'Rocksmith' (XBOX 360/PS3/PC) looks and sounds exactly like those plastic guitar-mashing rhythm games ('Guitar Hero', 'Rockband') that used to be cool, suddenly became embarrassing, and now gather dust in the loft of anyone with a sense of shame.
It is not one of these games.
Yes, it's a guitar tutor and play-along experience, in which you have to hit sequences of notes in time with a backing track plucked from the annals of rock 'n' roll.
Yes, it features a familiar 'You Rock!' sensibility, and involves performing awkwardly playlisted sets with a virtual 'band' to the cheers of a digital crowd.
But, again, it is not one of those games.
Why? Because in Rocksmith, you use a real guitar. Not a plastic guitar. Not a propriety guitar. Not an Xbox controller shaped like a guitar. A guitar. Your guitar. Your existing guitar. You can use a guitar shaped like a pizza if you're so inclined. It's up to you.
Using the proprietary (but well-made) RealTone cable (sensibly included in the box) you hook your guitar up to your console and you're ready to go - presuming you've read the instructions to reduce lag to a manageable level.
From there the game takes you slowly through how its mechanics actually work. At first you're just hitting single notes as they move down the familiar 'track' towards the virtual neck of your axe, where the notes you have to play are indicated. It's simple - the notes even rotate to show precisely when to hit them - although the arbitrary colouring of the strings doesn't help if you're using an all-silver, real-world set.
Gradually - perhaps too gradually for an experienced guitarist - the game builds up the number of notes and complexity of rhythm, until you're playing whole songs with chords, hammer-ons, lift-offs and every other guitar technique you'll need to make it in the game, and the real world.
It shouldn't work. But, almost unbelievably, it does. The RealTone cable accurately monitors what you're playing, and translates it into a decent in-game tone, modified with a range of effects and amps which sound really good through headphones or speakers. The feedback you get after each performance matters, because you trust it. And you never feel you're playing anything other than a real guitar, because that's exactly what you're doing.
For anyone with a modicum of desire to play music, it's a total revelation. For the right player, it's almost enough to bring you to tears.
The game comes with a selection of modes, including a fully-featured tutorial section, arcade-like minigames to teach you scales, note selection and timing, and a 'free play' rehearsal mode to get you straight into playing your favourite tracks.
The game is also generous with in-game rewards, regularly presenting you with new amps and effects to use in the 'amp' mode, in which you can experiment with sounds and practice with no backing track.
There are some issues, though. For the experienced player the game takes too long to get going, and will involve at least an hour of very basic levelling-up until the real rock begins. It also makes it difficult for a new guitarist and an experienced one to share a game together.
Additionally, while it features 50 very decent songs, the game's playlist is quite eclectic, and some may wish it featured a few more all-out rockers alongside the indie hits and classic pop tunes. More songs are available through DLC, but frankly we could have done with more in the box.
That all said, for anyone with an interest in playing the guitar, Rocksmith is basically a must-buy. It's a beautifully made, carefully put together game which is not just realistic but real, in every sense of the word. It is the best music game ever made by a long, long way.
And it is the only game we have ever had to stop playing because our fingers were literally bleeding.
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