A few weeks ago, I wrote a review of Rocksmith 2014 that documented the trials and tribulations my co-reviewer V-Dub and I experienced during the three weeks we spent playing Ubisoft’s guitar-teaching tool. Since then, we’ve continued use it regularly – a testament to how much we both enjoy playing it.
However, there is a downside to us both liking Rocksmith so much – and that is we often fight over playing it. So in an attempt to solve this problem, I bought a second cable so we could play together using the multiplayer mode – something we were unable to do during our review period because obviously we only had one Rocksmith guitar cable.
Well, turns out it’s awesome!
Setting everything up was as simple as single-player. Plug both cables into the USB slots, slide a ¼” jack into each guitar, and off you go! V-Dub wanted to practice bass, and all she needed to do was load her profile, set it to bass with 4 in-line tuners, and that was it - she was ready to go. I wanted to stick with lead guitar, and since I was already set up for that in my profile, we went straight to level check and following a quick bit of tuning, we were literally ready to rock and roll.
Rocksmith multiplayer gives you a variety of co-operative and pseudo-competitive modes, all of which revolve around playing together, or in turn. The really cool thing is that Rocksmith uses the same dynamic difficulty adjustment as its single-player mode – but it treats both players independently. That means each player’s performance is continually analyzed, and notes are dropped in and out of that player’s screen depending on whether they’re struggling, or jamming like a pro. That’s great for V-Dub and I, because since she’s already able to play bass, and I’m still new to the guitar, we’re both being given different levels of challenge – while we’re playing the same song.
We experienced just how far this can go a few nights ago when we were playing The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven,” a song we’ve played a lot because it’s simple and we both know it very well indeed. I was strumming along to the 30% of the notes the game was giving me (up from the 15% I was playing the previous time), while V-Dub was not only playing 100% of the notes, but her notes started fading out and Master Mode kicked in.
I think that’s brilliant, because I know if we weren’t using Rocksmith and were just practicing together normally using tabs, I’d likely drive V-Dub mad with my inane pluckings and bum notes – I mean, how could she possibly play bass along to that? But Rocksmith 2014 enables us to play as a unit – and I can’t tell you how good that feels. I know I’m still a very poor player, but the way the program works makes me feel confident and lets me enjoy myself, because I have no worries about being a burden or somehow holding back my “band mate” because she has to play down to my level. Indeed, the opposite is true: she’s having fun playing like a pro, and laughing while I muddle along – but knowing that I’m learning and slowly getting better. That’s the real genius here: despite the huge skill level gulf between us, Rocksmith bridges it in a way that not only lets us play together and have fun – we’re both getting what we want out of it. How cool is that?
I can’t wait until I’m good enough so we both can start using the multiplayer Jam Session mode to its full potential. We’ve tried a few times already, with me playing some super-simple, repetitive cords, and it was a blast – so I know when I’m good enough to be able to really bang out a tune, we’ll have a huge amount of fun.
Of course, Rocksmith still doesn’t solve the problem that if one of us wants to work on individual lessons and practice techniques, we have to negotiate for screen time. But at least when we both want to play, we can practice together, and it’s a great option to have.
Ultimately, if you and your partner, friend or perhaps even kid have ever wanted to learn to play guitar or bass, being able to share that experience and jam along together is really quite fantastic. So many of the barriers you would normally experience when two people try to learn to play an instrument together are removed. It doesn't matter how fast each is learning, or how big the disparity in skill, Rocksmith brings you together on a musical plane in a way that I would never have imagined possible. It really is a quite extraordinary achievement.
Oh, and if you’re wondering (since I have had a couple of people ask), you can use any electric guitar with a ¼” jack – or an acoustic guitar that’s wired with a pickup and jack to play. V-Dub is currently using a fretless Squire Bass and I’m using a second hand, beat up Epiphone Les Paul – both really good budget buys, it must be said. Though I’m thinking if I can get a little better, maybe I’ll be able to justify buying a nice shiny new axe…