The difficulty levels are nicely weighted, allowing beginners to just
play the root notes of a song, intermediate players to play every note
with full instruction and master players to just play along with the
song with very little on-screen help. Master only unlocks when you've
passed the previous skill level, but it's a huge reward to just blast
through a song like you're playing it live, only you're playing along
with the actual track and being graded. Superb.
Those video game
elements are found in the pleasantly retro-themed 'Guitarcade', which
gives you some neatly-designed minigames to play based around mastering
guitar techniques. So you might be hopping across poles as a ninja by
sliding from one designated fret to another without dropping the note,
or shifting lanes on a freeway by plucking different notes in a musical
All of this threatens to be absolutely brilliant (and it would be)
until technical issues let it down. For starters, it doesn't always
recognise notes even when they're played correctly. I've been playing
real guitar for 20 years, so seeing a perfectly-executed harmonic go
unrecognised is frustrating. Especially when you try each of the three
main harmonics on all six strings with nothing registering as correct.
Hello? Is this thing on?
Then there's the worst problem: The
monitoring lag on the guitar input. When you slam a power chord on the
start of You Really Got Me, you want it to come thumping through the
speakers. And it does… just a bit later than you played it. Out-of-time
guitar parts don't sound very nice. If you've got a digital audio
connection going straight to some speakers, the lag is reduced, but it
still won't feel like playing through a 'proper' guitar amp. It doesn't
affect your scoring, but it does affect the experience.
highlighted by the otherwise excellent jam mode. In this part of the
game, you choose up to four virtual bandmates to play with you. In
addition to style and tempo instructions, you can select a drummer of
rock, metal or 80's electric kit persuasion, a keyboard player, a
bassist (and you can tell him whether to use his fingers or a pick) and
more. Pick a musical key and away you go. Your virtual bandmates react
dynamically to how hard or delicately you're playing, allowing for what
would be a sublime improvisational practice tool… but of course
everything you play comes back through the speakers late, undoing all
the good (nay, great) work.
This is the most subjective point
in this review, but the track list isn't anywhere near as good as Rock
Band's, with some standouts like Nirvana's 'Heart-Shaped Box', Def
Leppard's 'Pour Some Sugar On Me' and Foo Fighter's 'Everlong' representing the best of an uninspiring bunch. The new-gen
version does recognise DLC songs purchased for the old-gen releases at
no extra cost, which is welcome.
Rocksmith 2014 on PS4 or Xbox
One represents a significant investment of time if you want to get the
most out of it. And it's definitely more for those who like to do things
'the right way' and get punished when they deviate from the exact notes
on the original recording.
Does that kill artistic
expression? Of course it does. But that's because this is the gaming
equivalent of an exam. It's still an exam about rock and freakin' roll,
so of course there's fun to be had along the way. But it also means a
lot of hard work and dedication. And putting up with an examiner who is a
little bit mental sometimes. And the fact the ink comes out of your pen
a couple of words behind where you're writing. But still… ROCK AND ROLL.