Rocksmith – Hands On

When I was growing up, I really wanted to be in a band.  Not a Rock Band band (such things didn’t exist when I was that age), but a Rock and Roll band.  My father taught me a few chords on guitar.  Each day he would teach me new ones and I would practice strumming between them –  usually until my fingers bled.  Gradually, I learned how to play the chords of the songs, and finally, finger picking to them.  It was a couple weeks’ process with a lot of frustrations between the time I started to learn and started playing all of my favorite songs that I’d hear on the radio.  Eventually I would join my first ever garage band, Frecabulous.

Don’t ask.  It’s not a real word…and an even longer story.

Fast forward 15 years to when Guitar Hero and Rock Band began to gain popularity.  Of course, you didn’t play with real instruments, but I soon saw resurgence with people wanting to learn to play real instruments again as a result.  Finally, Ubisoft stepped to the plate to help aspiring musicians take things to the next level with Rocksmith.  And at the 2011 Toronto FanExpo, I got a chance to sit down and take a look at this first hand.

First off, there will be two bundles available for Rocksmith.  The first is just the game and an accompanying Real Tone Cable that allows you to plug your own guitar into your Xbox 360 or PS3 for $79.99USD.  The second is the game bundled with a Gibson Les Paul trainer guitar for the low price of $199.99USD.  I call it a trainer because it’s a slightly smaller than your typical guitar with a somewhat narrower neck.  Of course, this doesn’t diminish the fact that you’re essentially getting a $200-$250 guitar with a game that will teach you how to use it.  I find Ubisoft’s price point to be quite exceptional.

I sat down at the console, strapped on the Les Paul, and got to work on one of Rocksmith’s 50 song selections, “The House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals.  You have the option of playing a Chord Mode where you’re essentially just strumming the chords as needed, or a Mixed Mode where you’ll have some strumming combined with individual note playing.  Since I wasn’t too familiar with playing the song, I decided to just strum the chords.

You’re taken to a screen that is somewhat similar to Guitar Hero where as the song plays, the keys and frets come down the line to help you time when to strum.  On the side is a reference of what chord you need to prepare to play and a fingerboard graphic to give you the correct finger placement needed to play it.  It does this well enough in advance to let the more inexperienced player have a bit of time to get the correct finger placement without having to rush.  Having been a novice player before, this is something that’s crucial in getting a player to stick with the learning regiment, as it takes a little time to work up the dexterity to position your hands to the correct finger placement in a timely fashion. At the end of the session, Rocksmith gives you a score for your performance as well as an accuracy rating.  I was pretty satisfied that I got a 76% accuracy my first time through.


Overall, my time with Rocksmith was well spent.  Ubisoft appears to have put together a fantastic game that both novices and veterans alike should enjoy.  I’m very much looking forward to reviewing the full game when it releases this October 18th for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.


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September 2, 2011 - 8:30 am