As you now doubt recall, I got the Rock Band Pro Guitar earlier this year. Well, for the holidays I also got Rocksmith, a new ‘learn to play guitar for XBox’ game. So, early thoughts.
The game works by a 1/4″ jack to USB converter. So, the XBox actually listens to you playing the guitar. That this actually works (with the caveat that it’s sometimes a bit touchy), but overall it’s a dancing bear.
Look, this teaches you to play the guitar, and all the reviews I’ve read said “Hey, this isn’t really a fun game.” So I knew that going in. What I didn’t know is how crappy everything else about the game is.
Let’s go through it. You play a song. The user interface for showing what notes to hit is not as clean as Rock Band. It does kind of work, but when notes comes quickly it’s basically a two dimensional square (with high to low to show the string, and left to right to show the fret). The notes rotate from one orientation to another to give a sense of timing, but when there are lots of notes, I sometimes can’t tell which one is coming first. But, hey, it’s difficult to show this.
So you play a song! Yea. Of course, you can’t set the difficulty. As you get a better score, the next time you play the song it gets harder. Now the game suggests you do some technique training.
Go to technique training. Wait for it to load.
Strum each string so the game can tell if your guitar is still tuned.
Now load the training…that was the tuning load.
Now a video on the technique. Skip it.
Now a one minute practice. Maybe two.
Now you should practice this chord (say).
Now you are ready for some songs.
So, my complaints:
- You should only have to tune your guitar once a session. Given that it takes 30-45 seconds for each tuning, it’s a nightmare. (To be fair, if you play a set you only tune once, so I suspect I’ll mainly be doing that).
- If you’ve watched the video for some technique, chord, whatever, it still shows it the next time unless you skip.
- The chord library is a bunch of videos and practices, there’s no “Just show me the hand positions for all the chords” (or even “All the chords in this song.”) So if you don’t know it, it’s 5 minutes to gain one screen of information.
- Despite the constant tuning, there are a few times where it misreads the notes. This doesn’t bother me, since it’s complaining that the dancing bear sometimes misses a step.
On a practical level, you can’t practice guitar while people around you play rock band. That may matter. And, of course, you only need any old electric guitar, not a special rock band guitar. And it is nice that you can then watch the song and hear the notes you actually played. That’s good feedback for learning.
Given that this is an XBox game, there’s a chance that Ubisoft is listening to reviews and will patch the game (it should be fine to skip the tuning, and a simple fix).
But what I’m really hoping is that Rock Band buys the “Guitar to XBox” technology.
As a pedagogical tool, this is pretty cheap motivation. I get 50 new songs (which are much more obscure than I’d hoped) and even if just use the ‘play song section’ then I’ll get a fair amount of practice. If you do use this as a learning tool, get a chord book and a book on technique, and just use this for songs. (There are also some “guitarcade” games that may be useful, but I haven’t spent much time there).