The Rocksmith Plus release date has arrived today (6th September), and we’re now allowed to share our thoughts on Ubisoft’s new guitar-teaching computer game, which has been widely touted as ‘Guitar Hero with real guitars’.
Indeed, Rocksmith Plus is a game that teaches you the guitar in a unique way, but you will need a PC or Windows 10 laptop in order to use it — there’s no sign of a release on Mac, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S or Nintendo Switch at this stage. You’ll also need your own guitar, of course, with electrics and acoustics supported as well as bass guitars.
Here at RadioTimes.com, we got access to a review build of Rocksmith Plus on PC nice and early, and we’ve enjoyed a few long sessions with the game over the last couple of weeks. We’re impressed so far! But with Rocksmith Plus being pegged as a subscription service, it’s worth noting that a lot more content and changes will probably come to the platform in the coming weeks, months and perhaps even years.
Of course, how well you get on with Rocksmith Plus will have a lot to do with how good you already are at guitar. This writer had a couple of years of old-fashioned lessons in his teenage years (over a decade ago, if you must know), but only got as far as Grade One in terms of the traditional teaching methods.
After that, we played some ropey major chords and basic bass lines in a number of university bands, before largely letting our instruments gather dust for years. We noodled a bit during the pandemic, but not much. We’re never really sure what to do on guitar, as much as we’d like to spend more time with the hobby.
With all that in mind, we downloaded Rocksmith Plus with a sense of real excitement. Could this be the inciting incident that gets us back into guitar in a big way? Could this game help us, finally, years after we first plucked a string, get good at the guitar? Might this be the start of a hugely successful music career that will catapult us to rock stardom? Okay, maybe not the last one, but we had a good feeling about the other two questions.
The setup of Rocksmith Plus did require a little bit of fiddling, to be honest, which took the wind out of our sails for a few minutes. At first, no sound was coming out through our telly, and we had to go into our audio settings to make the music flow (we had to disable a competing audio output, if you were wondering). Then, we had to download the Rocksmith companion app in order to let the game hear our acoustic guitar — if you’re playing with an electric instrument, though, you can just plug straight into your computer.
Finally, when we could hear the game and the game could hear our guitar, everything clicked into place. Immediately, the game asks you pick a few genres that you like, so that it can make recommendations of songs you might like to try. When you click into a song, you’ll see the option to play the lead part or the rhythm part, and selecting the latter will show you a list of all the chords you need to know before you get started. We found a Weird Al Yankovic track that only used chords that we knew, and so we cued it up and started playing.
While you’re playing a song, you’ll see a vibrant moving tab on the screen, similar to what you’d see in Guitar Hero but obviously a bit more complicated. After a few attempts, most guitar players should be able to read these fairly easily, although keeping up with your fingers is a whole other matter, of course. Like Guitar Hero, when the song ends, the game will tell you how many notes/chords you landed correctly. You’ll receive a percentage accuracy score, and you’ll earn some experience points that you can put towards unlockable cosmetics.
The gameplay loop is compelling, the audio is crystal clear and the visuals in the songs are really lush to look at. On our first session, we found ourselves playing for four hours straight as we tried out different songs, attempted to improve our scores and learned a whole load of new chords that we’d never come across before. We even found ourselves trying out lead guitar parts, something that we never thought we’d be capable of. Our fingers started to hurt after a while, but it was very satisfying to see those percentage ‘mastery’ scores gradually moving up.
When you’re playing a lead guitar part, you also get to chose which level of difficulty you’d like to play at. If you set that meter really low, you’ll only have to play a small portion of the notes. As you learn those, the game will encourage you to practise certain segments and gradually increase the difficulty. Eventually, you’ll find yourself playing riffs that you didn’t think you could. It’s a really great way to play, and this is coming from someone that has tried several times over the years to learn songs from online tabs – that can get really frustrating, but Rocksmith makes the process a lot smoother and more encouraging.
Beyond the faff of the setup, the only thing we’d really see as a flaw is the library of the songs. Yes, there are over 5,000 tracks to be played at launch, but if you go searching for a favourite band of yours, chances are you won’t find any of their famous tunes here – you might find a random B-side or a song that featured on a compilation album, but don’t go in expecting the entire discography of all your favourite artists. Rocksmith Plus is pitched as a growing service, though, so here’s hoping that more of our faves will be added in time. Until then, we’ll happily keep rocking out to the songs that are available!
Rocksmith Plus is out now on PC. You’ll find the game on the Ubisoft Store, where UK prices start at £12.99 per month.
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