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Rocksmith 2014 Review

Posted by Matthew Hewson On Sunday 17 November 2013Comments Off

Available on 360, PS3 and PC l Published by Ubisoft l Developed by Ubisoft San Francisco l Classified M l Supports 1-2 players

REVIEW IN BRIEF > The gamified guitar tutor is back and it is certainly better than ever before. Ubisoft has taken the surprisingly successful first Rocksmith and improved upon it in almost every way. It teaches the guitar so well it is almost a crime to consider it a game. There is still a question mark over how well a complete guitar newbie will handle it, but for someone with even the smallest amount of guitar in their past, Rocksmith 2014 is a rock god.

REVIEW IN FULL > Back when I was a kid, my parents wanted me to learn a musical instrument. Like any fan of bands such as Guns n’ Roses and Metallica, there was only one choice for me, the mighty guitar. So for many years, once a week, I would grab my axe and head off to guitar lessons. Slowly I built my skills to the point I could consider myself a fairly competent strummer. Fast forward a few years (okay, more than a few) and my guitar was collecting more dust than strummed notes. It was a relic of my youth, one that got shoved to the side when that little thing called life got in the road. That is, of course, until Ubisoft rekindled my solo shredding dreams.

Rocksmith 2014 felt like one of the few examples of PR spin matching the reality of the final product.

Rocksmith 2014 was the second entry in this gamified attempt at teaching guitar. The first entry was a noble effort at bringing the challenges of learning the guitar to a home console. It had a few problems like some subpar presentation and a steep learning curve for new players, but despite all that it sold quite well. Well, I am more than happy to report that Ubisoft took this solid start and developed a great edutainment product. Rocksmith 2014 felt like one of the few examples of PR spin matching the reality of the final product.

The first thing I noticed was how much better the presentation actually was. Navigating my way through the game had become much easier. The most notable feature in the menus was, without a doubt, the Rocksmith Recommends option. With a press of the button the game would suggest to me what my next step to guitar god status should be. It would make its suggestions based on my previous performances and point me towards ways of improving my playing. For example, in one particular song I struggled with some of the techniques so it suggested I review the video lesson on that technique and then practise it in one of the many arcade games that Rocksmith had to offer.

Speaking of the arcade games, I had a lot of fun in this section of the game. There was a multitude of fun little challenges, each based around a particular guitar skill. I was then encouraged to utilise that skill to beat my previous high score. It was certainly a great way to get me to practise the myriad of techniques involved with playing a guitar without ever becoming boring or stale.

The song selection was also top notch. There were some great songs on offer from bands such as Bush, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters and many many more. Anyone with an interest in learning the guitar will be well served here – I know I was. These songs were taught in a different way to how I had ever learned a song before. A combination of Guitar Hero’s scrolling notes and traditional guitar tablature was Rocksmith’s method of teaching. Notes would scroll towards a representation of the guitar using colours and numbers to show me where to place my fingers. After taking some time to adjust to this, the method became almost natural. As I improved, the song’s difficulty would automatically increase until I got to the point where I was playing the song from start to finish just as the original artist did.

…the perfect audience for Rocksmith is someone like me, the once keen guitar player who wants to get back into it.

I feel this is the point where I must warn potential Rocksmithers. The game didn’t necessarily feel like a quick and easy way to learn the guitar from scratch. In fact, it occurred to me that it may actually be harder to learn with Rocksmith than a traditional teacher. There were some great tutorials showing the basics, but nothing could ever beat one on one interaction. What Rocksmith did do, however, is make practising a hell of a lot more fun. Boring scales and chord progressions were a thing of the past with the arcade games and some nice progressive unlocks certainly kept me coming back for more. This made me think that the perfect audience for Rocksmith is someone like me, the once keen guitar player who wants to get back into it. I found that with my past knowledge of the guitar, my rusty skills were getting a nice spit and shine and I was once again playing my axe with a level of competence I haven’t had since the 12th grade.

The final result of my time with Rocksmith 2014 was a rekindled passion for the guitar. It made me remember why I enjoyed playing it in the first place and it sparked the fire that will hopefully see me playing it long into the future. It is for this reason that I wholeheartedly recommend Rocksmith 2014. It may be a little daunting for someone completely new to the guitar, but for an old wannabe rocker such as myself, it is the perfect way to find that musical spark once again. My chance to become the next Slash, Santana or Eric Clapton may have long passed but thanks to Rocksmith, I can at least still live a little bit of my rock n roll dreams in the comfort of my lounge room whenever I want.

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