Release Date: September 28 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Rhythm / Teaching
Rocksmith is finally ready to embark on the European leg of its tour after last year's successful North American launch. Shunning plastic peripherals in favour of the real thing, Ubisoft's teaching tool combines authentic guitar techniques with a killer soundtrack and fun mini-games in a bid to make musicians out of all who play. Genuinely innovative and perfect for newbies, Rocksmith largely accomplishes what it sets out to despite the odd bump along the way.
The gameplay bears a slight resemblance to the likes of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Notes fall down the screen, the position and colour of which correspond to frets and strings on the guitar.
While those with a passing knowledge of the rhythm action genre should have no trouble adjusting to the layout, the setup might prove a little overwhelming for novices. Also, with the screen zooming in and out to encompass more or less of the guitar neck, it can be difficult to see which fret you're supposed to be playing.
Fortunately, everything from basic gameplay to advanced techniques are spelled out in tutorial videos, while the game's sliding difficulty scale largely ensures that the challenge is correctly pitched to the player's level of ability. It makes the initial moments with Rocksmith a real joy.
Belting out the riff from Rolling Stones song 'Satisfaction' or hitting note after note in 'Go With the Flow' by Queens of the Stone Age is a genuinely rewarding and pleasing experience. With a no frills career mode that sees players practice songs, play venues and perform encores, players should make steady progress in the early stages - giving users a real sense of achievement, and something that's likely to increase motivation.
Feeling like a rock god after only a handful of songs, the introduction of chords, solos and complex techniques will bring beginners crashing back to reality with the same impact as a portly punk rocker stage-diving into an empty crowd. Once again the game handles the bump well, providing the necessary tools to master the new techniques, albeit away from the main career mode.
With a little digging within Rocksmith's slightly convoluted menu screens, users can access a wealth of additional mini-games, practice arenas and challenges to aid almost every aspect of learning the guitar. Technique challenges include chord play, slides, sustains, hammer-ons and pull-offs. Challenges adopt the same dynamic difficulty setting as the main campaign, ensuring players grow accustomed to techniques before mastering them.
Beyond the slightly straight-laced challenges, Guitarcade contains a collection of technique-based mini-games. While the rest of the game is a little po-faced and serious, Guitarcade is enormous fun, transforming genuine skills into enjoyable side quests.
'Dawn of the Chordead', for example, tasks players with destroying zombies by playing selected chords. 'Ducks', on the other hand, takes a cue from Space Invaders, challenging players to eliminate as many falling birds as possible by strumming the corresponding fret.
Guitarcade represents Rocksmithat its best, offering something that no other medium can. Not only do the score-based challenges benefit players, teaching muscle memory and reinforcing skills, but they also feel more at home in the confines of a video game. Skills can subsequently be transferred back into the main campaign, and nearly always result in higher scores.
The biggest criticism of Rocksmith, and something we've already alluded to, is the fact that it can be tricky finding the most beneficial technique or challenge from the menu. Chords from specific songs, in particular, are a real chore to learn, as users can only attempt one at a time, before being taken back to the main menu and loading the next one. Outside of Guitarcade, the game is also a little short on personality.
Rocksmith doesn't provide a fast-track solution to guitar playing and won't magically motivate users to continue playing. It does, however, offer continued feedback and a genuine sense of progress and achievement, providing all of the tools necessary to become competent guitarists.
If you're prepared to put in the hours and make those fingers bleed, Rocksmith is the perfect learning tool, hitting all of the right notes and striking a chord with rock fans.