I was introduced to the Amplitude series when I got my Network Adapter for my PS2. It had a few demos, but one grabbed my attention from the beginning, Frequency. It came at a time when I was enamored with music games and trying to find more. I immediately went out and bought the game proper when I could and I loved it. A few years later in 2003 a sequel was produced, Amplitude, and it too took me by storm. So I was excited when Harmonix was going to reintroduce the series for the Playstation 4 and Playstation 3. But is it what I expected?
Firstly, I’ve seen a lot of places online talk about how the new Amplitude is a remake and it’s not. It does take gameplay elements from the previous titles, but it is its own thing. The core gameplay is a beat matching game. You hit the notes as they come down the lanes, but the twist is that you have to manage several lanes slowly building up the song. You can select whatever lane you want and after clearing a few phrases, the lane is removed for a while. When it’s been cleared, you can move to the next lane and so forth. Chaining makes a bit deal in this game as you try to hit the first note of the next lane and keep going. If you don’t, you lose some energy and if all of the energy is gone. You also lose energy if you miss a note. To aid you in your journey, the game does have a variety of powerups that can be activated when clearing a certain phrases. The are some variety in the powerups, things like clearing the lane you’re currently on or slowing down the music to hit those tricky notes. The gameplay is phenomenal. It’s fast and frenetic, but not chaotic. The satisfaction of hitting a string of notes, clearing the lane and then jumping to the next laneÂ works amazingly. One of my tenets of making a good rhythm game is having a variety of control choices, and Amplitude delivers in spades. Everything from right-hand dominant controls, to left-hand controls, to even playing with just one hand. The control choices help people get comfortable in whatever works best for them. That said, using the shoulder buttons feels better than you think it would.
My biggest issue with the game is how paltry the game modes selection feels. There is a campaign mode, a quickplay mode, and a local 4-player multiplayer mode. Campaign takes 15 songs from the game and overlays a story over 3 chapters. The story just comes in as dialogue between characters just before playing a song. It’s fairly minimal, but the acting isn’t particularly good. Quickplay is pretty much where I spent most of my time. My gripe comes with a lack of online multiplayer. Especially how decidedly focused the industry is going with online gameplay. What makes it worse is that the previous two titles were both at the forefront of the PS2’s online interactivity, so to have it stripped away kinda sucks. I know that it was intended as a Kickstarter stretch goal that it was unable to reach, but it should have been a focus of the development team.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with the game. While it didn’t quite live up to my expectations of the original, it is still an incredibly fun game to play. The soundtrack selection while inline with the amount in past games, doesn’t feature any licensed tracks. Well, it kinda does, but most of them are from other games like Crypt of the Necrodancer or from other studios like Insomniac. Several fan-favorite Harmonix bands do make reappearances in Amplitude 2015 like Freezepop and Symbion Project. The original compositions are toe-tappingly fun though. For $20, it scratches that music game itch with an infectious soundtrack, but lacks features that would have extended the game’s longevity.
Amplitude will be released digitally on January 5th, 2016 on Playstation 4 with a Playstation 3 available at a later time.