Can a video game teach you how to play guitar? Chris Schulz investigates.

Put your plastic guitar down and prepare to get serious about rocking out. Guitar-based games have entered a new age, and Rocksmith 2014 is at the forefront of that movement.

Unlike the cartoonish instruments that came with previously popular - and now sadly defunct - games like Guitar Hero, Rocksmith comes with real instruments and is for budding rock stars who want to get good, while learning correct techniques, quickly.

Rocksmith 2014 - the second version of Ubisoft's franchise - promises to be "the fastest way to learn guitar". But is it? With absolutely no previous experience, can you really learn how to shred like a pro?

Actually, yes you can. It is amazing how quickly you can improve. Within just a few weeks, you can be playing along to hits by Aerosmith, Queen, the Rolling Stones and the Smashing Pumpkins with rock-star style.


Rocksmith does have some things in common with Guitar Hero: the game screen is a fretboard filled with colourful notes that you'll need to find and pluck in the right order, and on time, to complete the song.

Starting on beginner level, you'll need to hit a note every five seconds or so, using just one or two strings. As your experience progresses, you'll need to hit more notes more often, then graduating to more complicated chord structures on advanced levels.

Don't worry: unlike Guitar Hero, if you miss too many notes, the crowd won't start booing, the concert won't stop and there isn't that awful clanging noise every time you hit a wrong note. Rocksmith adjusts its difficulty level as you play, making it a smooth and enjoyable experience, even for beginners.

If you're like me and have zero guitar-playing experience, you'll start out by spending more time staring at your fingers, stressing about finding the right note than actually enjoying a song.

But if you find yourself destroying the excellently groovy riff from Arctic Monkeys' R U Mine?, don't worry - you'll be sliding up and down the fretboard in no time.

I'd only ever played embarrassing air guitar after too many beers, but within five minutes on Rocksmith I'd tuned my first guitar, and after 10 minutes I'd given Deftones' My Own Summer (Shove It) a good seeing to (nailing 75 per cent on Beginner Level).

Admittedly, after six weeks or so at it, I wouldn't call myself a guitarist just yet. But I have calluses on my left hand, my back aches from striking too many rock god poses, and - if you put a gun to my head - I could do a passable rendition of Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me.

That's thanks to Rocksmith's excellent and extensive tutorials, which help you nail your style by teaching you everything from how to hold your guitar to correct plucking techniques, fretboard navigation and nailing beer bottle slide guitar.

If you really want to nail a particular riff (my fave is Alice in Chains' Stone), there are practice jam sessions, riff repeater classes, tone designers and strange old school fretboard games to help with techniques. Rocksmith will even help you restring your guitar, and if you're feeling really brave you can grab a mate, strap on a bass guitar and attempt some songs together - or even try making your own.

You'll need Rocksmith's game-and-guitar bundle (around $360) to get up and running, but if you've got an electric guitar or bass gathering dust at home, you can use that instead and just get the game ($100). An extensive song list includes more than 50 past and present hits, with more available online.

But Rocksmith 2014 does prove one important fact of rock star life: tuning guitars is a pain in the ass.

No wonder the experts have teams of techs who do it for them.


Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC



Click here to buy Rocksmith 2014.

- TimeOut