This is a hard review to write.
It’s hard to separate your own expectations of a game, especially if it is one you put some of your own assets towards to develop, and what the game actually delivers upon its release. As a reviewer, we should look at all aspects of a game and sometimes we look at the bigger picture and sometimes we go off first impressions of a game after a few hours with it. Not all reviews are the same and they shouldn’t be as entertainment products are taken in different ways.
The new Amplitude rhythm based game for the PS4 is one of the many Kickstarter games that was financed for a little over $800,000. Fortunately, Harmonix has kept a promise of a full game by the intended release date. The original Amplitude, that was sequel to the game Frequency, was a user and critical success but lacked the sales to justify a third entry, hence the crowdfunding tactic. Almost thirteen years later, we are treated to a new game that we would never see if it wasn’t for the backers.
The premise of this Amplitude title is not exactly spelled out for you when you start playing the campaign, but it essentially interprets itself to the player being a sort of nano-machine inside of a human brain as part of a radical surgery as indicated by the mediocre voice over used before each stage.
In typical Harmonix fashion, the player has to hit notes at the right time that correlates with the beats. Instead of just one “lane” like in Rock Band or Guitar Hero, there are several lanes that carry three lines of node that can be zapped, for a lack of a better term. Each colored lanes represents an instrument used in the music playing; drums, bass, vocals, synth, and so on. After you clear a lane, it breaks down and you have to move to another lane quickly or you lose your streak.
Clearly, the shifting between lanes has greatly improved from the previous game, however, it takes a quick reaction still to switch to other lanes if they aren’t right next to you as you encounter. The zapping of each of the nodes corresponds with the R1, L1 and R2 buttons, or the Square, Triangle and Circle buttons. There is the option to change the controls to however best fits you as a player as well as the difficulty.
The campaign runs through 12-15 levels depending if you have unlocked bonus levels which is one of the downfalls of Amplitude. The campaign is very short, but to be fair, you are probably not going to play it for its storyline anyways and you will want to replay anyways so you can get higher scores and ultimately unlock other songs for the “Quickplay” mode that takes the song count to around 30, so the replay value is very high as you attempt to obtain the gold bar status on Hard and Expert.
While the mechanics of the game or perfectly fine, the music this time around is a bit disappointing. The last entry on the PS2 had music from popular artists that helped make it what it was, but there is none of that this time around as the music appears to be mostly produced at Harmonix and guest tracks from other music developers from game studios.
That in itself isn’t a problem by any stretch of the imagination as there are solid tracks in the soundtrack. Unfortunately, there is only a few.
When played, the songs were very catchy and enough to move your head to the beat while you play, but as the campaign progressed the song quality seemed to lessen and it became less about the music and more about the skill. To be honest, some of the tracks you unlock should have been in the campaign and that made it even more frustrating.
This was bothersome and after beating the campaign a couple of times, we went back and played the songs on easy to verify that it wasn’t just the difficulty that was keeping us from enjoying the tracks. Unfortunately, they still didn’t impress us.
On the one hand, that came off as the biggest disappointment, but when you look at the budget of the game it shouldn’t be surprising that the developer did their own music. While some may give the game the benefit of the doubt by knowing that, anyone that buys the game probably won’t know that and it has to be looked as a consumer and reviewer, and not as an investor for the game.
Amplitude is a fine game, if you have never played the previous installment. Fans of the series may just be glad that another game even exists in the first place and may not mind the underwhelming soundtrack which, for us, was perplexing as Harmonix is a very music based studio. Having said that, the mechanics of the game are great, the visuals are fine, and the “story” was interesting enough even though it wasn’t that necessary, but could have been more engaging with its voice over performance.
Overall, Amplitude for the PS4 is fine for those who are familiar to the franchise, but will probably be a hard sell for anyone who has never played a game like it, or care about rhythm based games in general. This isn’t a series that should go away, but rather if this game is successful, the developer should improve upon it to make a game that made older gamers love it in the first place.
What do you think about Amplitude? Let us know in the comments below!