Rocksmith reviewed: a real music game with real learning

With an included track listing of over fifty songs, including big names like The Rolling Stones, The Pixies, Muse, Radiohead, The Black Keys, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, Cream (yes, two different Claptons), Kings of Leon, Incubus, The White Stripes, and more, you’re likely to find a good ten or twenty tracks you love, if you don’t fall in love with the entire soundtrack altogether.

There’s more stuff coming downloadable through the Xbox Live and PSN stores, too, provided you don’t mind spending a few bucks on new songs to learn and play.

Interestingly, you can actually replace the songs listed that you’re “supposed” to play at each event, switching them out for music that you may like more. We found ourselves doing that more and more, because while repetitive, it allowed us to get better and better at the songs we really liked, and we weren’t subjected to playing songs we neither understood nor really liked the sound of.

If you don’t mind playing all the songs and want to work your way through every piece, you can separate the sections into riffs, working on each part until you’re happy with how it all sounds.

When it’s all good, it’s time to rock out, nailing the notes on the right timing and avoiding wrong notes for a better score. The more points you get, the more of the game you unlock, with bonuses including extra basses, different pedal and amp sounds, and of course, more events.

Or you can just ditch the events and hit up the menu, where you can simply select the songs you want to learn, playing them until your heart’s content.

In fact, depending on the sort of gamer you are, this is where you’ll probably stay, as it’s sort of like your very own rock and roll fantasy camp, where the jukebox is as your fingers and you can just follow along with an animated instructor at your leisure.

While this writer is a bassist, we actually found it easier to just go ahead and play in performing mode. Rehearsal mode, strangely, didn’t offer the same line for you to follow as we found in the performing mode, which surprised us. In essence, it means you can learn a lighter version of your parts in the rehearsal, with the real test coming in performance, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense to us.

Since the points don’t really matter, and you can keep playing the same song whenever you want, rehearsing only became useful when we wanted to break a song up into individual parts for easier learning.

When you’re playing, the game even seems to adapt, working out if you’re nailing the right parts, and adding extra strums when it seems like you’re nailing it, or pulling them away and making the track easier if you’re missing parts.

Don't have a bass? Play bass on guitar with an emulated bass.

What it isn’t

While Rocksmith is an awesome little way to learn songs, it’s probably not the replacement for a dedicated teacher or instructor for learning how to play the electric guitar or bass.

There are quite a few tips and methods on offer here, with videos and on-screen instructions to help you understand just what exactly you’re supposed to be doing, but it won’t replace the aide and help you can get from someone you’re paying to teach you.

Further, you’re only learning riffs and lines to some songs, but not really understanding music as a whole.

For many, this won’t be a problem, as it’s already one of the better – and more fun – guides to getting your head around the basics of guitar and bass playing, and you could easily move from playing Rocksmith to tackling chords and tabs by yourself, finding them to your favourite songs on the Internet and playing them whenever you choose.

The more points you get, the more virtual instruments you unlock. They don't really change the sound that much, though.


Whereas Rock Band and Guitar Hero were both fun, you were only ever emulating what it was like to be a guitarist, singer, bassist, or drummer. In Rocksmith, you’re actually playing guitar or bass, and that’s not only more interesting, but more useful too.

On the whole, Rocksmith is a better and more enjoyable experience because it genuinely feels like you’re accomplishing something, which is something neither of those games ever gave you.

It’s not without its flaws, mind you, and once you’ve played the included songs to death, just like in the button-based music mashers, you’ll be left purchasing extra downloadable content (DLC) to fulfill your music gaming needs. After that, you’re on your own, and you may have to go back to playing the good ‘ol fashioned way: without a video game at your side.

But before that happens, Rocksmith offers a fun experience that potentially offers you a new skill or hobby, or at the very least, an extension on what you already know, and that’s more awesome than what most video games offer when you’re done.


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