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Rocksmith: Less than a game, more than a tool

Hayden Dingman | Nov. 15, 2013
Rocksmith 2014 is the best approximation I've ever seen for playing with a real band, and you don't have to find a band and schedule time together when you just want to jam for fifteen or twenty minutes.

This April will be the ten-year anniversary of my love affair with music. When I was 14 my parents finally succumbed to years of begging and bought me an off-brand acoustic guitar. I, being 14, played the hell out of that guitar—hours upon hours a day of painful fretting.

At sixteen my parents (seriously, they're really cool) bought me a brand new Gibson SG Standard. Again, hours and hours of play. Mostly classic rock—Bowie, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Allman Brothers, Bad Company, The Beatles, Neil Young, Rush—with some ska and punk thrown in. I formed a band with some guys. We sucked, but we had a lot of fun.

Then I went to college, made friends who were (coincidentally) all musicians. We'd sit around at night and pass a guitar and sing and act like idiots. Some of us formed another band. We sucked a little less. Then I formed another band, this time a folk act with a girl who had amazing talent. We were halfway decent.

Then I moved to San Francisco. Now I live in a tiny apartment and—I'm sure—annoy my neighbors.

What I'm trying to convey is that I've played guitar for a long time, in a lot of different capacities. I say this because I am literally incapable of judging Rocksmith as a learning tool. I'm going to try and discuss it as a learning tool at points, but by and large the features that appeal to me about Rocksmith are very different than the features that would appeal to someone who just bought his or her first guitar.

No fun at parties
Rocksmith 2014, if you missed the first one, is basically more-than-education-software-less-than-a-game. Remember how people used to make fun of Guitar Hero players and say "Just go learn a real guitar"? Rocksmith is that game. Once the funeral pyre of the plastic instrument craze burned away, Rocksmith's red coals shone through.

Let me repeat: Rocksmith is less than a game. This isn't something you bust out at parties like Rock Band and everyone just picks up an instrument and has a great time. This is a real tool to help you either learn or practice guitar, and practicing an instrument is hard work.

To make it easier, Rocksmith 2014 features 55 genre-spanning songs for you to learn and practice (as well as the option to import songs from the first game for a small fee, and the inclusion of future and past downloadable content). Iron Maiden, Boston, The Ramones, Weezer, The Dear Hunter, The Shins, Queen, Radiohead—the game's track listing is rock-focused, as you'd expect from the name, but there's a pretty good variety here.


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