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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Rocksmith’ rocks, crosses new gaming frontier

    Gamers looking to learn guitar need to pick up Ubisoft’s “Rocksmith” — it’s astounding.

    After “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” killed all hopes of learning to play an instrument for real, it was difficult to imagine that “Rocksmith” would actually deliver a way to do exactly that. Well, I can say with confidence that if you pick up the game, one day you will know how to play guitar.

    By using a real electric guitar instead of some fake plastic controller, players learn the basics of guitar on the real thing. The first step, as always, is to tune the instrument, which the game helps the player do. Once that’s done, the game takes you into a song, showing how game play works.

    Just like “Guitar Hero” there is a wide bar with notes that scroll down toward a representation of the guitar strings, and when the notes and the string overlap, the player has to strum.

    This produces whatever sound the note makes, and the quality of sound depends on how well the player holds the note. If the strings get muted, so does the sound.

    “Rocksmith” uses that to its advantage. Not only does it let players strum muted notes, which some songs require, but it also lets the them hear how off they sound, thus allowing them to adjust their hands.

    So the song continues with notes scrolling down. At the beginning there are hardly any notes to play since the game assumes the player has never picked up the instrument before.

    As time goes on though, if the player shows they can handle more, the game gives it to them. Eventually, the player is playing the entire song as it actually sounds.

    When it comes to knowing which notes to play, that’s pretty simple, too. The scrolling bar has all the frets on the guitar neck numbered, and the note is color coded to a string to show where to strum. For chords, a little picture of the hand arrangement shows up and scrolls down.

    The way it keeps up with the player is probably the coolest feature, but overall the experience is just a blast. There’s a real sense of accomplishment to be gained just by playing two consecutive notes on different fret bars — at least that’s how it will be for a beginner.

    That doesn’t mean learning is going to be easy, however. But with anything as complicated as learning guitar, there is a learning curve. It will take hours of playing on a daily basis before anyone sees steady improvement.

    To start, you’re playing a real guitar, so it’s going to take time to build up callouses. Playing can feel uncomfortable for a while until that happens.

    Then there’s getting used to where all the frets are. The game comes with numbered stickers to put on the neck. Without them it’s hard to keep track of which fret is which. Add in six different strings and it’s only more confusing.

    From a gameplay perspective, the way the notes come at the player can be a little disorienting for a while too. The problem is that there are more than 20 frets on the neck, and the scrolling note bar has to accommodate that. So, when the player goes from fret three or four to 12 or 13, it sort of awkwardly zooms out, pans over and zooms back in. Eventually it gets easier to follow, but until then, good luck.

    Still, the problems evaporate eventually, and all that’s left is fun.

    Experienced guitarists might have more fun initially, since they can play well and don’t have to be frustrated by the learning process, but it’s the new players who benefit in the end.

    Games have offered players a lot of experiences over the years, but learning to play a real instrument in an exciting medium is definitely a new frontier, which makes “Rocksmith” one of the greatest innovations in recent gaming history.

    Grade: A

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