Graphics:
7.5
Gameplay:
6.2
Sound:
7.0
Control:
7.7
Replay Value:
6.6
Online Gameplay:
8.0
Overall Rating:
6.5
Publisher:
Harmonix
Developer:
Harmonix
Number Of Players:
1-4
Genre:
Genre
Release Date:
January 5, 2016


Those who remember the early days of rhythm/music gaming will undoubtedly recall the titles FreQuency and Amplitude . The latter was one of my favorite games on PS2 and when I heard Harmonix was bringing it back for PlayStation 4, I was plenty pleased. I played the hell out of the original and I fully anticipated doing the same with the new effort, but it appears this project’s lower budget and ambition (remember, it was a Kickstarter game) has had a negative impact. This one feels lighter, is absolutely more one-dimensional, and presents the player with a few questionable gameplay additions and not much else. It’s fun in short bursts but you had better like electronica and techno…a lot.

Unsurprisingly, the game is much slicker-looking and more visually attractive than that old PS2 production. Even though it may be a Kickstarter title, Amplitude on PS4 really makes your screen come alive with a nice variety of visual and ambient effects. Granted, these effects can get in the way of your progress (which I will mention below) and visibility can be an issue, but the cleanliness and inspired design elements shouldn’t be ignored. There are only so many ways you can present tracks of notes but the team does a lot with this simple premise, and don’t forget the addition of FreQ mode, which, ala the aforementioned FreQuency , turns those tracks into enclosed, super intense tunnels. It’s futuristic and mostly appealing, which is good.

As you might expect, sound sits at the forefront of such a game. A top-quality headset will allow Amplitude ’s thumping beats to shine and you’ll become as immersed as possible in this colorful, musically-driven atmosphere. The only problem is that because most of the 30 tracks were produced in-house, all we really get is an assortment of electronica, with little else to spice up the variety. The original PS2 game had licensed songs courtesy of big-name artists like David Bowie, Pink, Killswitch Engage, Papa Roach, Garbage, Blink-182 and Weezer. Yeah, it had lots of techno stuff as well but at least the other types of music greatly enhanced the diversity and unfortunately, we get none of that here. And that’s a big problem; I’ll elaborate in just a moment.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, this game is simply about hitting buttons in time with the beat. The notes you need to hit come down a track, and each track is dedicated to a particular instrument (drums, synth, vocals, guitar, etc.). You can either use the shoulder buttons or face buttons to strike the proper notes in rhythm, and there are three positions on each track. It’s recommended that you practice and master the shoulder buttons (L1 for the left note, R1 for the center note, and R2 for the right note) because two index fingers are really the only option for higher difficulties. Using just one thumb on the face buttons (Square, Triangle and Circle) when the beat is flying and there are a ton of notes? Heck, I prefer that control option and I used it all the time in the first title, but it’s just not realistic on Advanced and Expert modes.

Anyway, all of this works fine. There’s one big difference, though, and I’m not sure I like it: You still switch between tracks with the directional pad (or you can use the left analog stick in this version) but before, you had to click across through each track, even if it was empty. So, if you needed to reach the fourth track to your right, you had to hit the right button three times to get there. Now, if there are no open tracks between, you automatically switch to the closest one. This took some getting used to and initially, I thought it was a logical and appreciated addition. Then, when things got faster, I started to realize that it doesn’t quite work because your peripheral vision doesn’t always allow you to see the first note on that track way over there. So, when you automatically fly over there, you have no idea which note must be struck first.