Rocksmith reviewed: a real music game with real learning

Music games were a big phenomenon a few years ago, with the “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” franchises taking the world by storm. While these were fun, you never really had the feeling that you were playing music.

Enter “Rocksmith,” a new game that does away with the fake guitar controllers and asks you to play a game with a real guitar or bass.

What it is

An extension of the music game genre, Rocksmith is more than just another button mashing accessory purchase job. There are no special guitar shaped game controllers that you have to buy, as the title arrives with the cable you need to play.

You will need to bring your own controller, mind you, as either an electric guitar or bass is needed to use the game. This is the only way to play Rocksmith, and yes, it can be the same electric instrument you got for your birthday five years ago that you swore black and blue you’d play and gave up on ten minutes later.

BYO instrument: we played on a Fender Jazz bass

While Gibson has the sponsorship of Ubisoft’s Rocksmith, you can bring your own Fender Mustang, Strat, or Tele electric guitar, or even a Fender Jazz or Precision bass to play.

You can carry a Gretsch, an Ashton, Yamaha, MusicMan, Spector, Schecter, Ibanez, LTD, Warwick, Maton, and yes, even a Gibson, with Rocksmith allowing you to use any guitar or electric bass that’s out there, though we’d suggest a six string guitar and a four string bass, from what we played.

It’s still a music game, only this time you’re not just mashing coloured buttons on a plastic guitar, but strumming the strings of a real instrument instead.

And while you’re playing, you’re not just gaining in-game points, but are also learning the part of a song, potentially giving you something to play at a party, or impress a girl, or inspire you to take up the guitar or bass full-time, either as hobby or profession.

Like Guitar Hero, only you're playing a real instrument and learning a real song, not just mashing plastic buttons on another controller you'll need to store later on.


Switch on the game and you’re drawn into a world that’s a little different from your regular guitar game, as a narrator will begin to teach you the basics of how to play.

This isn’t just a lesson in video gaming, but rather a proper way to hold a guitar or bass, to make a note, to play an instrument and therefore play the game.

You’ll get into the game quite quickly, and then see that while it’s educational, the developers of Rocksmith have tried to make the experience an interesting blend of the Guitar Hero style of game and a proper tutorial for how to play music.

Before each song, you’ll tune your instrument, with an on-screen chromatic tuner telling you when a string needs to be tightened or loosened, getting with your coloured animated fretboard lighting up to tell you just how you’re going. If a song requires a slightly different tuning, the game remembers the last song you played and tells you to down or up-tune, checking the strings before each play.

Then, it’s to playing the song, with the colourful fretboard moving up and down the scale, zooming in and out to show you more as required and telling you where on your fingerboard you should be placing your fingers.

Rocksmith even comes with a set of stickers to obviously point out each fret on your instrument’s neck, just in case you don’t know, so you can follow the numbers in the game.

It’s exactly like Guitar Hero or Rock Band: when you’re supposed to play the right note, the game points you to a bar and string – denoted by colour and position – and you just follow along, playing with the real recording of the song in the game.

Like in the music games before it, you’ll play an event with a set of songs, rehearsing them and then “performing” these songs in front of an audience, made out of a lovely bunch of people rocking out to your song. If you do well – and here’s hoping – you’ll get to play an encore, and possibly a double encore for more points.