Can You Learn Guitar By Playing Rocksmith?

I cannot play guitar. Sure, I’m no Tony Blair – who can’t figure out the Iron Man riff – but my string-strumming capabilities peak at Marilyn Manson melodies and the Mission Impossible theme tune. Could Rocksmith 2014 turn me into the next Steve Vai overnight?

This Ain’t Guitar Hero, Son

Whereas Guitar Hero induced wanker’s cramp from playing Dragonforce all day, Rocksmith’s strength lies in the fact it uses a real guitar. We’ve all got one knocking about somewhere – just plug it into your console with the Real Tone cable and you’re off! Following a nifty tuning session (which took me way too long), you can dive straight in or learn the basics. It’s unwise – as I learned – to try and play The Trooper straight away, but following some lessons on basic chords, I managed to drag myself through White Zombie’s Thunder Kiss ‘65. Obviously you can’t learn how to do two-hand tapping the minute you pick up a guitar and this is reflected in the game; you progress through lessons at your own pace, gradually unlocking more complex chords and techniques as you go. You can also customise your guitar tone, amps and suchlike… Which is pretty cool.

The Riff Repeater Is Amazing

Essentially the video-game equivalent of someone irritably trying to show you a riff by telling you what to do or attempting to move your fingers to the right fret, the Riff Repeater is by far the most innovative, kick-arse feature in Rocksmith 2014. With this tool, you can slow any section of any song right down (and lower the difficulty), so you can nail that particular solo. Or, in my case, slow down every single riff in a feeble attempt to establish some form of rhythm – eventually, it got to the point where on-screen instructions weren’t necessary to play certain passages.

It’s Packed With Bangers

Apart from a few offenders we shan’t name here, Rocksmith 2014 is so Hammer-friendly it hurts. Okay, it’s not full of Dying Fetus – ‘why not?’, you may ask – but smatterings of Foo Fighters, Slayer, Mastodon, Ramones and Alice Cooper ensure heads remain banging.

Sometimes Being Too Metal Has Its Pitfalls

Feeling elated after hitting seven notes in Blitzkrieg Bop and fancying myself a virtuoso, I selected System Of A Down’s Hypnotize. This required a different tuning to the game’s standard E and, in the excitement, the high E string snapped. Being as metal as I am (or, in hindsight, a bit of a n00b), I had no spares on hand. ‘Sod it, I’ll go without the string!’ I screamed. Nope. This is a real guitar – if something breaks, you need to fix it. Thankfully for ham-fisted fools like me, the game includes guides on how to change a string, tune manually and use a capo – basically, it covers a lot of ground.

It’s Not Really A Game

The familiar Guitar Hero/Rock Band visual aspect of play takes a while to get used to with a real guitar, but once you get a feel for it, the game excels in superbly slick fashion. But it’s not really a game, is it? Unlike Guitar Hero, you can’t whack it out during the Christmas piss-up and expect to smash through Raining Blood on ‘Expert’ mode. The pun-tastic ‘Guitarcade’ section utilises the instrument in various Space Invaders ways to try and drill chord patterns into your skull, but ultimately, this is the only true ‘game’ aspect. It’s not for part-timers or lazy lummoxes. Rocksmith 2014 is a revolutionary tool that, in patient hands, has the capability to turn you into a decent shredder.

You can get your hands on LOADS of Ubisoft goodies by entering our Rocksmith Trivia Challenge.

Alec Chillingworth

Alec is a longtime contributor with first-class BA Honours in English with Creative Writing, and has worked for Metal Hammer since 2014. Over the years, he's written for Noisey, Stereoboard, uDiscoverMusic, and the good ship Hammer, interviewing major bands like Slipknot, Rammstein, and Tenacious D (plus some black metal bands your cool uncle might know). He's read Ulysses thrice, and it got worse each time.