Okay, I admit, that headline may be just a tad bit sensationalist. But now that I’ve got your attention, let me start off by saying that Rocksmith is definitely not for everyone. It’s only for those who are actually looking for a good game and not some cookie cutter/assembly line experience. Rocksmith really is one of my favorite games, easily outclassing most modern releases. Of course that’s just my opinion, everyone and their mother has their own idea of the greatest game, for instance, some people believe that Final Fantasy VII is the greatest game ever (and those people are wrong).
Rocksmith’s main selling point is that it allows you to play along with some of your favorite songs while also becoming a better musician at the same time. This isn’t something new, it’s been done in a few games before, such as Power Gig (not really) and Rock Band 3. I don’t need to mention why Power Gig isn’t around anymore (how many of you actually remember it?). Now that just leaves us with Rock Band 3. Rock Band 3 is a fantastic game, it took what made Rock Band 2 great and just threw the kitchen sink at it. I pictured a lot of the design meetings going something like this: “Oh, you think you’re so good at Expert level 5-button guitar? How about you buy this 102 button guitar and try to play along. Tired of the same old four instruments? How about we introduce a brand new instrument with the keyboard. And I guess we can finally put out a couple bolt-on things for the drums, it’s been years and we’ve never used those ports on the back before”. It was definitely where the series needed to go, between the previous games and the Guitar Hero games, the five-button music game was beaten to death. These new pro-modes made me do what I thought I would never do again: spend hundreds of dollars on new rhythm game peripherals. The pro-modes seemed like everything I had been asking for; more challenge and something to take away from the game and apply to the real world. But I never really fell in deep with pro-guitar, which I put some of the blame on the note layout. I found it confusing and hard to keep track of. It just doesn’t hold a candle to Rocksmith’s setup.
If I had to pick one thing that I liked more about Rock Band 3′s pro-mode, it would have to be it’s ability to detect where your fingers are. Its interface let you know which fret you were on and what chord shape you were forming at any given time, letting you quickly make adjustments without breaking your combo. It did this through the use of midi signals, which meant only specific guitars could be used for pro-mode. Rocksmith, on the other hand, detects notes through pitch using a standard jack cable that connects into a USB slot, so it would be hard for them to pin down exactly where you were fretting. The upside to using pitch to detect notes means that any guitar can be used with the game, making it a much easier purchase if you already own a guitar.
The reason I wrote this article at all is because I can safely say, without a shadow of a doubt, Rocksmith has made me a better guitar player than I was before I started. It has exposed me and made me play in genres of music that I never would have dabbled in outside of the game. It is one of the few games I can say I truly learned something from and not feel like I’m going to get laughed out of a room. What other game can you actually take away a skill from? (well, if you listen to certain news outlets, every shooter since Doom) Even with the large amount of time I have spent with Rocksmith (and I mean LARGE), I feel it hasn’t been time wasted. Plus Rocksmith has zombies! How many rhythm games can say that? Well, Rock of the Dead for one (I know some of you are looking that game up now).
Now, when I say I’ve played the hell out of Rocksmith, I mean it. I have easily played it more than four times my total Skyrim play time. My total Rocksmith playtime is actually even greater than my total time with the Mass Effect trilogy. That’s right, the entire trilogy. Rocksmith hasn’t even been out for a year! I can tell you exactly why I have spent so much time on Rocksmith: it taps into that part of my brain that made me play hundreds upon hundreds of hours of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. There is just something about racking up points while playing along to music that relaxes me.
I can’t really speak to whether or not Rocksmith is a good starting point for beginners, I came in with an intermediate skill set (and that’s being generous). There seems to be enough basic tutorials to get hopefuls up to speed, and the dynamic difficulty level ensures players never feel like they fell into the deep end, so I would feel safe at least recommending this title to those looking for a new rhythm game; I would even recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in picking up a guitar. I do want to see a Rocksmith 2, after all (that’s a stupid name, I hope they don’t name it that).
Now with the recent release of the Bass Expansion, I know I’ll play accrue even more hours than I want to think about. If I was tortured with lit cigarettes and forced to pick the one thing about Rocksmith that I’m not too happy about, it would have to be the DLC release schedule. The Rock Band series has spoiled me with weekly releases for years, while Rocksmith is on a bi-weekly schedule. While there may not be as much DLC as I would like, it has been of pretty high quality (I believe I have picked up every song so far except for one).
In a sea of first person shooters it’s good to see companies like Ubisoft throwing out some life preservers in the form of games such as Rocksmith and Trackmania. And with the PC version finally coming out so soon…I can’t help myself guys, I think I just might double dip. The Rocksmith input cable does already work for the PC…