Review: Rocksmith 2014 Edition (PS3)

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Title: Rocksmith 2014 Edition
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (6.0 GB)
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Price: $79.99 (Disc: Real tone cable included) / $59.99 (PSN)
ESRB Rating: T
Rocksmith 2014 Edition is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 3 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Editor’s Note:
If you go the digital route with Rocksmith 2014 you will need the real tone cable from the first game or you will need to purchase one. The Blu-ray disc version has the required cable included.

Gameplay:
Over the years there have been various attempts in creating a game that will teach you how to play an instrument. First it was Rock Band with the keyboard, drums, and its pro guitar controller then games more along the lines of Rocksmith such as Power Gig: Rise of the SixString, and most recently BandFuse: Rock Legends.

The first Rocksmith aimed to teach you how to play songs on the guitar without adding to your plastic instrument closet. Using any guitar and the provided real tone cable to connect to your console you’ll be ready to start rocking. Rocksmith 2014 aims to streamline what was already a great learning experience. The biggest issues with the first game were its mediocre story mode, load times and menu navigation. Rocksmith 2014 has addressed all of this by stripping out any kind of story mode, significantly reducing load times and streamlining the user interface.

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To teach you how to play guitar, Rocksmith 2014 uses a tablature type display consisting of six lines of different colors representing each string of a six string guitar. Similar to games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, you have square shapes that correspond to the string you have to strum along with what fret your finger should be at when strumming.

At first it might seem overwhelming, but Rocksmith 2014 adjusts the difficulty which then changes the amount of notes that are thrown at you. The more accurate and consistent you are, the more notes will start coming your way until you finally have the song down and you are kicked into Master mode. Master mode will slowly fade out the notes until you are playing the song by memory. If you start forgetting and missing notes again they will start fading back into view. This gradual changing difficulty is the key to keeping you playing and, after time away, allowing you to pick up where you left off quickly.

One of the biggest improvements to the game is the navigation. At any point during the song you can pause and go into riff repeater allowing you to go to any section you want to practice. You can adjust the speed of the playback along with how many times it loops and much more allowing you to master even the most difficult section. The first game required you to traverse what seemed to be a never ending menu system to do this same thing.

There are a few different playing options available starting with choosing to just learn a song. All songs are playable from the start with no need to unlock. You will see any DLC you have purchased for the previous game in your song list. When just playing through and learning songs, you can choose between three different routes: rhythm guitar, lead guitar and bass guitar. Not all songs have all three options available depending on whether the song has enough parts to offer all three.

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Session mode allows you to pick a backing band consisting of bass, drums, keys, and rhythm guitar which can be saved. You can swap in different styles of play for each instrument or just play along to the drums. Once you have a band set up, you then pick the key and scale in which you want to play along with tempo and how often changes will occur. When you start jamming to the backup band you will see a scale of notes on the screen allowing you to play every note in the right key. This allows you to work on your soloing skills and gets you used to playing along with a band if you never have. Tone designer works great with this mode allowing you to create your own amp setups with guitar heads, speaker cabinets, and pedals allowing for plenty of options to sculpt the perfect sound. You can save sound profiles and assign up to four of them to the right analog stick allowing use of them in any of the game modes with a flick of the stick.

Non-stop play allows you to set a time limit on how long you want to play and then it will give you a few seconds to pick between a couple of songs before you tune up and start. Once the first song ends you get a few seconds to pick the next track then rinse and repeat until your time is up.

Lesson mode gives you a chance to learn plenty of guitar skills and techniques. The ‘Guitarcade’ consists of technique games with a 16-bit look that each have a specific goal of helping you learn to play better. One consists of teaching you scales within the backdrop of a Double Dragon style beat’em up. You can also choose between score attack and leader boards for each of the songs.

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Visuals:
Rocksmith 2014 isn’t a game about visuals, but the menus and game play look great for this type of game. The only area that veers away from the look of the rest of the game would be the mini games. These have a 16-bit look to them matching the look of the classic games they try to replicate.

Audio:
The greatest improvement over the previous game is the sound of the amps and digital equipment. Each song emulates the original sound of the artist’s guitar tone for the song. Even though not 100% perfect the sound is pretty close to the original artist’s sound and along with the tone designer you can tweak and create new sound designs of your own.

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Online/Multiplayer:
As long as you have two real tone cables and two guitars, you and a buddy can learn and play songs together in local co-op. You can both play guitar each taking the position of lead or rhythm guitar or one can play guitar while the other plays bass. Probably due to latency issues no online is available for the game.

Conclusion:
Whether you’re a beginner or experienced player Rocksmith 2014 has a lot to offer. With plenty of game modes and options to help you learn to play the songs, there is no better value in learning how to play the guitar.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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