The concept of Ubisoft's upcoming Rocksmith video game is simple enough to explain to someone: Imagine Guitar Hero with a real guitar. And now that Guitar Hero has shuffled off this mortal coil and into cold storage until another generation's irony-hungry hordes pick it up, Rocksmith should pick up the slack.
Last Thursday during SXSW in Austin, I got a sneak peek at Rocksmith when I was invited to a tour bus outfitted with three or four stations set up with the game, before the bus embarked through the city so the rest of the population could try their hand at it.
The game doesn't come out until September, but it's very much in its final stages of development. The version of the game I played may be somewhat different come release.
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The concept of Rocksmith is this: You can plug any electric guitar into the Rocksmith hub (which looks like a guitar pedal), put on a headset, and play to your favorite rock-and-roll songs. Instead of colored keys on a tiny, plastic guitar, you have a real guitar experience.
If you're an avid player, you'll do fine with the game. If, like myself, your love for rock and roll is as massive as your musical capability is small, it will carry you kicking and screaming into at least learning one chord. It was fun to finally strap on a guitar and at least play a lick from the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" after almost three decades of playing it on air guitar. It points out your weaknesses and works on them with you.
The game now comes loaded with the usual set of rock standards, but as it progresses, the makers of the game promise that there will be infinitely more content to download if you wish. Expect to hear tracks from David Bowie, Nirvana, The Stones, Interpol, The Animals and the Black Keys as the game rolls out. It will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation, and PC.
The best thing about Rocksmith is that it finally solves the problem most musical purists had with games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. It puts real music in the hands of the gamer, not just cutesy graphics and colors. The previous music systems merely let you enjoy the ride; Rocksmith makes you shift the gears and turn the wheel.