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Rocksmith

Call me fickle, but Rocksmith is really, really good! Thus far, it’s been a much better guitar teacher than Rock Band 3.

Of course, they’re coming from different directions. Pro Guitar in RB3 is pretty much Rock Band with an insanely complex controller. But other than the basic tutorials, it doesn’t really try to teach.

Rocksmith is all about teaching. It always seems to have something in mind – even when you’re just strumming along with a song you’ve played before, it’s like, “Hey, remember how we talked about shifting? Here’s a shifting section.” Or, “You’re pretty good at this part, let’s try it with double-strums.”

A big selling point of Rocksmith is its dynamic difficulty, and I’ve been seeing that already, even though I’ve only played one song. While playing through “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones, I noticed that when I played through sections similar to phrases I had already played, they’d be a little different; maybe with a few more notes, or a section requiring up/down strumming, something like that.

And then there are technique sections and challenges, which actually go into depth about how to play guitar effectively. I always watched guitarists, and wondered how they kept track of it – how could they play low on the neck, then instantly snap to play on the first few frets, then snap back down low? Now I know a little bit about anchor points and shifting.

Probably the biggest improvement for me over RB3 is just that Rocksmith turns the interface on its side. In Rock Band 3, when a note appears to the right on Pro Guitar, it actually means that I need to move my hand down. On Rocksmith, if a note is to the right, I move my hand to the right. If the note is lower, I move to a lower string. Much more intuitive thus far, although again, the games are coming from different directions: the Rocksmith interface takes up the whole screen, and totally wouldn’t work in a full-band game.

The second biggest improvement is that Rocksmith is using my guitar’s sound to trigger the notes. It works – thus far, the recognition has been perfect. And that makes it much more satisfying. With RB3, I might pick one note, and the game plays a riff and cascades down the scales. It feels like I’m just triggering pre-determined sound sames. In Rocksmith, if I pick one note, I get one note. If I cut off the note early, it stops in game. That also means that, as I level up, I can hear the song become closer and closer to the album version.

The question still remains – in two or three weeks, will it still be fun? And will I have learned anything? We’ll have to see.

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