready to learn, ROCKSMITH is surprisingly deep in scope and variety. If you’re willing to put in the time (and tedious repetition) and you’ve the proper patience (and discipline), the game is less of a game and more of a tool.

Which is pretty great, but not so much fun.

(Music, professor…)

If you all ready have skills and feel comfortable with the guitar, things rock. The 50+ songs range from the classic (The Rolling StonesEric Clapton), to 90’s grunge (Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots), to new stuff I’ve never heard of (Titus Andronicus?).

Plugging in a real guitar is more than a novelty here. It works really, really well. The interface is precise. The game tracks each note and recognizes everything from harmonics to palm muting. Things can get complex. I’m not sure how the tech works, but my analog guitar and my digital gaming console have fallen in love.

It’s a wonderful thing.

Once I’ve familiarized myself with a song, following the tablature-come-to-life animations, I can let loose and rock it. So far I’ve tackled (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones classic) and The Black KeysNext Girl. I knocked them out in a few tries and I am all set to jam them out live. Cool, huh?

You can play each song via a few different arrangements. You can choose single note, chords, or a combo of both. I prefer the latter, strumming chords when appropriate and then laying down smoking leads during solos. It’s nice to have the option. Some songs work better with single notes, and some with chords, but I like balancing both.

(Good luck…you’ll need it)

The menus are a bit convoluted. I’ve loaded the game up twice thus far and after rocking it, I spent a little time digging through the wealth of features to see what’s what (there is TONS of content to sort out). I found my way around fine, but it’s an odd layout and navigating takes some getting used to. Plus, you have to use the console’s controller to move about, which is kind of cumbersome while strapped to a guitar tethered to a cord.

Oh, and the 1/4″ to USB cable is too short. Hopefully they’ll come out with a wireless setup in the near future.

(I’m a USB cable AND a guitar cord)

These are baby quibbles, merely annoyances in design and execution, but the rest of the package is so strong they’re definitely not deal breakers.

I still have a lot to mess with, but all-in-all it’s a thumbs up here. I like that I’m not just playing around, but actually practicing. It seems less wasteful. The game is actually a worthwhile exercise. When Rockband came out with drums, I was all excited about learning how to play. It gave me a few chops (I can pound out a few cool beats), but not much else (I still suck). This latest incarnation is miles beyond basic. Button mashing is always fun, but this thing can truly teach someone how to play an actual instrument. At eighty bucks (steep for a video game), it’s a real steal.

Rock on, Loyal Reader.

Looking forward to shredding on this one…


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