Rocksmith 2014 Review: your pick of destiny 
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Zoe Hawkins
December 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Learning to play an instrument takes dedication, practice and hard work. It can be a slow, frustrating process that is ultimately rewarding. Rocksmith 2014 seeks to build on the original Rocksmith, making learning guitar an easier, more enjoyable experience without the same grinding.

The set up is really rather ingenious. Rather than playing with the awful plastic instruments made famous with Guitar Hero, Rocksmith 2014 makes use of real electric guitars (or bass guitars). The cable jacks into your electric guitar (that you presumably have somewhere, collecting dust) and connects directly to the console. That said, they do recommend connecting it through your sound system before connecting to the console for a better sound experience. Regardless, you are learning to play a real instrument, guided from the point of being an absolute beginner to a guitar master.

In order to achieve this, the game provides a range of missions or goals, taking you through all the different approaches given to teach you how to play. This adds a level of gamification to the experience, as well as giving the player some ideas about what to do next to improve. That said, the order in which these quests are presented can be a bit counter-intuitive.

Rocksmith 2014 oasis

Lessons

You would think this would be the start of the game, but in actual fact it’s not even part of the opening quests/missions. The lessons are further down in the menu options, seemly relegated to the realm of something boring that you probably wouldn’t be interested in. While you can already get through a bunch of game content without doing any lessons, they are definitely integral to advancing. For example, I honestly didn’t know how to move between the frets until I did the lesson which explained the dots and how to quickly tell which fret was which. This may be obvious to those who have any background in guitar, but for an absolute beginner such as myself, this was really helpful and important.

The lessons generally take a two-part approach. The first shows a video of an actual human being holding a guitar and showing the things that you will need to do. This can be really helpful if you’re confused about how to actually hold a guitar for maximum comfort, or how to position your fingers on the frets. Following the video explanation, there is usually a practice track to test if you can apply the new skills taught in the lesson. You can later return the lessons and just repeat the practice tracks in order to achieve 100% on them.

I found the lessons very helpful and wished the game had placed a bit more emphasis on them. They might help avoid some frustration people would feel. I only tried out the lessons when I’d hit of a bit of a wall at learning a song. I worry some may have just given up at that point and would claim that Rocksmith is simply too difficult or scales too quickly, instead of taking the time to complete a “boring” lesson.

Rocksmith master mode

Learn a Song

This is the mode where I spent most of my time. You select a song you wish to play and the game starts you off with a very basic version. I was playing an average of five notes per phrase at the beginning, most of which were limited to one string only. As you progress through the song, Rocksmith adjusts dynamically, making it easier or harder depending on your ability.

There is a wide range of songs from a variety of time periods and genres. These also require different guitar tunings, which means that you may need to retune your guitar frequently in order to play the songs of your selection. However, tuning is easily explained on screen with the game picking up your current tone and telling you which way to turn the pegs in order to tune correctly – it only lets your progress once your instrument is in tune. This can be a bit irritating at times, but it’s still a lot easier than doing it without the game.

After playing a song for the first time, Rocksmith 2014 analyses your performance and gives you three tasks to complete to help you achieve mastery. These may include lessons (which is how I first attempted the lessons and found them to be helpful), reviewing a chord in the chord book, playing a game in the Guitarcade (one of my favorite parts of the game) or using the riff repeater function. Riff repeater lets you select a specific phrase and slow it down so that you can master those measures and repeat them as many times as necessary to gain that mastery. You can see me using riff repeater in this video:

Guitarcade

Guitarcade is a series of old-school arcade style games that you play with the guitar. These are designed to teach you technique without feeling like you’re learning technique. They are an awful lot of fun and range from really basic to incredibly complex. It may just seem like you’re shooting at ducks or killing zombies, but you’re actually getting some fantastic fretting skills or learning chords. In this way, Rocksmith 2014 earns some serious bonus points for making something normally really boring, such as technical exercises, and making them into one of the best parts of the whole experience.

As you get better at the games, you unlock new mission, gain stars and generally feel like practicing your technique is about leveling up in a game instead of the grind of leveling up as a musician.

Score Attack

Score Attack is more reminiscent of other rhythm games. You can chose to play the game on easy, medium, hard or master, although master only becomes available after you get gold on hard mode. You play through the song and get a higher score depending on your streak of perfect notes. However, you are only allowed to fail three phrases. There is even a backing track of a crowd cheering for your awesome performance.

I was a bit surprised that the levels of Score Attack did not match those of Learn a Song. Sometimes, 50% mastery as far as Learn a Song was concerned meant you would play something on easy and sometimes it was medium. Often, easy seemed surprisingly difficult on some songs – chords I hadn’t yet encountered using Learn a Song appeared and I would fail due to pure shock value.

Based on the achievements for Rocksmith 2014, it appears that Score Attack is one of the main things people are meant to enjoy. Sure, it’s fun, but I honestly preferred the Learn a Song and Continuous Play modes more – I just wanted to play the songs and try my best and improve through practice. The joy of learning a new instrument was enough for me; I didn’t need to try to achieve a high score or worry about failing too many phrases.

Session Mode

Session Mode was billed as your chance to be a rock god. With backing instruments in the form of drums or guitars, you could build your own band and be the leader, shredding out with solos of your own. The concept of it is pretty awesome and it certainly was some fun. However, much like real bands I’ve played with, I’m not sure if it was because they didn’t listen to me or because I simply wasn’t skilled enough, but we never really seemed to play well together and take things to the next level. The game told me that my band mates would respond to what I played, but they never seemed to. It just seemed like an opportunity to noodle around a bit on the guitar instead of playing pre-set songs.

That said, I’m sure experienced guitar players would enjoy playing around with the numerous options for bandmates and probably have more fun doing their own thing. For those who get Rocksmith 2014 and aren’t absolute beginners, this will add necessary content to round out the experience.

Rocksmith session mode

Multiplayer

Rocksmith 2014 allows for three career tracks and, unlike its predecessor, caters for bass players. I tested this out, linking up a guitar and bass to see what the game had to offer for two people looking to play together. I was rather impressed – each profile has different mastery levels. Just because the bassist is far superior to the guitarist doesn’t mean that the song will sound uneven; each player gets a track that is suitable for their mastery level.

Multiplayer allows two players to learn a song together, or do a score attack. The screen is split horizontally, ensuring that players are never confused by the other’s instructions. Despite sharing room on the screen, it wasn’t confusing or irritating. In fact, it adds to the collaborative experience of making music together.

Conclusion

The proof is in the pudding, and I'm happy to say that I went from an absolute beginner on guitar to feeling some level of mastery (on some songs, at least). It may not teach you all the guitar theory or how to read music, but it is a fantastic tool for learning and enjoying the guitar.
9.0

Rocksmith 2014 Edition was reviewed by Zoe Hawkins on a Xbox 360

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let's get on with it!

  • TiMsTeR1033

    I WANT THIS!! now someone gimme your old guitar!

    • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

      You can have mine. I’ve got one lying in the garage that I really don’t want.

      • TiMsTeR1033

        an electric?

        • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

          Yes.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            serious? it still work?

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            I have a few. And the one in the garage I actually would feel bad asking money for.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            Does it work? Shit if you could hook me up with a working electic guitar that would be sweet! would pay for courier fees.

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            It works. Might need new strings. Doesn’t sound great at all. Didn’t you say you have family in the Cape?

          • TiMsTeR1033

            Doesnt sound great, why is that?

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            It’s cheap. I really mean it when I say I can’t ask money for this thing. It works though.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            hmmm maybe should look for a more decent guitar lol

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            Wise.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            got any old decent guitars worth selling?

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            Sadly not one that I would want to part with.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            but I am a charity!

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            Hahaha.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            what would Jesus do! think about that!

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            I need the others though. One for each type of music.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            oh, thought had a few electrics.. guess its like bass, electric, electric acoustic ect..

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            No, it’s three electrics and an acoustic.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            you play alot I guess!

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            One for jazz and grunge, one for metal and one for djent. When I’m not gaming I’m playing guitar. Was in a big bike crash few years ago though, so had to learn to use my left hand again, most frustrating thing ever. So it feels like I’ve only been playing for two years now.

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            That bad?

          • RinceGivesRspectsToMadiba

            The hell did you do to it? 0-O

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            Probably nothing… It’s probably just utter crap

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            It is crap. It’s perfectly intact, just a terrible guitar.

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            Thought so… I know of a few people with utter crap guitars just lying there because they can’t even give them away.

            I still need to gets me a guitar… will have to wait a while tho.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            I had an acoustic but was utter kak!

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            I didn’t buy it, someone gave it to me and said I can do with it what I want. Don’t want to do anything with it. So now it’s just taking up space. It’s some silly brand also that I haven’t heard of before.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            what colour?

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            Blue. Looks like a Strat feels like a crap.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            sell it on OLX! hahaha

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            Bid or Buy. Bidding will start at a handshake.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            make it R50 then use it to get more eyeliner..

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            Hahahaha. Good one Tim, gotta hand it to you.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            hahaha Why thank you!

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            OOOO BURN!!!

            Apply eyeliner, and cry for better effect…

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            Hahaha

          • TiMsTeR1033

            ;)

          • TiMsTeR1033

            its michael jackson the THIRD!

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

          • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

            I’m off!

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            L8er JJ! Have a good one

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            WTF is that?

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            hehehe… I’m sure you’ll find some sucker to take it off your hands… TIM!!! Help JJ out!! :P

          • TiMsTeR1033

            If he lived n Jhb I prob would take it…

          • Mossel

            One of those starter guitars? I also have one, it sounds like shit, but it has good memories.

          • DrKiller

            Can I be your friend too? :-)

  • Unavengedavo(aka. MadeYouLook)

    A penguin had to take his car in for repairs. The mechanic tells him he has to leave it for about two hours to find out what’s wrong. The penguin walks across the street to a grocery store, climbs into an ice cream freezer to keep cool and eats some vanilla ice cream.After a couple of hours, the penguin goes back to the garage to find out what’s wrong with his car. He walks into the garage, the mechanic looks at him and says, “Looks like you blew a seal.”The penguin replies, “NO WAY, that’s just vanilla ice-cream!”

    • TiMsTeR1033

      ………. *insert cricket noise*

    • RinceGivesRspectsToMadiba

      0-O

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      Old, but still good. :D

    • Weanerdog

      That was funny …. in 1990

  • Mossel

    Aw yiss! This review came just in time! I just purchased myself a brand new guitar and was wondering if I should buy this game, sounds epic, gonna try it out.

    • Michael Prinsloo

      Its amazing

      • Mossel

        Sweet! Just ordered it online with the cable. Cant wait to test it out!

    • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

      What guitar, if I may ask? I have a few myself.

      • RinceGivesRspectsToMadiba

        Strat for the win!

        • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

          Agreed. I have one but my secret love lies with a Telecaster, so will probably sell it the moment I find a nice old Tele.

        • Mossel

          Les Paul ftw!

      • Mossel

        Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty!

        • Skoobaz

          That’s the one bundled. Been eyeing it very very closely!

          • Mossel

            No the bundled guitar is an Epiphone Les Paul Junior. The Black Beauty is in another league! Although they do look similar.

  • LAblak22

    And so Pour Some Sugar on me was butchered. o.O

    Though it at least makes my interest in this rise a little more… But da amount of da money that this game costs. >.<

  • Shift-Tab John (JJ)

    Session mode looks great. Will check in the next Steam sale maybe.

  • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

    I really want this… Zoe can I use your copy (and the guitar) for a little while to convince my wife I need this? *sweet smile*

    • RinceGivesRspectsToMadiba

      Get in line!

      • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

        Please see message to Tim…

      • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

        And besides, you’re in CT… you’re at the back of the line… BWAhahahahaha

    • TiMsTeR1033

      I am on the list first!

      • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

        HAHAHA! No you’re not… I asked on twitter the day she got it lmao

        • TiMsTeR1033

          but but I make her headers!!

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            lol… i shall not fight and will leave it up to LG if they’re willing to do that as it’s technically their property.

            Would probably cause fights if they were to let us “test” out a game and give it back.

          • TiMsTeR1033

            I will be the better man… you can take it dear squirrel and then give it to me when you done hahaha

          • Her Highness the Hipster

            awww, so sweet to see @illuchnemancera:disqus, @timster1033:disqusand @rincethis:disqus fighting over my stuff. come and feel my epic callouses i’ve managed while learning enough guitar to write this review! i’m tough now :P

          • Lego Witcher of the Squirrels

            Address? My wife and I will come for supper :P

  • Brett Gunter

    I must admit, I have had this game for nearly two weeks now and I am LOVING IT!!! I have played guitar basics before since I was a child, but have never had the dedication to work through all my errors and lack of practice. This has helped me push really hard and play for longer sessions than I ever have. Songs I had previously failed to teach myself are now sinking in with ease. Definately worth it. I believe you give this game and a guitar to a little kid at the start of these school holidays, and by the end of them you will be AMAZED!

    • BanditZA

      Are you using the bundled guitar or did you buy your own?

      • Brett Gunter

        I had two electric guitars before. Always wanted to be one of those people with a collection of guitars.

      • Brett Gunter

        Hiya, I have my own guitars as I have been playing guitar for a few years now.
        P.S sorry for the late reply, been out of touch for a while

  • DadGamer

    Playing this with my Bass. All lthe features and modes are awesome but the session mode really blew me away. It’s amazing how well it matches your playing.
    Well worth every cent if you want to enjoy and/or improve your guitar skills. The closest you can get to being a rock god.

  • The_god_emperor_Obama_Mohammad

    As a man, but more importantly as a woman, I feel I can shed some light on this subject, but you don’t know I won’t tell you.