When a game comes along with the intention of teaching you guitar in the ‘real world’, it’s hard to think about going back to a series such as Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Gone are the days of mashing buttons and strumming plastic in order to win, now you need to buy a real guitar, whilst you strive to use more brain cells than you’d be used to in a video game. That being said, as a guitar player myself, I was lucky enough to have at least a little bit of a leg up.
RockSmith has the right approach to learning guitar, but its execution is far from perfect. However, finding out about your past experience and what kind of guitar you want to learn — lead, rhythm or bass — is an overall enjoyable experience. The lessons available to you start from simple and move their way up to advanced. You might think putting a strap on your guitar to be child’s play, but there is in fact a lesson on how to accomplish it. With such a variety available to you, literally anyone can pickup the basics.
The main option on RockSmith is, of course, to learn a song. Each time you play a piece of music it gets progressively more difficult, or easier, depending on how successful you are with hitting the notes. As a casual guitar player myself, I had a great amount of fun playing the variety of songs at hand. The only issue I encountered was the way in which notes were displayed. RockSmith shows you the fret board from left to right, then shows you coloured blocks depending on which string and fret they relate to; red being the low E string, yellow being the A string and so on. This adds another layer of difficulty to learning the guitar, as not only do you have to learn the strings and frets, but now you have to attach a colour to each string.
I can imagine that for a complete novice this wouldn’t be an issue but for a regular such as myself, I found it hard adjusting. Saying that, I did manage to ease myself into the poorly explained system, and once I had, in next to no time I was shredding away to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” like a pro. With such an array of songs at your disposal, I hardly found myself in a pickle as to what to choose next. Being a fan of rock there was plenty for me to choose from and there was also a large choice of more “mellow” songs to strum along to. There are hundreds of more songs available to download so don’t worry if none of them take your fancy, there’ll be a favourite song out there for everyone.
Although I don’t technically class RockSmith as a game, Ubisoft have included some features to remind you that it is indeed one. The Guitarcade is just one of these and that let’s you hone your skills whilst adding an element of fun. Once inside there’s plenty to choose from, including Gone Wailin’, String Skip Saloon and Ducks ReDux to name a few. Each game helps you with certain areas of playing the guitar. For instance, Gone Wailin’ helps you with volume control, whilst String Skip Saloon helps you get to grips with the location of each string. Admittedly these games were quite fun and make up for the slightly clunky way in which RockSmith presents itself.
I’m still unsure on RockSmith. I would love to play this game without knowing a thing about guitars to see how helpful it really could be, but already having a few years experience has made it hard to kick the bad habits I’ve accumulated. I will say that RockSmith has covered pretty much everything there is to learning and playing the instrument; the super basic concepts along with some extremely tricky techniques. If you’re looking to pick up your own 6-string for the first time or, want to sharpen your experience and knowledge as a seasoned musician, then I would recommend this game. Once you get your head around the odd system then it can be rather enjoyable, although I will definitely be sticking to my own methods for the meantime. Perhaps the 2015 edition will change my mind.
*Rocksmith was provided to Start Replay on PS4 by Ubisoft.
- + Thorough guide to playing guitar
- + Great variety of songs and lessons
- + Eventually quite fun
- - Poorly designed
- - Difficulty spikes