Video games were originally about blasting aliens or running away from ghosts. They then became more advanced and forced us to be Italian plumbers rescuing princesses from castles. It wasn’t long before we were running around planets shooting monsters with a BFG. One of the most recent trends has been the music video game. Rock Band and Guitar Hero being the most popular ones. They let the player feel as if they really are a rock star, albeit playing a plastic instrument with only a few plastic buttons for company. Its been credited however, with encouraging players to pick up a real instrument and learn to play.
Perhaps taking advantage of this, and perhaps becoming the obvious evolution, is Rocksmith. Rocksmith is a video game very similar to Rock Band or Guitar Hero, in which the player must follow along a song, with the notes appearing on the screen. The major difference between Rocksmith and the other games is that you plug in a real guitar to Rocksmith. A six stringed, put-it-through-an-amp-and-piss-off-the-neighbours sort of guitar. It doesn’t have to be a specific guitar either. If you happen to have a cheap Kramer guitar lying around or a pristine Fender Stratocaster, it doesn’t make a difference, you simply plug in the lead that comes with the game and away you go.
Straight away the game helps you tune your guitar, something that is quite tedious depending on your knowledge of guitars and even what sort of guitar you have (Floyd Rose trem anyone?). Once tuned you have a couple of options. You can start the ‘journey’ from humble beginnings to rock star by learning the selected songs, improving and so forth. The same as with most music games. You can select the ‘amp‘ option which gives you a virtual guitar setup that you can tweak to your hearts content although at the start of the game you really don’t have anything to tweak. The third option is ‘songs’ and you are able to peruse the 48 songs (North American version) that come already loaded. The songs being:
The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun
Best Coast – When I’m With You
Blur – Song 2
Cream – Sunshine Of Your Love
Dan Auerbach – I Want Some More
David Bowie – Rebel Rebel
Eric Clapton – Run Back To Your Side
Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
Incubus – I Miss You
Interpol – Slow Hands
Jenny O – Well Ok Honey
Kings Of Leon – Use Somebody
Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way
Little Barrie – Surf Hell
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama
Muse – Plug In Baby
Muse – Unnatural Selection
Nirvana – Breed
Nirvana – In Bloom
Pixies – Where Is My Mind?
Queens Of The Stone Age – Go With The Flow
Radiohead – High And Dry
Rapscallions – California Brain
Red Fang – Number Thirteen
Sigur Ros – Gobbledigook
Silversun Pickups – Panic Switch
Soundgarden – Outshined
Spoon – Me And The Bean
Stone Temple Pilots – Between The Lines
Stone Temple Pilots – Vasoline
Taddy Porter – Mean Bitch
The Black Keys – I Got Mine
The Black Keys – Next Girl
The Boxer Rebellions – Tep Out Of The Car
The Cribs – We Share The Same Skies
The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry
The Dead Weather – I Can’t Hear You
The Horrors – Do You Remember
The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
The Rolling Stones – Play With Fire
The Rolling Stones – The Spider And The Fly
The Strokes – Under Cover Of Darkness
The White Stripes – Icky Thump
Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Good Enough
Velvet Revolver – Slither
White Denim – Burnished
Yellow Moon Band – Chimney
Out of the 48 songs, I knew 14 straight away and will probably recognize another 10 when I hear them. Since I am over 40 and barely listen to the radio anymore, this is not a huge surprise. Not knowing half the track list could either be seen a negative or as simply as a level of a game that you don’t particularly know yet. As with the other major music games, there will be plenty of download-able content (DLC) available.
While I have loved playing guitar since I was a teenager, my skills are mediocre at least so I started on the lowest of the low levels. As you start you get the same notes coming towards you with the main difference being that different strings are assigned different colours and each note will be the colour of the string to be played on. The notes appear on a ghosted fretboard which tells you which note to play so if you are a red note appearing on the third fret, you know to play your bottom E string on the third fret. It is very logical and simple to pick up although as with many things, just because it is easy to pick up doesn’t mean it is easy to master. There are wrong notes aplenty, usually from your hand not being in the correct place resulting in you playing notes either a note above or below the intended one. Part of the ghosted fretboard is highlighted to indicate where you hand should be during a particular passage of notes.
Once you get into the game, it begins to introduce more techniques such as muting, slides, hammer ons and pull offs and the like. You can practice each technique separately or in a song. You also gain small games that you can play while learning the guitar. Duck Shoot lets you shoot duck targets by playing the corresponding fret to where the duck is. It soon teaches you where your frets are!
Fans of Rock Band and Guitar Hero will probably form two opinions about Rocksmith. Either it will be too daunting having more than five buttons to push or they will all over the game as they see it as the logical progression. I believe most will be of the latter opinion.
If you don’t have an electric guitar fear not! You can also buy a bundle with Rocksmith plus an electric guitar from Epiphone!
The question bouncing around the interweb is ‘will this replace guitar teachers?’ and it has to be said that Rocksmith is probably a lot more fun than being told to play scales all the time. That said, I think Rocksmith will appeal to those who can’t afford a guitar teacher and those who want to learn songs and have fun at the same time. Anyone serious about learning guitar has to learn the basics before moving on and to succeed at Rocksmith, you need to have the basics. This is, for me anyone, going to be a challenging past-time as it will encourage me to actually learn songs, improve my playing and strive for perfect scores.
This game may well life forever in the game console!