Hooked on a feelin’…
The original Rocksmith was a wonderful piece of software designed to teach anybody to play guitar or bass. A fairly incredible audio engine allowed you to plug-in your own guitar (electric or bass) using a special USB cable which was bundled and the game was able to recognise what notes you were playing with a good degree of accuracy. Rocksmith was simple, fun, and quite importantly it worked. Full disclosure – I’m a lapsed guitar player and Rocksmith helped me shake of my rustiness and play with a degree of my old capability. Rocksmith 2014 edition has gone one step further.
There’s plenty of options for you to get your teeth into. If you follow the learning path which it presents you with then you will be given video demonstrations of techniques which you can then put to use while learning to play songs (arguably, the game’s main selling point). Rocksmith 2014 comes with around fifty new songs from artists such as The Rolling Stones, The Smashing Pumpkins, Arctic Monkeys and Foo Fighters – though Radiohead’s Paranoid Android is the standout here. It’s impossible to please everyone but this is a solid and diverse list though being able to access all of the previously released DLC works with this new edition (around one hundred and fifty songs) plus you can import the songs from the original Rocksmith if you own it is a major plus (not free though, unless you’ve already paid for them in previous editions of course, of course. It’s a nice touch so that returning players don’t get stung again).
Guitar lovers will find plenty to appreciate here, it’s instantly apparent that Rocksmith has been created by people with a real passion for the instrument and music in general. The interface is how familiar if you’ve ever played a Rock Band or Guitar Hero: you have an image of your guitar neck at the bottom of the screen while the notes you have to play come towards you down a note highway. This time specific fret numbers accompany the notes which makes it a lot easier to know where you need to play. A number of improvements have been made in regards to the way certain techniques are displayed, for example when you need to bend a note the game now tells you exactly how far you need to bend and how long to hold it for. The game now recognises vibrato, tremolo picking, double stops and accents. Very noticeably, the response of the engine has been significantly improved. Not only does the game recognise the notes you’re playing more readily, but the feel of the whole thing is a lot more solid. You are able to really feel like you are “locking in” to a song. Another very welcome addition is that the guitar sound you are using will now automatically change during specific sections of songs so that it consistently sounds correct (a light distortion for rhythm sections, big reverb, delay for solos and so on). The tones are all very authentic to the original songs and extremely well done. A variety of alternate tunings are now supported for songs which require them, plus the game even recognises songs that were not recorded at standard concert pitch and supports songs which use capos.
Additionally to the meat and potatoes of the main modes, Rocksmith has plenty to offer, with score attacks and Guitarcade modes present and correct. It’s a robust package, created with a real craft and attention to detail. Progression in all modes is matched to the skill you have – as you improve, the game becomes slightly more challenging, like your favourite teacher gently eking out more skill from you as your talent matures. Crucially, its fun and rewards creativity, especially in Session Mode.
Session Mode is a unique and exceptional addition to an already brilliant package. It’s designed to work as an improvisation tool and provides you with your own dynamic backing band who respond to your playing. Start off by choosing the style of band you want to accompany you and customise it to your hearts desire. Give the band a tempo and a key to play in. Start playing and the band responds to you. If you play loud the band will start to rock out, if you slow things down then everything will become much more calm. It’s a mode for all players – the truly experienced guitar players could potentially experiment and create their own sound, newcomers can play around and have just as much fun. The mode, like Rocksmith as a whole, is just as deep as you make it – the options are there to be exploited, and there’s no question it teaches you how to play guitar.
– Dave Green @davidpgreen83