Like its 2011 predecessor, you're only going to get out of Rocksmith 2014 what you put in. Treating it like a game probably isn't the best approach here. Sure it technically IS a game, but that's not really the point. You're buying it because you either want to learn how to play guitar, or you fancy brushing up on your existing skills and learning some new songs in the process – those of you picking it up because they fancy a Rock Band/Guitar Hero style pick up and play rhythm game are going to be left disappointed and, most likely, frustrated and confused.
First things first, if you're planning on buying Rocksmith you either need a guitar or a bass guitar (or both, if you're one of those multitalented sorts). If you don't have one of these essentials, Rocksmith is not the game for you. Any guitar will do; so it's up to you how much or how little you spend on any new purchases. Will the quality of your guitar make any difference to your gameplay experience? Yes, of course, but only insomuch as the better your guitar the more comfortable it'll be, or the less likely you're going to be to have trouble with the action resulting in difficulty fretting or buzzing.
Once you've found a mighty axe to wield and the game has helped you tune it up, Rocksmith has a huge amount of content for you to explore. Newcomers to guitar are advised to check out the lessons section, where a series of videos and interactive tutorials will talk you though some of the key aspects of guitar playing. As great and varied as these tutorials are, we found that there were some pretty glaring omissions that could cause newcomers problems. For example, although it shows you how to hold the guitar when you're standing or sitting, it neglects to tell you the proper form for your fretting hand - one of the single most important parts of guitar playing, and an omission that'll cause serious problems to all but the most naturally talented beginners.
Oversights like that are rare, however, and Rocksmith really knows what it's doing. As you explore the gameplay menus, you'll realize that there's an astonishing amount of content on offer, to cater for just about everyone, with something for every mood. Let's say you're just in from a hard day's work and you'd like nothing better than to just practice a song at your own pace, that's no problem at all! The redesigned Riff Repeater makes it a piece of cake. You can set the speed and complexity easily and just practice designated song parts.
If you're feeling a bit more confident, you can tackle full songs from start to finish, with the game's difficulty dynamically adapting to your skills, so the more you play and the better you get, the more difficult the song becomes until you've learned it all, from start to finish. A minor problem arises here, however, in that the more you play a song, regardless of how well you actually do, the more difficult it becomes. You could be sucking repeatedly, but the game keeps ramping things up little by little. On tough songs it can be incredibly frustrating, but it could be argued that it's a means to an end, and if you can't hack it try out Riff Repeater or get stuck into the lessons again.
If you want something that feels a little more like a traditional game, the Guitarcade is the place for you. Much like everything else in Rocksmith 2014, the Guitarcade is just a clever way to get you learning the basics that underpin competent guitar playing. Sure, you might be trying to escape a police car on the screen, but you're actually being taught scales. Not all the games are successful in the Guitarcade, but most will serve to make you a better guitar player, or at least keep your skills honed.
Because there can be times where you simply want to jam and do your own thing, Rocksmith 2014 has added the brand new Sessions Mode where you can rock out with a group of in-game session musicians that'll accompany you surprisingly well, and even push you down a new avenue or two as you jam. It's definitely for the slightly more experienced players, but it's a great addition.
If approached with an open mind and a willingness to learn, Rocksmith 2014 can be an invaluable tool on the way to guitar mastery. It's not perfect on the lesson front, and there are definitely things you'll need to look up online yourself at times, but those minor oversights are forgivable when you consider the scope of the ambition here. It's not a game, and it really shouldn't be treated like one, rather, it is a tool that needs to be used like any other. It won't make you a great guitarist overnight (hell, it probably won't make you a great guitarist period) but if you can stick to it and play for a few hours a week, you'll definitely find yourself improving all the time.