Rocksmith 2014 is where music video games were inevitably heading since the first Guitar Hero was released in 2005 -- plugging and playing real instruments. It's no longer a simulation, but rather an interactive and genuinely fun learning tool.
The game allows you to plug in any electric or bass guitar with an input jack and learn the lead, rhythm and bass sections from a range of songs. You can even plug in any combination of guitar and bass for some two player rocking out. Much like its predecessors notes rain down from the top of the screen that you need to strum at the right time. Except now you're developing calluses, learning chord shapes, and dealing with six strings that you need to tune from time to time.
Standard packs are available for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. You can purchase a guitar, Rocksmith guitar cable and game pack for AU$249. Alternatively, if you already have an electric guitar, you can purchase a game and cable. In any case, you must have the guitar cable that plugs into your quarter-inch input jack to USB.
You must have the cable as well as the game to play. (Credit: Ubisoft)
The bundled guitar is an Epiphone Les Paul Junior, very much a budget affair. But for the money you pay, you're getting a functional electric guitar that's much better than it should be. If you know you're going to get serious about playing, you could put the money saved just buying the game towards getting the axe you'd rather have. I'm happier with my AU$900 guitar, but my wallet's much lighter for it.
I set myself up rather unconventionally. As a Mac user, I purchased the game via Steam, as there are no retail guitar and game packs available for the Mac platform. I ordered the guitar cable online through JB Hi-Fi, and then sourced my own guitar.
Setting up was almost a plug-and-play affair with only one issue. The guitar sounds out of the speaker were completely garbled at first. A quick look at a forum thread indicated that the Rocksmith cable inputs a 48kHz signal, while my Mac's speakers output at 44kHz by default. Switching the speaker output to 48kHz did the trick and we were on our way.
Getting up and running on a Mac compared much more favourably to my efforts to get the PS3 version working properly. Issues with lag between playing a note and the sound coming through the speakers weren't resolved by outputting audio through an analogue AV cable. They also weren't solved by switching television settings, switching to another television, or using the visual calibrator. The fix would be to use an external speaker system -- which we didn't have, so my efforts were in vain and I powered down the PS3.
To be fair, having a decent sound system with your television should be how you play a music game. But if you're hoping for a plug-and-play console experience, you're likely to run into a little trouble.
The game assumes you're a complete novice with each song and guides you through the most basic fingering. With each play-through, the game assesses your skill level -- how many notes you've missed, what you're breezing through -- and then starts adding additional notes to the fretboard display on screen. With incremental increases in difficulty the more you play, it's assumed you'll eventually be playing the full song.