One of the big criticisms leveled at rhythm-based guitar games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band was that they don't actually teach you to play guitar. Ignoring the fact that this was never the intention of the games and not necessarily a bad thing, it's true. Rock Band 3 tried to address such criticism with its 100-button plus Pro guitar controller and another stringed controller that played like a real guitar. There's also the still unsighted Disney Star Guitarist and Power Gig: Rise of the Six String, which failed to attain the success of its button-mashing brethren. With the curtain recently brought down on the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, Ubisoft has stepped onto the stage with Rocksmith – the first videogame that lets players use any real guitar and is designed to teach them how to actually play it.
Rocksmith lets any guitar with a standard quarter-inch input jack to be plugged into an Xbox 360, PS3 or PC, meaning many acoustic guitars will require a pickup. Instead of user selectable difficulty levels, Rocksmith will automatically adjust to the player's skill level so it is a challenge but not overwhelming. The only image showing the Rocksmith interface (see main pic) suggests it should be familiar to players of previous rhythm-based games.
Like its now defunct competitors, players will be able to play either rhythm or lead guitar and they'll now also be able to brush up on chords using interactive chord charts and hone specific skills – scales or finger dexterity for example – using a variety of mini games. There will also be multiplayer, but in just what form is yet to be revealed.
"Whether a beginner or a seasoned guitar vet, players progress at their own speed and walk away from the game with the ability to play songs by memory. Rocksmith is the only video game that gets players stage ready," said Tony Key, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Ubisoft U.S.
One of the major factors in the success of any music-based game is the track set list and Ubisoft says Rocksmith will provide a variety of music, ranging from old to new, classic to contemporary and easy to insanely difficult, while concentrating on fun, guitar-centric tracks. While it hasn't released the names of any specific songs, there will be tracks from The Animals, The Black Keys, David Bowie, Interpol, Nirvana and The Rolling Stones.
Key told The Hollywood Reporter that by teaching people how to actually play guitar, Rocksmith would not get boring like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. He is also hopeful that Rocksmith will avoid one of the other major issues faced by Guitar Hero and Rock Band – the high cost of licensing music – as he says many bands are eager to get on board a more realistic guitar playing game – what Ubisoft is calling "games with benefits." As a result Rocksmith will offer songs that haven't appeared on Guitar Hero or Rock Band – although Key remains teasingly tight-lipped about conversations with Led Zeppelin.
Ubisoft has slated Rocksmith for a release in the second half of 2011. It is also reportedly negotiating with guitar makers such as Gibson to sell a version of the game that would be bundled with an electric guitar and retail for around US$200.
So what do you think? Are those of you who have grown bored of Guitar Hero and Rock Band likely to get the band back together for a game that actually teaches you how to play guitar? Or maybe such a game is enough to make you wade into the guitar-based game genre for the first time? Let us know in the poll below and in the comments.