Despite that fact that guitar picks feature prominently in all of its video tutorials – you’re even given advice on how to hold one properly at a couple of junctures – one slightly bizarre thing about Rocksmith is that a plectrum isn’t included with it. When you’re learning the ropes this isn’t much a problem, but when you progress to performing things like Double Stops (playing two notes in unison) a pick starts to become downright essential. They’re not expensive – online, you can find places that sell bundles of ten for less than a pound – so it’s worth being aware of this beforehand if you plan on taking Rocksmith at all seriously.
Double Stops are a bit of a breeze initially because you start off by only playing with adjacent strings, but things only stay that simple for about ten minutes. This is where the game’s brilliant Riff Repeater mode comes in so handy; you play through a brief section of a chosen song, and Rocksmith gauges a comfortable practice speed for you to begin at. You’re then given five “lives” and are tasked with completing the same section repeatedly, each one progressively faster than the last, until you nail it at 100% speed. If you manage to just scrape by at 100% you’re then free to progress elsewhere, but don’t; retrying until you complete it first time will imbue you with a real sense of determination and purpose.
The game gives you a bit of breathing space after that, as next up is the Tremelo Challenge. If you’ve ever picked up a guitar in your life, you’ve already done this – it’s merely the name given to the technique of strumming up and down rapidly. The “challenge” itself is as elementary (and fun) as you’d expect, but be sure to peruse what it unlocks when you complete it: another mini-game in the Guitarcade called Quick Pick Dash. In it, your strums make an ostrich run across the fret, and you have to rapidly change strings to avoid on-screen obstacles. It’s enjoyable (if exhausting) but it’s yet another smart tool that gets you more and more accustomed to moving between strings at speed, and is well worth periodically revisiting.
Initially we had problems with how quickly Rocksmith adapts to your skills during play, and the difficulty continues to ramp up very briskly when you’re flourishing. The overall package is so open-ended and un-intimidating that this system seemed unusually brutal at first, but as your skills improve it starts to exude the traits of a traditional videogame; placed under pressure, your reward comes in the form of “beating” it. The more that you play and learn, the more palatable it becomes, though we can’t stress enough how important it is to regularly sample the peripheral gameplay in between. One fact remains though: dedication remains absolutely key.
Rocksmith is currently due for release on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on Friday, October 19th 2012. A PC version is expected to follow later in the year.
Watch the “Overview” trailer for Rocksmith below: