Last month saw the release of what may be the most innovative music game yet in Rocksmith, an Ubisoft title that marked the first time users could play along with an actual, real guitar. Any guitar with a 6.35mm/1/4â€³ jack works or users could purchase the amazingly priced $200 bundle which comes with the game, the special USB cable and an actual Epiphone Les Paul Junior guitar.
For the most part, the game worked well but certain design choice hindered the learning experience for beginners and advanced users also were subject to the game's restrictions. The reviews for the game, including our own Rocksmith review, reflected this fact but it did not sit well with Ubisoft's North American executive director Laurent Detoc.
In speaking with Gamasutra, Detoc explains that while satisfied with the game's sales numbers to date, he's unimpressed with the tone of some of the Rocksmith reviews, claiming that they are not giving enough credit to innovation.
"As much as they claim they want innovation, they don't. What I see when I read the reviews is a lack of enthusiasm for something that is new. … We, as human beings, tend to like what we know. But more importantly, we call ourselves gamers. Are we gamers — or players?"
Taken by itself, this thought process misses the point. Sure, we want innovation. Gamers, like everyone else, want the next best thing - even in franchises or game experiences that may be familiar. But entirely new or otherwise, whatever that product may be, it has to work well, and accomplish what it set out to do. Rocksmith took a strong first step with what it set out to do, but it failed to nail it completely. The reviews captured that and rated the game accordingly. Saying reviews should ignore flaws because something is innovative is not what reviews do. Reviews should analyze what's there and how effectively it works.
"[Review sites] are a part of this industry. We need to judge the products for what they are. You can't compare, say, a Just Dance to an Assassin's Creed. We can't expect critics to be experts at everything."
Detoc is correct in pointing out that different genres can't easily be compared. So let's look at Rocksmith by itself. On the back of the retail box for Rocksmith reads:
Anyone can play guitar. Plug in any real guitar and the gameplay will adapt to your skill level, whether you're an experienced musician or have never played a guitar in your life.
We reviewed Rocksmith as a learning tool and pointed out that it was missing key components, even in its tutorials. We didn't need an "expert" to explain that. However, it should be noted that the lowest review on Metacritic for Rocksmith (from Joystiq) comes from an experienced guitar player.
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