The year is 2003, the PlayStation 2 is still in its early years, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just won the Super Bowl, and Chicago won Best Picture at the Oscars. It was also the year Amplitude was released and so began a cult following that continues to this day. Thankfully for fans of the original Amplitude, Harmonix hasn't forgotten about them. While they had a huge release with the return of Rock Band, Amplitude is now seeing it's release on the PlayStation 4 with much less publicity.
Amplitude is a music rhythm game, but unlike its Rock Band younger sibling, it does not require any instrument add ons. The notes you're required to hit still come down the screen but instead of hitting a drum set or buttons on a guitar, you use your plain old DualShock 4. The game’s three notes are mapped to the controllers L1, R1, and R2 buttons. For those that haven’t played Amplitude before (or Harmonix’s forgotten title; Rock Band Blitz), this might sound rather easy, but I should also mention that you are required to hit notes for more than one instrument. Once a segment of a particular instrument is completed, by hitting a note streak until a predetermined amount of notes are hit, that area will clear. In order to continue your streak, you must hit the analog stick to move over to another instrument and continue playing from there. Jumping across from instrument to instrument puts me in Trent Reznor mode and the stress of keeping that streak alive thrills me.
You aren’t going to have to tackle these songs with your ability alone. Just like other Harmonix titles, you will unlock the ability to use power-ups on each song. These power-ups are obtained by hitting a string of notes that is highlighted by a certain logo. The power-ups range from clearing all the notes for a given instrument, to slowing the song down to make hitting a string of notes a bit less challenging. You also can change the vehicle that flies across the notes, but to my knowledge this doesn’t change the gameplay at all, but is rather just a cosmetic preference.
Amplitude features 30 songs to master, but unfortunately almost all of these tracks are from the developers or lesser known artists. This stands out as a real weak point to this attempted comeback, in my opinion. The original Amplitude featured a great deal of licensed music and clearly all the Rock Band titles have as well. So I thought it was kind of weird that Harmonix decided not to feature any. One of my favorite things about the Rock Band games is the ability to play and master some of my favorite songs. Why Harmonix decided not to include any real hits or give you the ability to transfer songs purchased from Rock Band seems to be a huge fumble.
I should also mention the game modes, or lack there of. You can play your choice of songs through a quickplay or play through the (short) campaign mode, that’s it! There is no online multiplayer at all (basic local multiplayer is included). This struck me as rather odd because like the song selections of the original Amplitude compared to the new and “improved” Amplitude, the original game featured multiplayer and this one doesn’t. While I appreciate Harmonix answering fans’ prayers of bringing back Amplitude, I don’t think everyone expected such a half-assed release.
Harmonix’s reintroduction to Amplitude didn’t come off exactly how I envisioned it and I’m sure a lot of fans of the original title feel the same way. In no way does that mean that I didn’t have a good time with Amplitude. I just feel like there was so much wasted potential to build a stellar title off what they've learned from making the Rock Band franchise. The absence of licensed songs and the lack of modes are just too big of issues for me to give Amplitude a full recommendation. If you haven’t played Amplitude before you might want to wait for a sale before you check it out or consider moving on to Rock Band 4.