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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.

The game is loaded with videos to teach you core guitar concepts, from "How to attach a guitar strap" to techniques like barre chords and string-skipping. The videos are a bit dry, but unlike the first game you can always skip the lesson and go straight to the practice track if you'd like.

And there are still a variety of mini-games in Guitarcade mode to make skill practice a bit more fun. The games are modeled after old arcade cabinets, complete with a throwback loading screen and arcade-y guitar tones. My favorite was probably Return to Castle Chordead, a House of the Dead, lightgun-style parody where you play chords to shoot enemies. These seem like they'd be great learning tools for dry topics (like scales) that used to require drills or rank memorization.

Bottom line
I highly recommend Rocksmith 2014 on the strength of Session Mode alone. It's 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.

As for the rest, Rocksmith 2014 is a much-needed incremental update for the original game. I still find the note highway an inefficient way for me to learn guitar, but I can recognize its usefulness to beginners, and most of my other complaints from the original game are solved here—I only need to tune once instead of every song, for example, and Guitarcade games have much better production value. The game has a solid set of tracks to dip into, and Ubisoft is promising weekly downloadable songs this time around.

Overall, this game is a great effort from Ubisoft San Francisco and a practice tool I anticipate returning to for the foreseeable future. Mastering an instrument's never going to be easy, but Rocksmith at least makes the whole process approachable while still providing experienced guitarists plenty of fun tools to experiment with.

A NOTE ON LAG: Rocksmith's lag is almost non-existent, provided you aren't passing your system's audio through an HDMI cable. HDMI introduces hardware lag that will greatly diminish your experience. It's not the fault of the developers; it's just how HDMI works. If possible, I recommend routing audio out through another system before playing Rocksmith.

 

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