If you rewind back to this time last year you might recall that Matt Buckley and I did an in-depth review of Rocksmith 2014 on Xbox 360. At that point, I didn’t know the first thing about playing the guitar. While I can’t say I’m quite proficient quite yet, I am far further than I ever imagined I’d be. My wife on the other hand is cranking out 100% scores on the bass guitar like it’s her rock and roll fantasy. As the previous-gen platforms wind down and the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One come into their own, it’s time once again to strap up and and see if the volume goes to 11.
The move to current-gen platforms means one thing, definitively higher resolution. In both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, your new resolution is 1080p. This means a cleaner overall look to the interface and note chart. The Xbox 360 version of the game was already pretty solid graphically, but it should shut up the resolution-gate purists. The extra memory and CPU also means a little quicker loading time as you switch modes. Cosmetically, the bump in hardware equals a bump in presentation, but it also speaks to just how good it looked previously.
As I was an early adopter of the Xbox One, I had the best accessory for this game – the Kinect. Strapping up a guitar and then fumbling with a controller isn’t the best way to play, so the ability to control the game entirely with the power of your voice is a valuable one. Certainly this worked with the Xbox 360 version, but the higher quality microphones and a bit more oomph from the hardware of the Xbox One’s processors meant better voice recognition, and ultimately a better experience – with one exception.
In my review a year ago I mentioned that it was frustrating to navigate through the song selection with the Kinect as there is no page down or page up option. Sure, you can say “Go to the top” or “Go to the bottom” but shockingly, even after a year’s worth of time to fix it, there is still no “page up / page down” option. It’s a glaring omission that I’m frankly shocked is still present.
After my review last year I managed to put some refinement into my playing, but most of it came through extensive trips to YouTube. With a year in between releases, there was an opportunity to add to the training sections to help novices move to intermediate stages without so steep a learning curve. While these sections didn’t receive an upgrade, I will say that they were pretty stellar to begin with. There is a wealth of knowledge here, and anything that is missing is fairly readily available – it’d just have been nice to see it included.
My adventure to learn guitar started on the Xbox 360, and I’ve picked up quite a few tracks to help me learn. It was fantastic to see that Ubisoft was willing to let me transfer all of my tracks to the Xbox One for the low, low price of absolutely nothing. That’s right, if you purchased tracks on the previous gen, you can transfer them to the current gen for free! It’s a linear path, so you can’t hop from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 4, but as long as you keep it in the family you are all set.
If you were busy playing other games at this time last year, you might have missed the train on the original launch of Rocksmith or it’s predecessor the year prior. There is no better time to jump in than right now, which brings me to the strongest feature yet – an incredible library.
At the time of writing there are 385 tracks for download, in addition to the 55 songs already on the disc, and another 50 if you own the original Rocksmith. Megadeth, The Black Keys, Heart, Rush, Blink-182, The Police, Iron Maiden, The Cure, Muse, Garbage — that’s just a small list of the fantastic bands with tracks on offer. Better than that, if you snap up the game on the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 before January 31st, 2015, you get a dozen Jimi Hendrix tracks for free. The tracks will be available for purchase on previous-gen platforms for a price, but if you are a Hendrix fan, it makes the cost to move to current-gen almost free as well.
Speaking of moving from previous to current platforms, that real-tone cable that lets this game come to life using real instruments works on on your newest kit as well. This means, if you don’t need a replacement or additional cable, you can snap up the digital version right now and start playing immediately.
There is another feature available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 that gets limited use here – streaming. At no fault to the product or the platform, streaming is somewhat limited. You can throw the free-play jam sections to your favorite streaming service, as well as all of the Guitarcade games, but streaming any of the songs is completely verboten. That’s right – you can find literally every single song in this game on YouTube in its entirety without a single hitch, but for reasons only asshole lawyers at the RIAA can unravel, you can’t stream any of the Learn a Song, Score Attack, or Multiplayer. I’ll spare you my rant about how the music industry is ruining streaming and music in general and just say that it sucks because it means I can’t show you any of the progress my wife and I have made…unless I do it like we did at the top of this review. Suck it, RIAA!
We had a lot of praise for Rocksmith 2014 on previous gen, and it’s transition to new platforms has only improved on that. At least in my household it remains a fantastic family event that yields a real skill. Who said videogames never taught you anything?