Review: Amplitude (PS2)

Genre: Rhythm/Music
Platform: Playstation 2
Developer: Harmonix
Publisher: Sony
Release Date: 3/25/03

Like I said in one of my reports, I wanted to see this game reviewed. Well, no one has done so up till this point. If you want something done, you’ve gotta do it yourself.

In 2001, Frequency was released for the Playstation 2. It was one of the first, if not THE first, rhythm games available on the system. There was little fanfare or hype about the game’s release, but most people who tried it out seemed to like it. I bought an issue of the Official Playstation Magazine that had a demo for the game in it, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I never bought it due to money restrictions, and once I did have money I had forgotten about the game. Still, the game received a lot of praise, enough to justify a sequel.

Enter Amplitude. While it contains many similarities to Frequency, it stands on its own as a separate game. It is quite possibly the best rhythm game released on the system, and the best rhythm game released in the states that doesn’t require a lot of jumping around to get the full effect of (see Dance Dance Revolution). This review will not be a comparative review because, like I said, I never really played Frequency much, so I didn’t get that in depth in it. Also, I don’t have a broadband adapter, so I can’t review the online capabilities, but supposedly it’s basically like multiplayer except long distance. So we’ll take a look at why the game may be one of the best of its type.

There is no story of sorts (unless it’s in the manual somewhere, which I didn’t get because I rented it), so we’ll jump right into gameplay.

Basically, you control a ship that goes over music notes, and you have to press buttons at the right time to activate those notes. The course is laid out horizontally (unlike Frequency, where it was more like a tunnel), and there are several different tracks on the line. There are drums, synth, guitar, and of course lyrics. Once you have cleared off a certain amount of notes from one track, that track is locked, and you can move to another and clear notes off that one as well. If you mess up, you have to start over at the beginning of the next bar. Even after you lock the tracks in, at some point, it will light up again and you’ll have to clear off that track again. Switching back and forth on the tracks always keeps you on your toes.

If you make a mistake or just go along without clearing any tracks, you will start to lose life. Life can be replenished by clearing tracks or by going through a checkpoint. Each song is divided into 3 or more checkpoints. If you make it to the end of the song without running out of life, you win the song. If you do run out of life, it’s Game Over.

The purpose of the game, essentially, is to clear out all the songs. There are 5 arenas in the game. Each arena has 3 base songs (less on the easier difficulties). Once you clear out the 3 base songs in an arena, it unlocks the boss song. After beating the boss song, it unlocks the next arena, as well as a bonus song if you’ve accumulated enough points.

Points are awarded for successfully completing a track. The more difficult the track is, the more points you get. You can also get a streak, which is where you keep clearing tracks without making a mistake and without missing any tracks. Each consecutive track you clear will increase the bonus modifier by one, and the maximum is an 8x modifier.

You can also use powerups to help you gain points. There is one that gives you double points within a time limit, and another that automatically clears the tracks. There is also a powerup called Freestyle, which makes all the tracks go away for a short amount of time, and uhhh, I never could figure out what else it did, really.

There are 4 difficulties: Mellow, Normal, Brutal and Insane. To go through all 25 songs in the game, you have to play Brutal or Insane, and if you beat all 25 songs in Insane, you’ll unlock a hidden 26th song.

Lastly, your representative in the game is a character called a Freq. You can choose from several prefab Freqs, or you can create your own. It’s not really as in depth a creation system as say a wrestling game, but it’s about on the level with the Sims. After beating a boss song or a bonus song, you will get a new Freq, with all it’s body parts that you can use to make a Freq of your own.

While graphics were not necessary to be a big thing in this game, they still do not disappoint any. Going through the songs is akin to a futuristic 3D racing game like F-Zero, or something of the sort. As you’re flying along, hitting notes, the background is much like a city would be, and it shows a video of the artist who performs the song. Keep in mind that this is stuff you shouldn’t be looking at, because it’s hard enough to concentrate on the notes, but it’s pretty nonetheless.

In addition, the Freqs are modeled well, and all look good, even though some have big heads that make them look ugly. While you’re clearing notes, the Freq is on the right hand side of the screen playing whatever instrument you’re on the track for. Overall, pretty graphics aren’t important to a game like this, but the developers went above and beyond the call of duty, and created a nice immersive, futuristic atmosphere.

Sound, however, is a very important part of the game, and it’s definitely not a let down. The 26 songs are all licensed from pretty big artists, and some are even VERY big. The biggest come from Garbage, Pink, Slipknot, Blink 182, Papa Roach, Run DMC, P.O.D., Weezer, and my personal favorite, the incomparable David Bowie. These are real songs with instruments and real voices. And it sounds wonderful.

As part of the game, when you clear a track, it keeps playing while you clear other tracks, and only stops when the track needs to be cleared again. So it makes you feel like YOU’RE making the music, by clearing track by track, until you have a complete song. While most of the songs are techno, it’s a very good collection of genres appropriate to the game. I don’t think there is anything they could have done better here.

Fun Factor
Like other rhythm games, this game would make a good party game. Since up to four people can face off against each other, a lot of people can get in on the fun. Likewise, I imagine it can be a lot of fun online for the same reason.

There is a lot of replayability in the game. For one reason, you can go through all the difficulties and beat all the songs (which gets a lot harder in the higher difficulties) to get more prefab Freqs and parts for them. There are also several different modes you can do for fun, like Freestyle, which allows you to mess around in the song and do different effects. What’s even cooler is the remix mode, where you get to actually remix the song to the way you want it to sound. Supposedly, you can also download player remixes by going online. For these reasons, you can play Amplitude a lot of different ways and still not get bored.

Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 9
Sound: 10
Fun Factor: 9

Short Attention Span Summary
This is a must have game for any music or rhythm game enthusiast. You don’t need a special mat to enjoy it to its fullest, and there’s a lot of licensed music from American artists so that many of the songs that you play, you’ve probably heard before. Get it for your party, get it for yourself, just get it!



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