Rocksmith Remastered: Possibly The Best Place to Learn Guitar [Review]

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So technically Rocksmith Remastered version isn’t a new game, its just a large upgrade to the currently existing Rocksmith 2014. But I feel that with the new and highly anticipated features, combined with my passion for the game,  it’s worth doing a review and maybe giving some insight to those interested in this music learning tool.

Warning: This turned into a monster sized article so be prepared to read.

If you’re not familiar with the games or don’t know that much about it, Rocksmith is a game that teaches people to play guitar and bass. Much like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, you see different colored notes scrolling down the screen and you do your best to hit them at the right time. The difference is that you use an actual guitar and you have a lot more than five plastic buttons to stay on top of. The game tells players which fret and string to play and results in you playing an actual musical note or chords all on a real life guitar. Any guitar, you choose.  Once you build skill, muscle memory, sight reading skills and start to commit songs to memory, you’ll find yourself playing your favorite songs on a guitar or bass just as the original artist would. You can eventually get so good, you’ll be able to join a band and play live shows without needing the game in front of you.

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I have heard a lot of people talk down about Rocksmith and try to undercut its ability to teach people to play an instrument and I can tell you right now, those people are dead wrong and likely haven’t even tried it for themselves. Rocksmith works and it works fast. It features a dynamic difficulty meaning the game will automatically adjust how many notes you are playing based on how well you are playing them. At first that sounds boring and like you’ll only be playing a portion of the song and while that may be somewhat true, its also for a purpose. Playing guitar takes a lot of training with muscle memory, lowering the amount required of you means your brain and body will have more time to get the basics down before overwhelming you with a stream of notes. As you progress as a guitar player, the difficulty increases giving you a constant sense of challenge that you will always feel like you can overcome and an endless amount of fun while doing so. Before you know it, you’ll be playing your favorite songs in their entirety.

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Rocksmith also features a lessons mode that has videos describing techniques to help advance your skills as a Guitarist. It will start with very basic things like attaching a strap to your guitar and work up to techniques extremely difficult lessons like two-handed tapping that will take many hours to master. Each lesson video is paired with an exercise related to that lesson. These lessons are invaluable to new players. With the detailed information in the video and the ability to play along and practice getting a higher score, you’ll find yourself learning to not just play guitar better and faster but also learn the fundamentals of whats happening in your favorite music.

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If you happen to get bored of doing the same lessons over and over but still need to refine your skills in a specific area, you can check out the Guitarcade. As you might assume, its an arcade for your guitar. Here you can find eleven awesomely designed, very entertaining 1980’s arcade style mini games that help you  build your skills in specific areas. You can work on slides, scales, volume dynamics, string picking and a few other important techniques that will help you get better at playing guitar. These games are great. They take the boring rudimentary skill building stuff that you tend to want to ignore and make it into something fun that you feel drawn to do. The scoring system keeps you coming back to build your skills because you know you can do better and get that higher score.

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Another feature you can find in the Guitarcade is Score Attack. There you can pick to play your favorite songs and choose a difficulty level. Once you are ready to roll, the song will begin playing and you will be scored on accuracy and timing and can build up a score multiplayer. The system is a lot more strict than the standard playing modes about what counts as a miss. This is where I always go when I feel like I’ve gotten really good at a song and want to see how I compare to other people on the leader boards. I find it can be very noisy with 8 bit audio clips sounding off as you hit or miss a note and sometimes that can be frustrating and mess with your grove but ultimately will only improve your ability to hone in on the music and play in various environments.

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So lets talk about whats new in Rocksmith 2014 Remastered. Typically in the gaming world, a remastered game is the same game re-released later in its life with upgraded visuals for current generation gaming consoles and maybe some extra content such as DLC included.

In the case of Rocksmith, its actually more of a slight remodel than a remaster. The overall game looks and plays the same but many of the games features had a bit of an overhaul making Rocksmith a better tool for learning to play an instrument.

The biggest changes are:
More customization options in Nonstop Play Mode including sorting, play order, tuning options, available arrangements and the ability to create more than one set list.
Customizable dynamic learning curve for those who want to speed things up or slow things down.
Improved menus now allow for song searching and easier use for people taking advantage of the riff repeater.nsp

These changes don’t seem that exciting at first glance but as a person who plays Rocksmith for 60-80 minutes 5-6 days a week, I can safely say these changes are great. Rocksmith has been played cumulatively for over 30 centuries and has over 273 million songs played. That’s a massive amount of time and giving players more control over how they play makes Rocksmith that much better.

I found the upgrades to the Nonstop Play Mode to be the most exciting. Nonstop Play is basically how it sounds, you choose you’re favorite songs or the ones you need the most practice on or anything with Dave Grohl in it, pile them into one list and set a timer for how long you want to play. The game will then have you play through as many of those songs as you can without stopping until time runs out. Now you can now save up to 4 individual set lists to play through which means no more individually selecting songs each time you want to play a specific set. On top of that, all the other features upgraded in Nonstop Play are stack-able so these 4 set lists can become even more customized to your liking.

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The new Nonstop Play also features the option to sort your songs in many different ways including by tuning. One of the most annoying parts about playing in NSP mode is having to tune to Eb, then to drop D only to have to go back to Eb on the next song. Now you can choose to play songs only in the tuning of your choice or sort your songs by tuning so you only have to re-tune your instrument a few times while you’re playing. This is a great feature but sadly also has some short comings. If you choose to sort your songs by tuning, the list will also become alphabetical by name. This means every time sort by tuning you do you will end up playing the same songs in the same order. I personally was hoping to shuffle my entire library and have the game bundle 5-8 songs of the same turning together before having the tuning change.

Finally we end up at Session Mode. This is a place where players can set up a band to play with and use the skills you’ve developed in an improvised yet structured setting. You start by choosing the instruments you want to accompany you and the style of music you want them to play in. Then you pick a key and start rocking out. This is a great place for people who want to not just play music but create music. You could easily lose hours of time in session mode once you get in a grove. The next thing you know, you’ve been soloing for the last 8 minutes straight. The only real downside to Session Mode is that it requires you to know a small amount of theory behind playing a guitar so it may be a lost cause on totally new players. Its also fantastic for people who don’t have musical friends to jam with and aren’t quite ready to rock with total strangers.

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Rocksmith is a tool for learning to play Guitar that absolutely works if you put in the effort. Its a great place for new players to come and learn and an excellent tool for players who want to improve their skills when they feel stuck in a rut. It has over 900 songs to learn and many great features to help improve fundamental guitar techniques. The lack of having an actual human to correct your mistakes means you can pick up bad habits but if you make full use of the lessons mode, issues like those should be corrected before they have the chance to form.

This remastered version is proof the the developers care about the game and its players having the best time possible while learning to play guitar. They update every Tuesday with new DLC and allow the users to submit request for the songs they want. They also hold yearly events where players can apply to play live on stage with the Rocksmith crew for an audience of fellow Rocksmith fans. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play guitar, this is possibly the best place to do it.

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