Review: Amplitude (PS4)

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Title: Amplitude
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.49 GB)
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Harmonix
Developer: Harmonix
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E
Amplitude is also available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

The original Amplitude was released in 2003. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, this HD remake is ready to set the music genre on fire once again. Does this new version pay homage to the classic or does it bring something entirely new?

Gameplay:
The gameplay is similar to the classic Amplitude where you choose your note blaster and blast notes on a highway. You choose from four different ships of various design and size. There are four difficulty settings to choose from ranging from Beginner to Advanced.

Each song is divided into musical note highways spread across the screen from left to right for each instrument and vocal track, and each is represented by different colors. As you progress through the notes and highways, you gain multipliers that raise your score modifiers. These can help your game with bonuses ranging from a score multiplier to slowing the song down and more. These power-ups, while scarce, really change the way you play.

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I found game itself to be quite hard, even at the lowest difficulty setting. But the magic of Amplitude is that I kept coming back and to try to beat my previous scores. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I was frustrated at times, but after a rest I kept coming back. To me this speaks volumes of the game design and how much fun Amplitude can be.

As you start you have mainly two modes, Quick Play and Campaign. Quick Play is where I spent most of my time. As you progress through each song your score earns you pips that allow you to unlock new songs. Quick Play also allows you to come back and perfect your scores, either to gain more pips or for a score chase amongst your friends. Quick play also comes in handy for training to tackle the campaign mode.

The Campaign is really handled quite differently than any other game. There is a story that is told at the beginning and end of a song, but it’s usually very brief. The basic premise is that there is a comatose patient and doctors are trying an experimental procedure to wake them by stimulating portions of the brain.

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I found this idea hitting very close to home. As a survivor of a traumatic brain injury I pictured my own brain as my Raven was blasting notes while listening to the different tracks. While most people might find this idea simple or even boring, I fell in love with it, and it seemed like a perfect fit for the game.

As a side note, because of my injury I found the game difficult, but as I stated before, I keep coming back to it. Amplitude has now become part of my rehab regiment and a particular favorite game of my kids.

… This game is a blast to play …
Another mode which is unlockable after you play through and finish the campaign is FreQ Mode. This one is an homage to another Harmonix music game, Frequency. Instead of the standard left to right highways, FreQ mode folds up the note highway into a circle.

This game is a blast to play and really shines a light on the legacy of Harmonix. Although harder than the standard mode, it’s quite fun, it mixes up the gameplay quite a bit, and it should not be missed.

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Visuals:
It’s hard to describe just how important the graphics are to the gameplay and music. To start, the game looks gorgeous and runs super smooth. After hours of play, I did not see any sort of glitch or hang up of any sort.

The art design is just as fantastic as the technical part of the game. Be it the different colors, or the design of the note blasters. The particle effects and backgrounds are beautiful making the game that much better.

It is one of the most colorful games I have ever played and does take full use of the PlayStation 4’s power. As a cool little side note Harmonix programmed the DualShock 4’s light bar to synchronize with the color track you are on.

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Audio:
The greatest asset in Amplitude is the music. A largely techno inspired score, the music could be called the lifeblood of the game. The beats help you get into blasting notes as they should and come fast and furious, especially on harder levels.

With over thirty tracks at launch, there is definitely a lot of music to play. My only gripe is the lack of big name acts like the original Amplitude. There’s a huge difference between this and Rock Band where you will definitely know most of the bands with only a few notable exceptions.

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Online/Multiplayer:
While Amplitude does not come with online co-op or multiplayer, it does have local co-op. At the time of this review I was not able to try on the couch co-op. The game also includes leaderboards and it has been fun chasing scores with the staff of PS Nation.

Conclusion:
I will say that my time with Amplitude has been more enjoyable than I expected, with the excellent music and graphic fidelity, and the gameplay being as frantic as only Amplitude could be.

My only gripe, the lack of big name acts, could be rectified with DLC. As I stated above, I was touched by the minimalist story as only a few could be and will remember the game for that fact. I truly believe everyone should try Amplitude. 2016 is off to a great start with this release.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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