|Music and Rhythm
PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Review based on Xbox 360 version
Release Date: October 22nd, 2013
2011 saw the debut of the educational music-based game Rocksmith. The title was meant to serve as a means to learn guitar, offering the option to buy it packaged with a guitar and the connection chord that allowed the game to read the notes, or just your standard version with the chord separately. Three years later, and Rocksmith 2014 is upon us with more Rock and Metal hits to learn to play. With the title boasting the sixty-day challenge that boasts you can learn how to play a guitar in that amount of time, it becomes an enticing way to get people who never learned guitar but always wanted to (such as myself) a chance to pick up a six-string give it a whirl. But, does this entry make the grade, or is Rocksmith 2014 far less helpful than it claims to be?
If you have been a fan of music peripheral based titles, this is the real deal, and it may turn you on or off the entire genre. This title allows you to pick the level of experience with the guitar that you have from the first title, you already own, or a used one you picked up at a flea market or your local instrument reseller, and allow you to play as lead or rhythm. There’s also an option for bass, but I don’t have a bass guitar to try it out so this review in no way reflects that part of the experience. What follows is a simple progression of lessons that will help you to play these songs. There’s also some arcade style games that help you get familiar with the chords and names, and they do help out a little in getting you familiar with the frets and where to hold the strings.
Right away you can go head first into the game’s song list, even if you don’t play a single tutorial. You are given three options when you choose a song to help you get better at playing it, but you can always just play the song itself until you get it right. The lessons begin at the level you chose at the start of the game to make it easy on you. The more you play, the more it challenges you, pushing you to try the exercises that are tailored specifically for the difficulty you are at to help you nail that verse, chorus or solo you keep screwing up.
There’s a wide range of songs being offered, and it’s hard to not find something you’ll instantly want to play if you’re into Rock or Metal. “Peace of Mind” by Boston is always a fun experience, and the Indie Rock cut “R U Mine?” by Arctic Monkeys is as fun to learn as it is enjoyable. If you’re new to the guitar, or just a general Metal head, you’ll gravitate more towards the simpler tracks like “Thunder Kiss ’65” by White Zombie, which shows how surprisingly basic the track’s riffs are for Groove Metal, as well as “Wires” by Red Fang. I even found myself playing “Everlong” by Foo Fighters over and over in an attempt to learn how to play it (guilty pleasure and just a fun song). Of course, if you go the traditional route of learning a song by playing it repeatedly, make sure you play a song your significant other won’t threaten to break your guitar over if she (or he if that’s your case) hears it one more time.
There’s plenty more notable, and far more complex songs to be found on here as well. “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden makes an appearance, and “War Ensemble” by Slayer is here to ravage your fingers as well. “The Spirit of Radio” by Rush made the cut, as well as “The Chimera” by The Smashing Pumpkins, as did “Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones. Aside a few typical staples, many songs on here end up not being the number one smash hit from the band, which is a welcome, but still widely known hit songs you’ll recognize in an instant by the opening chords if not the name.
Sadly, there are some complaints to be had. Some aren’t major, but there is one that can be given the reason you’re playing this game. One thing that bothers me personally is that, on day one the track list was of the songs that came on the game. However, after an update, it started showing tracks that are actually DLC, leaving me wanting to play them, but not really justifying spending the cash since I’m a beginner and learning, and want to focus on certain ones before moving on. It’s like a tease, and if you don’t pay attention you let yourself down by forgetting what songs came with the game, and what ones are not included.
The other biggest gripe is the tuning. Yes, each song sticks to their designated sound, but there are times where I’m play a song with the guitar tuned one way, and I’ll choose another with that exact same tuning. I still have to re-tune the guitar. The volume of the guitar also has to be cranked all the way up for it to register, and even then I still have a hard time getting the chords to stay in tune with the game. Maybe it’s just the guitar I have that makes it infuriating, but it gets really old pretty damn quick.
Finally, there’s the fact that you’re not really learning to play the guitar unless you’re hammering away at the arcade-style lessons, and even then you’re still kind of limited. Instead you’re really just learning how to play the songs. I held off on this review because I wanted to put some time into the sixty day challenge (though not hold out the entire two months), and at this point I’m not any more knowledgeable about the guitar than I was when I started. I can’t randomly play a few riffs, or even point out what note is which if asked. After three weeks at one hour every day, if not longer, all I really know to do is certain riffs or parts of “Everlong,” “Thunder Kiss ’65,” “Wires,” and “Blood and Thunder” by Mastodon.
Sadly, the marketing for Rocksmith 2014 that claims you can learn to play guitar is a bit misleading. Of course, this is based on what I’ve experienced in my three weeks of playin it. If anything, it’s an aid for someone just starting guitar or bass lessons. Rocksmith 2014 can teach you some of the basics, but it’s real purpose seems to be to help you learn you’re favorite song(s) if they’re included in the game, or available as downloadable content. But, in the games defence, it has made me want to finally take up actual lessons at some point down the road, so that’s always a good thing. If you ever wanted to learn guitar but were unsure if you would like it, this game, plus a cheap guitar from your local used instrument store, will definitely help you choose whether to pursue it, or give up the dream, and help speed the learning process along.
As for me, I’ll be playing this game and learning the songs for a while with the goal to create a set list and just jam along. Maybe pick up some simple stage lighting and feel like a rock star. Maybe… one day…