When I was a lad, I remember listening to my parent’s Queen albums pretending to be Brian May only without the badgers. Many a night was spent with a tennis racket tucked under one arm, pretending to shred the notes out and in my head, I was a star. I’ve had a few guitars in the past & I’ve learnt a little along the way, but never reached the heights of the great guitarists. Maybe Rocksmith 2014 Edition can change that.
Having not played guitar for around 6 years, I approached Rocksmith 2014 with a little trepidation. The first task I have to do is tune my guitar. Luckily the game takes you through this with minimal fuss, although the tuning of singular strings does seem to take a while, and why shouldn’t it if you want it to sound good. As with the first incarnation of Rocksmith, take some time to adjust the settings to the model of TV you have. It’ll be worth it in the long run, you’ll have less delay than the HS2 and you’ll hear the sound as you play it. Lag really does put you off.
So, after choosing whether you’re a lefty or not and ascertaining what kind of guitar you’ve got, you get to pick if you want to be that Dave Mustaine, the rhythm king or Brian May, the lead and focal point. The menus are simple and it’s fairly obvious what you have to do along the way. It’s linear, clean and pretty much all accessible. If, like me, you’re used to playing the other, more plastic kind of guitar game, I would strongly recommend the tutorials, all of them. This might seem like a bit of a trawl, and in truth, they are a little dry, but if you’re not well versed on the guitar, you’ll need them. They’ll form the basis of what you need to master to get the most from the game. After these, and practise, lots of practise, you’ll have the tools you need to enjoy learning one of the 55 songs on the disc. This leads me to a dilemma with Rocksmith, one that I know has been posed already. Is this a means to learn the instrument itself, or a gaming opportunity to enjoy playing some of rock’s best loved tracks?
There are a host of useful and fun modes to play in Rocksmith 2014 designed to allow you to enjoy playing the guitar while reinforcing the techniques you’ll need to progress within the game, and to allow you get the most out of your guitar. One of the newer features are the missions. These act as a way of reinforcing techniques and help you earn a few tasty unlockable items along the way. Guitarcade makes a welcome return as well. These are all new mini-games that are triggered by your playing skills. This is a huge amount of fun and again reinforces your techniques while charting progress on improved leader boards. There is a session mode, where you can pick your band components and just play while they match your tempo and make you sound good. Set your key and instruments and jam away. The opportunity to learn a song is also available as are lessons, nonstop play and a multiplayer option if you have more than one guitar and a skilful friend. There’s a useful chord book too. This shows you all the fingering (no sniggering at the back) placements on the fret board for all the chords. This is most useful for anyone wanting to progress their playing skills.
The graphical interface has had a tweak from the first game and it’s made better for it. The virtual fret-board is clean and clear and the note strike-line is well positioned. The approaching notes and chords are all neon-clean and clear as they approach and the graphics are smoothly animated. The tutorial videos are excellent, well explained and well shot. This is the most useful guitar playing teaching set I’ve come across and with the opportunity to play practise chords and techniques during the lesson this is a comprehensive introduction to learning the guitar. The clever part comes when, if you don’t nail the practise straight away, the game drops the tempo so you can get your fingers untangled and hitting the right frets and the right notes. It’s all geared to making you a better player. This is excellent if you’re looking to improve, but what if you want to play, rhythm games are all about the playing of tracks, right?
Well, Rocksmith 2014 has got this sewn up too. Learn a song gives you the opportunity to do just that. Pick one of the new tracks or import one of the previous games’ tracks for a small cost, pick your difficulty level and play. The clincher here is that the player can set the difficulty level from the get-go, and it stays there until you’re comfortable enough to change it. If you’re comfortable in starting off with the song fully unlocked, then you can go for it. You won’t have to play the track from the simplest level up to unlock it all. There are Rocksmith Recommends to play too. These match your currently admitted skill level to tracks you should be able to play comfortably, with other, more difficult tracks being locked until you’ve completed more in the way of recommended tutorials.
The tracks themselves all sound great too. The video tutorials, again, are well recorded sound-wise and the mini-games in the Guitarcade are all complimented with their sound-structure. From the point of view of gameplay, Rocksmith, while not being quite as accessible as the older, more traditional guitar based rhythm games, is fairly easy to pick up and get in to. You have fun, you’re frustrated at missing a chord but ultimately, you’re learning the guitar, which in the scheme of things, is a far more favourable outcome than simply following the colours surely?
Would I have any criticisms? Sure, sometimes the game throws you a chord combination that’s way out of your capability, which is frustrating, and the practise runs of skills and techniques could theoretically loop forever if you keep missing them at full speed. These, added to the odd game lock-ups that I managed to make happen take the shine off a little for me.
So, has Rocksmith 2014 come down off the fence that its predecessor sat on? No is the short and accurate answer. It straddles the line between full-on instrument tutorial and rhythm chasing music game really well. The graphics have been tweaked and the sound, once calibrated is excellent. The game difficulty level has been modified to give the player more control and that is the difference between the first game and this one. Ubisoft have listened to the criticism of the original Rocksmith, and made definite improvements to make this the defining rock guitar game tutorial. I can’t help feel that players will get more fun out of the song tracks rather than the Guitarcade mini-games if they are accomplished guitar or bass players, although this will appeal to budding shredders of all skill-levels with the option, to those with the dedication, to improve their current skills and even learn new ones. If you’ve already got a guitar, gathering dust in the corner, you’d do well to pick up a copy of Rocksmith 2014 and re-ignite your desire to front that Rock Supergroup. I’m enjoying Rocksmith 2014, although the tips of my fingers would suggest that I’ll be in for more punishment in the very near future. Now, does anyone know how to get rid of blisters?