So for the past two weeks I have been immersed in a game called Rocksmith. It’s one of Ubisoft’s more ingenious creations where one plugs in a real electric guitar, or bass guitar, and play to songs. I was pretty skeptical about the whole thing. I at first thought that even if the game was a flop, I’d have a decent cable I could use with Guitar Rig 5 and other programs I have for my laptop. After a few latency adjustments, I got the game down to minimum latency and fixed the audio delay. What I find cool about this game at the get go was that you can play guitar and bass. The bass can either be standard four string bass guitar, or the guitar can emulate a bass and one can play the top four strings. In a world where fast electric guitar players get all of the attention, it was nice to see the bass guitar and bass player get some well-deserved attention. I tried out a few songs and I learned to adapt to the way the notes go down. It’s concept is similar to that of Rockband and Guitar Hero’s scrolling note screen. The main, and obvious difference, is that instead of the five button bar at the end of the screen, there is a fretboard that is numbered like a guitar fret board. The notes come down the frets and are colored with a corresponding string color. Although it is strongly similar to the familiar ‘fret board’ of guitar hero and Rockband, it helps the player adjust well and play Rocksmith with just a little familiarity of the user interface. The variety of songs in Rocksmith is something that took me by surprise. I have owned Rockband 1, 2 and Guitar Hero 3 and none of them had such a distinct variety in music. I’ve listened to a lot of music from a lot of eras in music. They had Muse, Lenny Kravitz, Nirvana, Eric Clapton, Lyndard Skynard, Velvet Revolver, Black Keys, and David Bowie, to name a few. They’re all very well known songs and the dynamic difficulty helps out a lot.
As far as playing a song goes, the game is pretty generous. They start you out on a lower difficulty setting, where a song will have single notes and maintain the base rhythm of the song. As they player gets a phrase correct multiple times consecutively, the difficult slowly increases. The game adds more notes and if the song has it, chords. This Dynamic Difficulty setup is fantastic for guitar players of all types. It gives beginner guitar players time to learn their fretboard in between notes, and as they progress through the difficulties, learn how to play the songs. If the user is having trouble with the song, they game also offers an in game Riff Repeater. Here the user can choose any song they own in Rocksmith and practice sections of their choosing in different modes. The Accelerator mode sets a speed for the section, and then makes sure the user can play it at that speed, then the speed increased until they reach 100%. The difficulty of the song and the speed can be adjusted as well through pausing the game. The Leveler plays the song at a 100% speed, but not difficulty. It leaves off at the highest difficulty the user can play, and then adds more notes until that too is at a 100%
The ‘story’ mode is not really a story mode. It’s essentially setlists the game comes up with. There seems to be no real correlation between the songs that are chosen except that they are possibly on the same dynamic difficulty setting. Some of the artists are the same in a set list though. For example, the two Black Keys songs that Rocksmith offers could be in the same setlist. You can also ‘level up’ in Rocksmith by gaining respect. Respect is earned by playing songs in a setlist and getting a high score. Each venue will offer a setlist and a song limit. They traditionally give anywhere between 3-6 songs in a setlist, but they limit it off at 8 songs a setlist, so you can add more songs or remove them if you wish. This add/remove feature is one of my favorites in Rocksmith because it helps me avoid songs I don’t necessarily want to play like Lynard Skynard’s Free Bird, a song that 9 minutes long. When you level up, you obtain more venues and more events. When you finish playing a setlist, you’re given a guitar, which as far as I can tell, is just for show. Similar to Rockband and Guitar Hero, you can equip your character with a guitar that you have earned. Since Rocksmith is sponsored by Gibson Guitars and Epiphone guitars, the player wins their guitars in-game at the end of an event.
One of THE most coolest features Rocksmith has to offer is their AMP feature. This gives the user the option to use amplifiers and pedals they earn throughout the campaign and playing songs. When a player gets over 70,000 points on a song, they obtain the pedals and amplifiers used for the song they completed, which can be used in the AMP room. You can create custom presets and play around with the numerous amps and pedals offered to make a custom tone and play whatever you want to play. It’s something to fool around with and it’s something different that hasn’t been really offered in the gaming industry. Another feature the game offers are their mini games which kill a little time. Although the games are a bit childish, they help with a few techniques such as harmonics, alternate picking, chords, and bending to name a few. They even have a cute little game called “Scale Runner” that makes the user play the note on the screen and run down the scale of their choice (with the key of their choice) in patterns. The features and songs the game offer is a fresh new experience and I’m glad Ubisoft released a game that requires one to play a real guitar.