Amplitude – Review

Title   Amplitude
Developer  Harmonix
Publisher  Harmonix
Platform  PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PS3
Genre  Music/Rhythm
Release Date  January 5th, 2016
Official Site

amplituderev1Rhythm-action games have been around for a long time, but they enjoyed an explosion in popularity a few years back thanks to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These series managed to launch many iterations (as well as a heap of plastic instruments) before dying a bit of a death. They’ve both made their this-gen debuts recently but no-one really cares anymore. The precursors to these games were Frequency and its sequel, Amplitude, which were developed by Harmonix (who also made the Rock Band games and the early Guitar Hero ones). These set the template, namely flying into the screen along a path that is littered with note icons that tell you which button to press and when. They were pretty popular and always a little cooler than the games that had you standing around like a cunt with a Fisher Price guitar playing some sort of Aerosmith bullshit.

Harmonix have now revisted Amplitude, partly due to demand for a sequel and also to check the viability of starting projects like this with crowd-funding. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Amplitude is now out for PS3 and PS4 and while it’s good to have the old girl back, the game’s limited budget is certainly evident in the final product. First up, for those of you that haven’t played Amplitude (or Rock Band Blitz, which was Harmonix’s later take on it), each level of the game is a song. Each song is split up into individual tracks (drums, bass, vocals, synths and so on). You travel into the screen along a track, hitting buttons in sync with note indicators that you pass (timed to fit the music, of course). When you complete a section of track, that track disappears for a bit and you need to skip across to another.


Success means not making mistakes and, instead, chaining together perfect runs along large parts of the song. Powerups also make an appearance, allowing you to clear parts of the song, slow it down (not very helpful) or increase your combo multiplier. Unlike Rock Band Blitz though, you don’t really get any choice over powerups and, as such, they aren’t as hard to manage, meaning you can just concentrate on the basics of the game.

amplituderev3It plays well. The rhythm action gameplay is tight and a little bit stripped down from the sort of excesses we’ve seen from the genre recently. Fans of Frequency can also play using the tunnel layout that Harmonix wisely dropped after that game came out. Of course, a big part of the game is the music and it is here that the game’s Kickstarted origins are in evidence. Unlike the original, there aren’t that many well-known tracks on here at all. Where Amplitude (2003) had David Bowie, Blink 182, Slipknot and Papa Roach in amongst all the electro/garage/dance/whatever tracks, Harmonix clearly didn’t have that kind of licensing money available (despite selling about a billion songs via Rock Band, but whatever).

So this time we get just over thirty songs, with fifteen of them being in-house tracks by Harmonix themselves. These form the main campaign, which is a sort of story/concept album. The tracks are  a mix of electronic music sub-genres from electro to drum and bass to dubstep or EDM or whatever things are called these days. Some of the songs have moments that are pretty good but are usually let down by pretty weak vocal work. Also, the arrangements on the songs are sometimes a little bit schizophrenic, which is fine if you’re trying to make your levels a bit less predictable, but the flow isn’t always that good or very enjoyable to play.


The main worry, though, is that, unlike Rock Band Blitz, unactivated tracks stay silent, and so ultimately every track sounds like the world’s worst remix of anything. Ultimately this makes it a little harder to get into the zone with the game and what should be a synesthesia of music and visuals ends up feeling a bit disconnected. The non-campaign tracks aren’t much better but are, thankfully, mostly instrumental. A lot of it, including the main songs, do all sound a bit Dance eJay for my liking though, and ultimately this is the area of the game that could have done with having a few more quid thrown at it.

amplituderev5On the plus side, the style of music does fit the game, and with it all being mostly under one genre umbrella it does feel a bit more cohesive than if you had to follow up a 185BPM dance track with some Foo Fighters bullshit. The game’s futuristic, neon look seems designed to suit these kind of beats. However, the visuals are all a bit one note. There’s not much variation in there and when you consider how Rez created five distinct flavours of its specific look, I can’t help feel that Amplitude could be doing a bit more. Also, the gameplay sometimes is affected when the next track to go to is a whole width of the screen away, sometimes making it impossible to see your next target note before you make the jump. Many a streak is ended this way and memorisation and practice may be the only answer, which is fine but it’s not very zen is it?

Also, the final song of the campaign is accompanied by the sort of visual distortion that makes you feel like you’re playing through a kaleidoscope and is literally one of the poorest game design decisions that I’ve ever seen. It makes the stage almost unplayable on anything over the normal level of difficulty.

  • Simple to get into and not bogged down in complex gameplay mechanics or power-up choices
  • Quite addictive
  • Has some good moments when the music, visuals and gameplay fit together
  • Weak soundtrack
  • Unimpressive visuals
  • 2003 gameplay

Thankfully, the core game of Amplitude is good. It's a simple but solid rhythm-action game that is good for quick pick up and play sessions but will also appeal to hardcore types that appreciate a hefty challenge. While there are issues with the presentation and soundtrack, there aren't any better options on PSN right now unless you want to go for one of the full retail games out there, but if you've been waiting over twelve years for this remake, prepare to be a little underwhelmed.

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