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Rocksmith: Schooled by rock


If I had Rocksmith when I was a kid, I would be a lot better off now.

In 1995, I begged my parents to buy me a guitar. As you can imagine, I was swept up in the grunge fever that permeated a lot of the '90s. My idol, Kurt Cobain, died a year before and being the 12-year-old I was, I had it all figured out: I was going to be a rock star.

My parents bought me a used Ibanez acoustic, with the promise of an electric guitar if I stayed at it. I did and, 16 years later, at an event for Ubisoft's Rocksmith, I discovered that my parents and I had wasted money on guitar instruction over the years.

Gallery: Rocksmith (E3 2011) | 6 Photos

Rocksmith isn't strictly a game, it's an instructional aid. Though it won't train you in classical guitar, it gets you to recognize timing and the general structure of a song. Starting with the bass line, each song throws more and more at you, progressively teaching you more and more of the song. And it's all made possible by a silly little cord that lets you plug your guitar into your Xbox 360 or PS3. It works incredibly well.

I'm more of a rhythm guy -- let the Hendrixes, Malmsteens, Satrianis, Youngs and Hammetts of this world do their thing -- so the first song I jumped into was "House of the Rising Son." Now, I should preface this by saying I can't really play any well-known songs and I have no desire to, but my progression throughout this chord-based song was fascinating to me. Each time I played it (five times total), the game heaped more responsibility on my shoulders. What started as a seldom-strummed E and D chords eventually turned into panic as I attempted to keep pace with the song and its plethora of chords. The challenge remained a constant, but I was growing.

Beyond the education are a robust pedal playground, mini-games, co-op and some free-jamming modes. The pedals were impressive. Players can set up custom saved tone combos, allowing them to either jam with their own sound or apply that sound to an established song, essentially allowing them to own a particular tune. It's empowering and robust enough that a seasoned guitar player can be lost for hours messing around with virtual pedal and guitar sounds and effects.

As somebody who's been playing guitar (rather poorly) for almost his entire life, Rocksmith was an enticing combo of tutelage and discovery. I could learn famous songs if I wanted, but I could also just mess around and discover effects and sounds I never thought possible -- not even on GarageBand with my iPad!

Rocksmith launches on October 18 for the PS3 and Xbox 360. A PC version is slated to take the stage on December 13.

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