The first Amplitude was a true innovator when it came to rhythm-based gaming. While it didn’t look like much from afar, as it had players control a ship blasting away at notes on tracks, it (and the original Frequency) was actually the beginning of what would eventually transform into the highly successful Guitar Hero series, as players were actually filling in the music to create the full song. It was simple in execution, but it was addictive as well, and higher difficulties provided even more thrilling challenges. Now at the start of 2016, the original rhythm blasting game is back, bringing new challenges, tunes and visuals in tow. But is the return of a great enough to breathe new life into the genre?
Developed and Published by Harmonix Music Systems, Inc.
Available on the PS4.
*Review code provided by Harmonix Music Systems, Inc.
For newcomers to the series, Amplitude has players take control of a spaceship as they navigate over music tracks blasting at notes to make the beat needed to create a song, just like Guitar Hero where players have to hit the notes to make the rock track. Hitting notes successfully gains points for the overall score, while missing causes the ship’s health to go down. If the health goes completely, then it’s game over.
While it’s a simple concept and easy to learn in regards to gameplay, it’s not as easy as it seems, as a track has three notes that players can shoot at, and there’s up to six tracks available at one time (for each instrument used in the song), so players have to jump between tracks in order to put together the song as well as increase the point multiplier to rack up the big points. That means that players are not only obligated to juggle the notes that stream down the screen in order to complete a track, but must also immediately switch to another track once one ends in order to continue the combo, or else risk losing the multiplier and some health. Once you get a hang of it and it clicks though, it’s a thing of beauty, composed of rapid twitch gameplay, very cool beats, and trippy electric visuals.
In order to make the challenge a little less painful (especially in the higher difficulties and later stages where notes fly by at blistering speeds and point multipliers are needed to pass through damaging gates), players also get to unlock some powerups that will even up the odds, which are earned by frequent play. Some powerups have the ability to demolish and complete a track instantly or slow down the speed of the track to give players some breathing room, while others allow players to freestyle and fly over the track freely to gain points. Just like earning Star Power in Guitar Hero, players must first complete a series of notes to pick up the powerup, and then can use it to gain an advantage at any time, which can be quite handy.
While the game is loads of fun, it’s not without its faults. One small problem with the game is that it’s occasionally hard to see which notes start off a different track, which is key to successfully linking combos and jumping from one track to another. Since players will switch from one track to the other by jumping after completing the last note of the first and the first note of the other, players need to know what is coming up next, which the game helps nicely with by highlighting the note with a bright glow. But since there’s up to six tracks at one time, sometimes players will be too far away on the screen to see what’s coming up, which can cause dropped combos. I understand that it’s a strategy to clear tracks that are next to each other in order to prevent this, but it does happen occasionally and can put a cramp on high-score attempts.
Another small issue is that the game doesn’t feature any popular licensed songs like its predecessor, instead relying on new tracks and songs from indie artists for the game. The older Amplitude featured music from a variety of artists and genres – ranging from pop, punk to electronica and heavy metal – which was great, so it’s kind of disappointing that the game does not bring the variety the original had. The music in the game is fantastic though, no doubt about it, but it’s really not the same.
The game does feature plenty of music though, with thirty unique tracks built to test your reflexes while having you bang your head to the fantastic beats. Players can take them on through the game’s Campaign mode, which has players fly though a patient’s brain in order to save them, or through Quickplay, which allows players to pick their favorite songs and ships and try their best to rank on the online leaderboards. Then there’s also four difficulty levels, so they’ll be plenty of challenge for newcomers and those who want to test their mettle. Additionally, there’s also four-player multiplayer, so players can team up or compete against each other on the tracks.
Overall, Amplitude is a welcome return of the series that started the whole rhythm game craze as we know it today. While the licensed music and variety in tunes is sorely missed, the newest Amplitude is a fantastic game that’ll have players blasting away at the beats over and over again.