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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Music / Rhythm

 

Publisher

SCEA

 

Developer

Harmonix

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

March 2003

 

 

- Diverse soundtrack has something for almost everyone

- New playfields look very cool

- Online option allows for even more replay value

 

 

- New horizontal song track layout can present problems

- More songs would have been nice, or maybe the option for an expansion disc

- Importance of freestyling is considerably less in Amplitude, unfortunately

 

 

Review: PaRappa the Rapper 2 (PS2)

Review: Mad Maestro (PS2)

 

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Amplitude

Score: 8.7 / 10

 

Music and rhythm games have seen a bit of a resurgence with the explosion in popularity of Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution series of games. Sony Computer Entertainment has certainly been active with these types of games, publishing three games in the PaRappa the Rapper universe. Unfortunately, the PaRappa games never got much critical acclaim after the first in the series was released in 1997, so they took music gaming in another direction with the release of Frequency, which came out in late 2001.

 

amplitude ps2 review          amplitude ps2 review

 

Developed by Massachusetts-based Harmonix, Frequency challenged players to complete various music tracks by timing correct button presses in order to formulate actual songs. Aside from the addictive (and extremely challenging in spots) gameplay, the game’s biggest hook was to be found in its soundtrack. Acts including No Doubt, Orbital, The Crystal Method, and Powerman 5000 all contributed songs to Frequency’s lineup. Fans of the game have waited almost 18 months for the inevitable sequel, Amplitude… but was it worth the wait? Let’s find out.

 

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As with Frequency, the main objective in Amplitude is to complete different music tracks in each song (or stage) in order to rack up high scores and unlock hidden songs along the way. In order to do this, players must correctly press buttons on their Dual Shock controllers as notes (which look like diamonds) pass one of three different “targets”—each of which is activated by a mapped button on the controller. If you can successfully complete the note pattern on a music track, the notes will clear and you 

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can move to another music track. Different tracks represent different instrumentation; for example, there’s a bass line, a drum track, guitar tracks, vocal tracks, and more — depending on the song that’s being played. If you can complete successive music tracks without making mistakes, a multiplier is added to your scoring (up to 8x), which can really inflate your scores if you get on a roll. There are power-ups which can be obtained by successfully completing certain music tracks, and these power-ups can either be used to increase your score (multiplier and freestyle) or to navigate some of the game’s trickier note patterns (slo-mo and autocatcher).

 

There are marked differences between Frequency and Amplitude, though. The most noticeable difference lies in the game’s playfield. Frequency took place within a Tempest-like cylinder, and players would move from track to track in a clockwise or counter-clockwise motion. Amplitude does away with the cylinder and instead puts all of the music tracks in a horizontal line. While this is less confusing initially for new players, Frequency veterans may have problems moving from the far right side of the playfield all the way back to the far left without breaking a scoring streak—and that’s definitely a pet peeve. Another big difference is that freestyling—which lets players add their own signature scratches or effects to a song—can now only be accessed via a new powerup. Freestyling in Frequency was a better option, as it gave players something to do if all of the music tracks in a given section were completed, in order to increase their score. Amplitude doesn’t have this, and there are spots where it’s feasible to be waiting a few measures in between sections with pressing a button at all. One last difference is that the scores in Amplitude are higher, however, the scoring thresholds to unlock the hidden songs for each stage reflect this change and are higher, as well.

 

Amplitude boasts some big-time music acts, with a focus on more diversity than was heard in Frequency. Rock music is represented in a big way in Amplitude, with groups such as Weezer, Slipknot, P.O.D., and Papa Roach making contributions. David Bowie has a song that’s been treated to a techno remix in the game. Herbie Hancock revisits Rock It with some help from some special guests. Pink has a pop-driven song in the game. Run-DMC also makes an appearance. Also, Freezepop, a Massachusetts group that saw a huge boost in popularity thanks to their “Science Genius Girl” track in Frequency, returns to deliver another catchy song. Between the recognizable acts and the ones you’ll wind up liking even though you don’t know them, there’s plenty of variety within the 25 songs on Amplitude’s roster. Not every song will appeal to everyone, though, and you have to wonder whether more songs could have been added since Amplitude takes advantage of the more spacious DVD-ROM format.

 

Visually, Amplitude looks great. While the new playfield may warrant an adjustment for veteran Frequency players, the visuals are far better than Frequency ever offered. As players progress through each different song section, it’s almost as if they’re driving along a freeway. Short videos of the current music act can be seen, and every so often, random song lyrics will fly by. Various visual effects, such as lightning or lights that pulsate to the beat can also be seen, and the “music freeway” that you’re on has hills and valleys. It looks more like a living atmosphere that’s very interactive, as compared to the tube in Frequency, and it’s a nice change.

 

amplitude ps2 review          amplitude ps2 review

 

One of Amplitude’s big advantages is that it’s online-compatible. Although the single-player mode is the best way to unlock songs, the game’s multiplayer modes (online or not) boast different powerups and some fierce competition. It’s also possible to create your own custom mixes of any song in the game and challenge players anywhere to try and beat your score. This online feature helps to alleviate the limitation of 25 songs somewhat by having different variations of the songs available to try out.

 

Amplitude is certainly a solid sequel to what was a surprisingly good game to begin with. It’s nice to see that Harmonix decided not to rest on their laurels and instead try some new things with Amplitude, and the diversity in the available music tracks is commendable. Aside from the quibbles that I’ve mentioned, I’ve had a great time with Amplitude, and I think that many others will, too—whether they’ve played Frequency or not. That’s two in a row for Harmonix, and they’re not done: their next project is a joint effort with Konami called Karaoke Revolution. Take that, Simon Cowell.

 

- Peter J. Skerritt, Jr.

(June 8, 2003)

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