When we walked into the Gibson studios to have a go on Rocksmith 2014 we expected an awkward press event. What we saw was a room full of beer, pizza, hair, black clothes and more hair. Feeling suitably comfortable in a rock environment we got our demos and hands-on time with the game-cum-teacher that uses a real guitar to let you play along to songs and more.
But while we may have felt comfortable in a rock environment that was only because of a love of the music - grade five piano was of no use here. So we looked at Rocksmith 2014 from the eyes of a beginner. And it was welcoming for newbs, but as the pro guitarists demoing explained, it goes up to all levels.
This is the second in the Rocksmith series which uses a real guitar to play games a bit like Guitar Hero did. Except in this case you're actually learning to play for real. At its most basic this game lets you play along in time with real songs. You can control the difficulty for fewer notes, or less complex movements and also speed. Before playing a song you're even told which lessons you should have taken before embarking, and it allows you to skip to the lesson to be tutored if need be. It's like a YouTube tutorial except this teacher can see and hear how you play and offer tips to correct you until you get it right.
But Rocksmith goes beyond being a mere teacher and instant accompaniment. Those things are pretty impressive, but it does more. This game has a retro arcade of games that you play with your guitar.
Being attacked by a zombie horde? All you need to do is strum out a chord to zap them into the beyond. Killer bats flying at you? Slide down to another chord, shown on screen with fingering, and they'll be blown out of the sky. The pro guitarist talking us through this also teaches on the side and he said this was a great way to help people learn as a supplement to lessons - rather than it being a teacher killer. We loved the way you are learning chords without thinking about it as you focus on surviving the undead.
Another game involves slide up and down frets to help your ninja character jump across the screen. Yet another game is based in the Wild West where you must shoot bar entrants by picking the right note.
An ingenious jamming feature lets you use a backing drummer that intelligently changes as you do. So as you strum gently it taps the virtual drum kit in time with you, then as you really start wailing out on those chords the drums kick into fury to back you - just like being in a real jamming session. We could imagine this would be a brilliant way to put your new skills into use so you feel you're sounding good - rather than plucking away on your guitar in a silent room.
And as if that wasn't enough you can even tune the guitar for different songs with an on-screen guide. Eventually, who knows, you may be able to do it by ear alone.
The thing that Rocksmith 2014 has perfected is maintaining that feeling of excitement and hope about where guitar is taking you, without letting you slip into the boredom of learning - it keeps everything varied and entertaining. The tracks alone are enough to keep you entertained for a long time with more than 50 on the disc. And if it's like the 2013 edition of the game you can expect downloadable packs with new songs every month or so.
Rocksmith 2014 will be available to buy in October for Xbox 360, PS3, PC and Mac. We will be playing, from scratch, to see how well the game teaches. Check back in six months to see if we're shredding Iron Maiden solos.
Some songs included on the disc are:
- Aerosmith – Walk This Way
- Alice In Chains – Stone
- Arctic Monkeys – R U Mine?
- Avenged Sevenfold – Bat Country
- Bob Dylan – Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
- EarlyRise – Wasteland
- Iron Maiden – The Trooper
- Jack White – Sixteen Saltines
- Kiss – Rock And Roll All Nite
- La Sera – Love That’s Gone
- Mastodon – Blood and Thunder
- Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
- Pantera – Cemetery Gates
- Paramore – Now
- R.E.M. – Losing My Religion
- Radiohead – Paranoid Android
- Red Fang – Wires
- Rise Against – Savior
- Screaming Females – Rotten Apple
- Slayer – War Ensemble
- Splashh – All I Wanna Do
- The Kinks – You Really Got Me
- The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black
- The Shins – For A Fool
- The Smashing Pumpkins – The Chimera
- The Who – My Generation
- Weezer – Say It Ain’t So
- White Zombie – Thunder Kiss ‘65