Review: 'Rocksmith' rocks out with real guitars

Dec 21, 2011 By RON HARRIS , Associated Press
This video game image courtesy of Ubisoft Entertainment shows the video game "Rocksmith." (AP Photo/Ubisoft Entertainment)

If "Guitar Hero" was the spunky teenager who made music gaming fun, "Rocksmith" is his older, cooler brother in a distressed leather jacket.

"Rocksmith" (, for , , PC, $79.99) trades in the now familiar plastic with buttons for the real, six-stringed deal. You simply plug your - or an acoustic guitar with a pickup - into your console or computer. For $199, you can get the software bundled with an entry-level Epiphone Les Paul Jr. guitar.

Generation after generation of would-be Eric Claptons have tried learning the guitar with instructors, books, DVDs and other teaching tools. Most of us get stuck at the intro to "Stairway to Heaven." With some minor guitar experience under my belt, I dared "Rocksmith" to teach me, entertain me and keep me engaged. It succeeded on all fronts.

Guitar lessons turn into a game: Keep in step with the colored, glowing and spinning rectangles that fall down the screen and land on a numbered fret. The more notes you get correct, the better your score.

It takes some getting used to. The descending rectangles are colored with a different hue for each of the six guitar strings. But most guitar strings aren't colored, so you have to mentally keep track of those color-and-string pairs - which change quickly during the action.

I was able to learn the melody to The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" within minutes, but the techniques get more complicated. For example, the double-stops technique requires covering two strings at the same time while muting the adjacent strings. It's easy when you're looking down and staring at your fingers with all the time in the world. It's a lot harder when you have to look at the screen, remember where the correct frets are by muscle memory and strike them fast enough to get ready for the next set of notes.

The teaching aspect of "Rocksmith" hinges on the very nature of playing a video game. You have to watch the screen. You don't have a lot of time to look at your hands. So you are forced to get better at knowing where the frets are by feel, as well as how to pluck, say, the fourth string instead of the fifth without looking.

The "Rocksmith" playlist runs from classic rockers like The Animals and Cream to up-and-comers like Titus Andronicus and the Black Keys. There's also an "amp" mode in which you can play whatever you like, and you can download filters that add fuzz, feedback, distortion or other effects to the sound mix.

Once you've mastered a few techniques and chords, you might want to power off the game and see where the instrument will take you all on its own. The ultimate challenge presented by "Rocksmith" is to get good enough that you won't play it all. You'll just play the guitar. Four out of four stars.

Explore further: Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ubisoft Jams with Nintendo DS

Mar 17, 2007

The South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) isn't necessarily known for the product-announcement frenzy that occurs at CES, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a cool new toy on the trade show floor Thursday evening.

Recommended for you

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

11 hours ago

( —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

Apr 16, 2014

( —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2011
truly could change the way things are learned. very exciting picking up the game and seeing results that I could take away in less than an hour. As a lifelong guitar owner with a few failed attempts at teaching myself, this is such a shot in the arm. such an engaging platform and exciting watching others get better as well. Highly recommended tutor.. or game.. whatever you prefer.

More news stories

Venture investments jump to $9.5B in 1Q

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into an increasing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

White House updating online privacy policy

A new Obama administration privacy policy out Friday explains how the government will gather the user data of online visitors to, mobile apps and social media sites. It also clarifies that ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

( —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.