The end of 2001 saw a PS2 game named Frequency released. During this era, gaming magazines would come with demo discs. Some gamers made a practice of going to stores solely to discretely rip open the plastic bag the magazines were inside of to abscond with the demo discs. I may have done this a few times myself.
I still remember getting a PS2 demo disc that had about six games on it. I don’t really remember the other games now, but I do remember Frequency being one of them. I had no idea what the game was before playing it, nor had I heard of the company, Harmonix. Frequency would go on to be on my top ten PS2 games of all time list (sometimes top five, depending on the day). The music was a mix of numerous genres I loved and the gameplay was fast paced and rhythm based. Two years later, it got a sequel in Amplitude. I went into Amplitude expecting more of the same that was in Frequency with new music. The game had changed though and not in a direction that gelled well with me.
Since then, the Music genre boom happened. Harmonix would go on to be known for being the original developer of the Guitar Hero series before moving on to create Dance Central and the Rock Band brands.
In early 2014, Harmonix set in motion plans to release a sequel to Amplitude via a Kickstarter campaign. It took less than a day for the game to reach its funding goal. Clearly, there were people who wanted the franchise to return. I will admit, I was one that didn’t care much about it returning since it was Amplitude, and not Frequency that they were basing the new game on. After about a nine month delay, Amplitude has been released. How does the new game fare in the current gaming market? The honest truth is, there is not really much negative to say about it. Harmonix knocked this release out of the part on their first swing at bat.
Most of the issues I had with this game are minor. For starters, I am not a fan of the soundtrack overall. Let me be clear, there are great tracks in this game. A lot of them actually. The issue is that Harmonix didn’t venture out genre-wise. It would have been nice to see some non-electronic music used. They could have gotten electronic remixes of non-electronic tracks. They could had used Psychedelic, New Wave and Synth based music in the game. It would have fit with the visuals of the game as well. Even if they wanted to keep it Electronic, they could have used a wider array of sub-genres of Electronic music. There is no Drum and Bass for example, a genre that was well represented in Frequency.
While Amplitude runs and plays mostly flawlessly, players will experience moments where the game stutters and ignores inputs. There is nothing the player can do about it besides retry the track. Luckily, these instances are very few and far between. If I had to try and quantify how often this happens, I would say once out of every twenty tracks. Also, on the higher difficulties, I would strongly suggest people not use the shoulder buttons to play. The buttons take too long to press/register with the faster inputs and patterns displayed. Use the face buttons. PC players playing this on a keyboard will thrive.
Aside from the previously mentioned issues, this game is great. It ships with over 30 songs and the songs you unlock later on are much more difficult, yet fun. The visuals are very alluring and entrancing, almost aiding in performance due to a subtle hypnotic effect (what many call a ‘groove’).
There is multiplayer support for up to four players in both free-for-all and team modes (2v2, 3v1). There is actually a story for the campaign now. While it is not the main selling point, it more than gets the job done. The campaign plays like a Sci-Fi mixtape with a narrative backed by visuals.
The loading times in this game essentially do not exist. You are tossed right into the gameplay and it really adds to the fast-paced theme of the game. There are online and friends list based leaderboards that have a surprising impact on replayability. I can’t tell you how many times I would play a track again just because a friend of mine barely beat my score or because he was able to play the track on a high difficulty.
A huge bonus for Frequency fans is the ability to play the game in the traditional tunnel interface from the original game. It is a subtle thing, but it shows Harmonix has not forgotten about us Frequency fans. I will say, playing the game this way is much more difficult but very fun.
I know it is rare to bring up the price of a game in a review, but I have to mention how good of a deal this game is. It retails for $19.99 U.S. There so much fun to be had with this game. If Harmonix decides to support it via DLC, I will definitely add to my track list, especially if they add a wider array of music.
If you like retro arcade games, music and rhythm games, fast paced games, puzzle games, or are just looking for shockingly entrapping fun, this is the game for you. It is available on PS3, PS4, and PC. Amplitude is the best experience I have had with a title that was in some way funded via Kickstarter. I hope Harmonix continues to keep this IP alive.
This review of Amplitude is based on a digital copy for the PlayStation 4 which was provided by Harmonix.