Video Game Cat Review
Date of Review: October 31, 2013
Format Reviewed: Xbox 360
Language / Country of Origin: English / United States
Single or Multi-Player: Multi-Player. Two players can play via a split screen.
Online Capability: Downloadable content (DLC) available.
Sequel: Rocksmith 2014.
Equipment Needed: An electric guitar as well as a USB cable that plugs into output jack of an electric guitar (1/4 in or 6.35 mm) is required to play. Players can also attach an acoustic guitar with a pickup. Bass guitars can also be used.
Maintenance Required: None required.
Rocksmith has no real plot. Basically, the point of the game is to allow players to learn how to play guitar (or bass), with a real electric guitar (or bass). As player’s skills increase and they successfully complete songs or other activities, the game advances. Players are moved along a career path to unlock new songs, challenges and game modes as they progress and earn points.
Before each game, the player is instructed to tune their guitar – along with an on-screen tuner.
When playing through a song, a visual representation of a guitar’s fretboard is presented. The song’s notes scroll vertically toward the player along the correct fret. Each fret is numbered and the strings and notes are color coded to help the player adequately identify the correct fret and string to play. Similarly, scrolling notes turn vertical precisely when they should be played.
As players’ skills increase, the difficulty of each song increases. For instance, if a player hits every single note correctly, the song becomes more difficult, increasing the number of fret changes, chords, etc. This works inversely as well: if a player does poorly and misses several notes, the difficulty will decrease. Unlike other games in its genre, Rocksmith never boots a player out of a song. They are always allowed to complete it, no matter how badly they play. The level of difficulty that a song was last played at is saved for the next time that the song is attempted.
As players complete songs, they earn Rocksmith points which unlock features, such as new game modes (e.g. arcade games like “Ducks” that help players learn the different frets or technique challenges that teach chords and two-finger plucking), new guitars, virtual hardware (e.g. amplifiers and effects pedals) or new game venues.
Cultural / Historical Value:
Rocksmith was the first major videogame that used a real electric guitar as the primary controller. The game received mostly positive reviews, with critics pointing to its innovative use of a real electric guitar and how it improves the genre – which had heretofore used solely plastic guitar replicas. Numerous reviewers stated that players can actually learn how to play the instrument, unlike with the plastic “guitars” that had zero instructional ability. Some reviews, however, did discuss frustration at lags in gameplay (leading to inaccuracies) and how essential parts of the game have to be unlocked and are not immediately accessible. It was also noted how it is impossible to traditionally “practice” with one song, as the level of difficulty immediately increases when you play better – meaning that the song is not the same each time it is played.
The game amassed an impressive playlist, including music from various generations of rock music – such as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Pixies, the Cure, Nirvana, Blur, The Strokes, The White Stripes, and Radiohead.
Teaching / Learning Characteristics:
This game can teach players to play guitar. No really… you can learn to play guitar. It does not, however, teach people how to read sheet music (which may have been helpful).
Rocksmith, in theory, has a high potential for replay value. The caveat is: you have to be patient. As anyone who has tried to learn how to play an instrument will tell you: it takes time and lots and lots of practicing. This game works on the same principle. You have to play it. You have to practice. You will not become good at this game overnight. I was stuck on the same song for quite a long time. This lends itself to high replay, but also to intense frustration.
If you decide to stick with the game, new downloadable songs have been frequently added. For those who have become proficient with the guitar, you can now play the bass with this game as well.
Rock music fans will find something to enjoy from this game, as lots of songs are included – covering a wide time span and various sub-genres. Those who enjoyed previous music games may also like Rocksmith, as they get to test out a real guitar, rather than an imperfect plastic replica. This is a great game for people who really want to learn how to play guitar.
About the Author:
Shannon L. Farrell, MLIS, MS is a Liaison Librarian at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Having been an avid gamer for the last 25 years, she has a great interest in incorporating videogames into library and educational environments. She has conducted research on the topic, examining current use of videogames in libraries and the resources available for collection development purposes. Shannon is a member of the ALA Games and Gaming Round Table. Since she plays videogames on a daily basis, Shannon will be a regular contributor and editor of reviews for VideoGameCat. She also maintains the VideoGameCat Twitter (@thevideogamecat) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/thevideogamecat) accounts.