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Amplitude Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . One of the PlayStation 2's most beloved music games returns after a 12 year hiatus. Unfortunately, not much has changed in those years. While certainly fun, it won't take long to see (and hear) every part of the game. Amplitude is a solid reboot, but not the ambitious sequel some of us have waiting for. Rating: 71%
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  • Review Score:

  • B
Long before Rock Band and Guitar Hero, there was Frequency. Developed by indie darling Harmonix, this futuristic-themed rhythm game was part of Sony's brief foray in the music genre; an effort that had previously turned up quirky hits like PaRappa the Rapper, Um Jammer Lammy and Vib-Ribbon. But Frequency was different; it was fast-paced and filled with music from well-known American bands. It also marked a turning point where the rhythm genre began to feel more interactive.

While not a massive hit, Frequency led way to Amplitude, a 2003 sequel that expanded on the theme and included an even more impressive collection of top 40 bands. Although different in approach, you can see the building blocks of Guitar Hero and Rock Band in Amplitude. And while most of the die-hard fans ended up trading their FreQs for fake plastic guitars, many of us worried that we would never see Amplitude again.

Proving once again that you should never lose hope, the internet came together to fund the long-overdue Amplitude reboot. And after a 12 year hiatus, the original Harmonix series is back to former glory. Unfortunately, the well-known top 40 artists didn't make the trip to PlayStation 4.

While certainly similar to Rock Band, Amplitude plays by its own set of rules. Instead of playing one instrument, your job is to recreate all of the elements of the song. You do this by jumping from one lane to the next hitting the musical gems that bring life to the song. Once you've cleared one section, that lane will disappear and you'll move on to the drums, vocals, guitar or what have you.

As simple as it sounds, the tricky part comes when you try to juggle each of the lanes without letting them slip. You can't just ride the drum beat the whole song, the game will force you to make a quick transition to one of the other lanes. It's easy when these sections are right next to each other, but it won't take long until you're jumping two or three lanes over. Miss a transition and you'll lose some health and drop the multiplier.

Amplitude (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The music tilts heavily in favor of electronica and techno remixes. There are no rockin' guitar solos here, just heavy beats and lots of sound effects. The soundtrack is a world away from what we saw in Rock Band 4, and it's nice to see other genres of music represented in Harmonix games. That said, I have a hunch the choices will be a lot more divisive than the original PlayStation 2 game.

It doesn't help that the soundtrack is largely made up of musicians working at Harmonix. There are a few niche bands that have found success in the nerdcore movement, but it's nothing like the 2003 game. There's no Weezer or Blink-182 here, just Freezepop and Wolfgun. For what it is, the music perfectly fits the game and I like most of it, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed there weren't remixes of familiar songs.

For what is a fairly barebones package, I do appreciate the effort that went into creating a simple story mode. The fifteen stage campaign plays out like a concept album, complete with a story connecting everything together. It all involves doctors experimenting with a patient and trying to fix different parts of the brain. There's not much to it, but it does help introduce the different power-ups and even includes a couple new obstacles to overcome.

Amplitude (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The power-ups will look familiar to anybody who played the original game. By hitting the right series of notes, players will gain the ability to slow down the action, add a second multiplier and even destroy a lane without hitting a single note. There's also a freestyle power-up that sends you high above the note highway and sees players scribble in the sky. Knowing when to use these items can be the difference between life and death, especially on the higher difficulties.

Outside of the story mode, most of the action happens in the Quick Play area. Here you'll be able to compare scores and work towards unlocking the rest of the music. Even after you've completed the campaign, there are still a number of songs to unlock through grinding. There's no trick to it, just good old fashioned playing songs over and over. While you'll most likely want to play the songs a bunch, I found getting the last few tracks to be a real chore.

Part of the problem is that there simply isn't much to do. It won't take long to play through the 31 songs and you can only improve your score so much. It doesn't help the backgrounds begin to blur together after a while and only a few of the songs really stand out. The game does support four-person multiplayer, but it's not as compelling as what you get in Rock Band. It's also not online, which was a big selling point of the 2003 original.

Even if I'm underwhelmed by the soundtrack and structure, I'm happy to have Amplitude back. The gameplay remains just as exciting as I remember it, especially on the higher difficulties. But I can't help but feel like some of its novelty has been replaced by deeper rhythm games. While I enjoyed my trip down the note highway, I'm not sure how often I'll come back.
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