Every note, chord, pick scrape, or sound you make is played through the game in real time, and it's amazing how Rocksmith essentially turns your TV or stereo into an amplifier. Thankfully, there's a built-in tuner you can access from the menu, and you're prompted to check your tuning between songs. Reverb and distortion are added to your guitar's sound on a song-by-song basis too, but you also unlock different amps, effects pedals, and guitars to fiddle around with in the game's absorbing sandbox-style amp mode. Here you can customize your guitar sound with tons of different layers of tones and effects. It's easy to spend hours testing all the sounds out and free-form jamming through the TV.
Chords can get a little crazy at high speed.
For everything Rocksmith does right in terms of delivering an authentic guitar-playing experience married with enjoyable gameplay, it's still lacking in some areas. Compared to other rhythm games, the presentation is far less flashy or interesting. While that makes sense, given the focus is on playing a real guitar instead of hitting just a few colored buttons, it could have used a more upbeat, engaging way to draw you into the experience. Venues are dark, drab spots populated small seas of realistic-looking fans who are equally lacking in personality. The campaign structure itself feels pretty weak too. There are a lot of tunes to rock through and some great content to unlock, yet there's precious little about the experience that makes you feel like you're rocking out onstage or making real progress through your virtual career.
There's definitely room for improvement down the road, but Rocksmith's debut has one thing going for it above all else: it's the real deal. This ambitious guitar game delivers on its promise of intense rhythm gaming action tied to the act of actual guitar playing. It has something to offer players of all skill levels, whether you're picking up and learning the guitar for the first time or have been playing for ages. After years of Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and a slew of imitators, it's refreshing to see someone finally make the big leap and succeed.