Platform: PS3, PS4 (Reviewed)
Release Date: January 5, 2016 (PS4); TBA (PS3)
|The original Amplitude was frenzied, chaotic, and addicting due to it's simple design towards the rhythm of the songs|
It was a cult-classic for sure, but not exactly a financial success. Amplitude was beloved by fans, but the soundtrack and visual style lacked mainstream appeal. Harmonix decided to focus their attention elsewhere, and in 2005 -- two years after the release of Amplitude -- released Guitar Hero. Combining well-known rock songs with a unique guitar controller proved to be exactly what the public wanted. Guitar Hero 2 released the following year, with an even more expansive setlist. In 2007, the Guitar Hero license was purchased by Activision, leading Harmonix to begin development of a new IP, Rock Band, which would feature four different instrument peripherals. The rest is rock n’ roll history.
Yet the fervor for music games has been lessening in recent years, with Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4 being just the most recent in a series of disappointing releases. But into this, Harmonix launched a Kickstarter in 2014 with the intent of funding a sequel/successor to Amplitude, inexplicably not titled Ampli2de. The campaign was a success, generating over $800,000 in its 30-day run; Now, as 2016 starts, the new Amplitude was released, taking us back to the start.
|The new Amplitude is a return to the basics of a rhythm game - no peripheral controllers or things to buy, just the music and your nanoblaste|
The first thing one notices about the new Amplitude is its distinct visual style: the older games toyed with a similar Tron-like aesthetic, but the backgrounds could often be cluttered and overwhelming. This new game instead opts for a sleek, modern look, with bright pops of neon colors against deep black backgrounds. It harkens back to games like Geometry Wars and Rez, audio-visual experiences to be played with the lights off and the speakers cranked.
The inclusion of an original soundtrack is not all that novel. The surprising bit is that the concept album written by Harmonix, produced by Harmonix, and performed by Harmonix employees for a Harmonix game… is actually pretty good. Frequently I found myself humming the melody to an earlier song while navigating menus or taking a break. Games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero have long used licensed music to draw in players, not necessarily because those songs translate well to the video game medium, but because players are already familiar with them. Due to the fact that much of the music in Amplitude was created with this game in mind, the transition to the interactive medium is much more fluid.
|Amplitude, like most other Harmonix games, keeps to four difficulty ratings - the higher you go, the more closely you have to follow the musical beat|
But Amplitude’s impressive track list and commitment to a style would mean nothing if the game didn’t feel good to play. Fortunately, on this front, Harmonix impresses once again. Gameplay is responsive, remaining almost entirely unchanged from the original release, with small quality of life improvements such as lag calibration and a larger frame window to successfully hit notes. In both single and multiplayer the game runs at a fairly consistent 60FPS, with only minor frame-rate hiccups at the end of some songs when particle effects on the backgrounds tend to pick up. And, just like the original, Amplitude’s track-switching mechanics feel incredibly satisfying. It forces to player to actively engage with the music, paying attention to elements of a song that would be missed on a casual listen.
|Don't worry, this new version of Amplitude has new multiplayer and leaderboard tracking too, giving you a reason to keep perfecting those tracks|
Which is why the new Amplitude is so important, particularly now. It’s a rhythm game without any gimmicks. It’s not a karaoke game to be played during a party, or something to tap on your phone while waiting for a bus, or a rockstar simulator. Amplitude is a video game about music, and a pretty fun one at that. 2015 may not have been the best of years for the rhythm genre, but 2016 seem to be off to a rollicking start. Here’s hoping that trend continues.
Are you already a fan of the new Amplitude? Tell us what your favorite track is so far in the comments, or better yet, come find our Facebook and brag about how you're already beating the game on Super difficulty. Like our articles, or want to start writing for us as well? Contact us here, or follow us on Twitter to stay on top of all the new articles!