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REVIEW & COMPETITION: Rocksmith Authentic Guitar Games

Over the last few years, anyone with a passing interest in video games, has no doubt encountered a guitar based game such as Guitar Hero or Rockband , all with cheap plastic guitars that you use as the small, flimsie and unrealistic controller. This is fine as far as I’m concerned, its gaming, not my kind of thing but gaming never the-less and I’ve played enough air guitar in my time, not to judge a man in the middle of a powerslide. But I always thought wouldn’t it be cool if someone brought out a game that could actually teach you how to play Guitar. Wouldn’t that be awesome…..

Then I discovered Rocksmith Authentic Guitar Games. Where Rocksmith differs from its competition is that you plug an actual guitar or bass into your games console and learn to play all your favourite tracks from Nirvana ‘In Bloom’ through to classics of PA Kleenex’ era like the Animals ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and Bowie’s ‘Rebel, Rebel’.

When I first heard about the game I was sceptical to be perfectly honest, it looked amazing, but would it live up to the hype surrounding it?  Would the finished product knock me off my feet or slap me sqare in the jaw. We needed to know, because you needed to know. And also I really wanted to play it. So I contacted Ubisoft makers of the game and asked for a review copy. Then they said yes.  A few days after that a copy of the game dropped through my letter box!!!! Finally with a guitar given to me by Gary Lammin of the Bermondsey Joyriders, I set out to explore the wonderful world of Rocksmith and truly did it rock me like a hurricane. ;-) Sorry I had to….

Let me just say that originally I set out to review this in the form of a daily diary. I intended to play for two hours a day and write about my daily experiences learning to play guitar with this new, slightly new, revolutionary educational system . OK I cauld have just called it a game. But anyway , the diary just wasn’t possible under any circumstance. Why not, you ask gentle reader? Because I couldn’t  put Rocksmith down for love or money. Day turned to night and night kissed the dawn, but still I continued plucking away like a man possessed and I wouldn’t stop. Rocksmith is a truly amazing game and you can quickly become seriously addictive to its intuitive nature and wealth of content! Included with the game is the “Hercules” adapter that connects the standard 1⁄4 in (6.35 mm) output jack of a guitar to a USB plug that is compatible with XBOX, PS3 and Windows PC, thus converting an analogue signal into digital and allowing the physics behind the technology to take place.

A week ago I could probably play a few chords, but that was it.  I had tried to learn guitar when I was in my teens. But I was really awful. Back then we had to learn from dusty old books out of the old library that was only open for half hour a week, if you were lucky and of course the dodgy Bert Weedon video’s (Seriously look him up if you wanna find out how not to pose with a guitar), which were as far from Metallica and Skid Row as you could probably get. I admit though , my mum did get me a metal hammer subscription for my birthday, so there was no reason for me not learning to play other than it wasn’t very easy back then. And being young, I wanted instant gratification. Cause that’s what you do when you have all the time in the world. This is kind of where Rocksmith excels.  You spend a little time setting up, you tune your guitar. Yes Rocksmith really does include a tuner. Then you’re told to play your first riff, its really just to ease you in. It speeds up once you’ve perfected it and you realise it’s the Rolling Stones ‘Satisfaction’ . Cue massive buzz. Your first Riff. Brilliant its actually won me over already!

The way that Rocksmith works is; the on-screen fretboard scrolls from right to left, which is a lot like common tablature , with the notes on the corresponding string showing the number of the fret on which the note is played. When you first start out on your path to enlightenment, you only play certain notes in the arrangement, just so that you get used to that particular song. As you improve more notes are slowly added. The game becomes harder as your skill increases. Rocksmith literally teaches you at your own pace and adapts and adjusts completely to your own level.

There are some great features to help you along your way, such as Techniques, where your virtual teacher schools you in things like Harmonics (not my best technique) and Power Chords (damn them). You can also use a riff repeater, which calculates your ability and then slows down the riff, giving you five lives in which to perfect it. Each time you get it right, it recalculates again until it’s satisfied you’ve mastered it enough to increase the speed. You can also learn about the chords for each song and master them to increase your knowledge and skill with that particular track.

When I first started playing a week ago, I was terrible, all thumbs and enthusiasm. I was lucky to get to 900 points for  rehearsing a song. I’m getting close to 15,000 for some now and even managed 25,000 at one point. So you certainly notice a visible improvement. It does seem to be important to diversify the songs that you play, as each song you practice includes certain techniques to help you on your journey. Originally I planned to focus on one song but a  friend who’s a music teacher told me to diversify instead, which is an important way for you to progress in hindsight and definitely stops practice be boring. I know for a fact what its like  for someone to attempt to kill their drummer after the 70th take. I’ve seen it many times.

Another nice feature is the Perform option where you perform a song or a set in front of a virtual audience who cheer you on and get more manic the better you play, or if you’re bad they just shuffle around looking bored. This add an extra element to the game, giving you your first experience of gigging without having to deal with flying beer bottles and self harming groupies.  You aren’t Van Halen just yet. Remember its one step at a time. So far I’ve only unlocked 2 venues as I’m still an amateur for now and obviously not good in front of an audience. I’m interested to see how much bigger the audiences and venues get though as you inevitably progress through the game.

There’s also Guitarcade which uses mini games to teach you about techniques and increase your Accuracy. Ducks is one of these games. Basically you hit the correct fret and shoot the Duck. It’s actually pretty damn good as a standalone game, even though you only ever use the E string. I found it helped me learn the correct way of holding the strings. When you’ve just started its really easy to screw up and again Rocksmith excels as it forces you to master it off of your own back. There are other mini games (which as yet I haven’t unlocked)  such as Super Ducks which uses all 6 strings to shoot and the corresponding fret to blast Donald’s seasoned nephews. Scale Runner which teaches Scale patterns and is useful for learning about writing music, plus quite a few others that all no doubt help to refine your ever increasing skills as an axe men.

Then there’s the shop which allows you to buy additional songs and packs, as well as virtual equipment. I’ve literally used up  all my Microsoft points (which I was saving for Black Ops 2 DLC – ahh well) on new tracks, one of which was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Freebird’ which is not for the tender hearted or fumbling, panicking novice like me. I pat myself on the back for even attempting it…..

It’s hard to actually find a fault with this game, its perfect in every single way and it is sure to be a lifelong resource for anyone who play’s the guitar, from the beginner right through to the advanced and even the Angus Young’s of the world. There’s potentially an unlimited amount of songs to learn as Rocksmith is continually adding more items to its shop. It would be easy to spend a fortune on new tracks though, which will be worth it when you play your first stadium but that’s still some time away, so don’t break the bank!

I’ve tried to explain Rocksmith to a few musicians over the last few weeks and many have rolled their eyes and looked at me as if I’m an idiot for suggesting that a game can teach you guitar. Like any new tech that upsets the traditional regime, it’s going to come under some fire for a while yet. And it may never be accepted in some circles of the elite. In the end though, this is irrelevant in the long run…

Rocksmith is the ultimate evolution of the guitarist. It boasts that ‘anyone can play Guitar and they’re right. With this game, anyone really can play guitar. In years to come, the next generation of Rawk gods will all be crediting this ‘game’ for their mastery of the fretboard, and never, ever having to buy a dodgy Bert Weedon video…ever! I personally have had a great time with Rocksmith, it’s made learning fun and that in itself is pretty damn priceless!

Rocksmith get’s 10/10 all day long

YouTube Preview Image COMPETITION: The nice people at Rocksmith have given us 2 XFM Winter Wonderland tickets for the 17th Dec at Brixton Academy. And we’re giving them away to the first person that can tell us the name of the adapter that allows the standard 1⁄4 in (6.35 mm) output jack of a guitar to connect to a USB plug. Please send your answer to competitions@theblackflag.co.uk with your name and address. The first correct answer gets to go to one of the best gigs of the year. Hows that for a Christmas present! COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED! Well done to Leah Painvin, who shall go to the ball!!!!

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