Monday, November 25, 2013

Rocksmith 2014 - A Very Brief Review

4.5/5.0 Stars. Really. I love it. But, I miss the old game aspect of the original Rocksmith. If you thought the original version focused too much on the game and not enough on teaching guitar, you need to check out Rocksmith 2014. If you liked the original Rocksmith, you’ll love the improvements in the new 2014 version. But, if you’re like me you’ll miss the make-believe journey from amateur to rock star with all the hokey incentives and objectives.

The new version of Rocksmith is superior in *almost* every way. It loads fast, runs great, and includes a ton of awesome teaching content, including video lessons and technique guides. The note highway is cleaned up considerably, chords are treated like chords, and Riff Repeater has become an amazing tool for hashing out the hard parts of songs. The Guitarcade is all new and loads of fun. And, there are 63 cool new songs, including mega-classics like Walk This Way by Aerosmith. 

Navigating the song list is MUCH better than before. It's now a vertical list that scrolls up and down, like normal computer scrolling. Also, you can sort the entire list on any of several sort criteria - year, artist, mastery, difficulty, length, tuning, etc. You can also designate "Favorites" which keeps the songs you like together so you don't have to scroll through songs you don't like.

There’s just a whole bunch of stuff to do in Rocksmith 2014. Almost too much. I played 2014 for about a week before I ever tried the new Session Mode. I was just too busy learning some songs that I’ve always wanted to play! Lots of fun and I highly recommend Rocksmith 2014 for anyone with an interest in playing guitar. Lke the original, even accomplished players will probably enjoy it.

If Rocksmith 2014 has a flaw, it’s the lack of direction. Without the original Rocksmith “Journey” concept to guide you along, Rocksmith 2014 can leave you feeling a little lost and unsure of what to do next. There’s a TON of stuff to do but nothing to tell you what to do first. There are “Missions,” but those seem more geared toward helping you explore the software and all the options it offers. Completing missions earns you little prizes like skins for your amps and cabinets, fret markers, and bigger venues. But, the missions don’t guide you through learning songs or help you decide which songs to learn.

When the main page comes up you are facing a menu with 9 options on it and it’s up to you to figure out which one to open. Learn a Song is the first option and that seems like the most logical choice – IF that’s what you want to do. You could also choose Session Mode or Nonstop Play, but those options aren’t exactly self-explanatory. The user manual, buried sort of deep in the Tools menu, isn’t very useful. 

Other main menu options are Lessons, Guitarcade, Multiplayer, Tone Designer, Shop and UPlay. The lessons are great little videos that cover everything from putting the strap on your guitar for the first time to tapping. Guitarcade is a totally redesigned set of arcade-like games intended to hone some basic guitar-playing skills, like string skipping, through repetition in a fun setting. Multiplayer allows two players to play the same song at once on the same or different instruments (i.e. lead and rhythm, rhythm and bass, etc.). My son and I still love this part of Rocksmith, although he is starting to leave me in the dust on guitar. He learned by playing Rocksmith. . .

Tone Designer is the built-in amp and pedal/effects playground where you can experiment with a vast array of pedals, amps, speaker cabinets and other effects. The possibilities of the Tone Designer are unlimited - especially in conjunction with Session Play. Honestly, Tone Designer alone would probably be worth the price of the game for people who like buying pedals and messing with the knobs on their amp. I myself am perfectly happy using Rocksmith's pre-set tones for each song. I never messed with tones in the original Rocksmith and I'd rarely mess with tones in RS-2014 - except that the damn Missions constantly push players to go in and swap pedals around. 

The Shop is where you go to buy more songs and song-packs. That is all. There's a link for "Expansions" but at this point there's nothing in there (and I can't quite imagine what would ever be in there). A HUGE improvement they made in the Shop is that songs can be previewed in the Shop. You can hear a short selection of most songs (not all) before you commit to buying them.

The UPlay link takes players to the UPlay website, which is pretty useless as of this writing. You can set up an account and  track your Rocksmith Actions and Rewards - but that's it. There's supposed to be a 60-day challenge that UPlay tracks for you so you can look at your progress on the UPlay Rocksmith website, but so far they don't seem to have that up and running. Still, the UPlay link is where you can cash in your Mission points for rewards - to include DLC songs and bonus arrangements - so that's pretty cool. Hopefully they plan to add more rewards because right now there are only 4: two songs (including the new Rocksmith Theme Song), a bonus Single Player arrangement, and the Ubisoft virtual fret inlay. (Virtual fret inlays? Really, Ubisoft? Why?)
Lots of people complained that the original Rocksmith was too focused on the game and not enough on teaching how to play guitar. Evidently, Ubisoft listened to those people. Instead of fine-tuning the game aspect, 2014 threw it out completely. What you're left with is a great and very fun way to learn some basic guitar techniques and songs on guitar, but no guidance on how to work your way through it all. 

If you're a new player who never tried the original Rocksmith, you won't miss anything. But, I suspect you may find yourself wondering where to start. If you were one of the original Rocksmith players who enjoyed the Journey, you'll still enjoy Rocksmith 2014 but you'll miss the flow of the game. If you're one of the original Rocksmith players who whined and complained that this video game should try to be more like Tux Guitar or some other learning software, I hope you're happy.


  1. Hey, great review! I've followed your blog for about a year and very glad that you are recovering and able to play the new Rocksmith. I'm also missing the journey mode of RS1 as Rocksmith 2014 doesn't guide you through the game in the same way as before. You can click select 'My Path' if you want to see the missions and switch between rhythm and lead as you wish. When you switch the console on sometimes the missions change from those previously listed before. It often encourages you to learn songs up to 75% mastery which is like the old 70,000 point score though far less emotionally rewarding. I've found that the game is slightly buggy in remembering how much you leveled up a song which can be frustrating. Having guitarcade missions and the levels within each game encourages you to actually play them more than once and the leaderboard challenges certainly gives you something to work on during an evening's play. The massive improvement in the software during play, such as chord recognition and differences in bend or slide techniques will hopefully spur your desire to keep playing and even working on your RS1 dlc.

    Good luck and looking forward to more posts!

    1. Thanks! For the comment and for following my blog. Now that I've found a more realistic song to work on, I'm getting a better feel for the ins and outs of RS2014. The Score Attack mode seems to sort of satisfy my need for an objective number to put on my song playing performance - but so far I've been lucky to make it to Bronze level with More than a Feeling. But, I totally agree - Ubisoft has improved the software (especially the chord treatment and Riff Repeater) beyond anything I had hoped for. I'm sure I'll keep playing because I am learning songs and having fun with it - plus 2014 has a bunch of really cool songs that I love and a good bit of DLC already coming out. I'll keep at it but I'll keep looking forward to what they might do with Rocksmith 2016!