I really like rhythm action. Really, really like them. Not in a weird way though. I don’t stay up at night stroking my copy of the classic Gitaroo Man. As far as you know anyway. But it’s a genre that’s something of a go-to for me to play when I want a quick blast of something fun. Guitar Hero, Rock Band (and the Blitz spin off!), the aforementioned Gitaroo Man, OSU, and of course Amplitude. Which I played to death, along with its prequel Frequency, on PS2. It worked in the same way as a lot of modern rhythm action games, shapes fly towards the screen in time to the music and you press the corresponding button to destroy them. I had power-ups, bright visuals, and most importantly of all, a great soundtrack.
Here we have the obligatory remake from the same company that created the original back in 2003, but at a budget price. In many ways it’s exactly the same game, along with new conveniences like leaderboards and pretty graphics. In other ways it’s much, much weaker. The premise is the same: there are 6 tracks in each song, representing different combinations of drum beats, synth, vocals and the like. Completing a short chain of notes turns that track on for a while and increases your multiplier, missing a beat costs you some health. After a while a turned on track will need to be activated again. This carries on until the end of a song. There are power-ups, such as cleanse (activates a track), multiplier (doubles your score), sedate (slows the song down) and others as you’d expect. In the end it boils down to a score attack game which is just fine.
There’s also a story! Something about a comatose patient and you’re flying through their brain activating different neural pathways through the power of music! This is the excuse for there being a concept album to play through in the main campaign. If I’m honest this is fairly forgettable, being a chain of 15 songs strung together with a brief scene of different parts of the brain. The big problem is that the songs are all so forgettable. Not just in the main campaign, but the track list as a whole. All the songs fall into some variation of electro dance music, which is fine if you’re into the sort of thing. I’m not but I know when I find a song memorable.
The previous games in the series often had a good variety of different songs, from little known artists to popular bands. There was a good spread of genres, but now all the tracks seem to blend together, with each one sounding very similar to the last. The only exception to this really is a couple of fun tracks buried in amongst the unlocks (an interesting jazz piece and a bizarre rap/rock song by Insomniac Games about software development). This is a huge problem as when it comes down to it, a music game lives or dies on its track list. And as far as I’m concerned, this game is on life support. Much like the character in the story in fact…was that deliberate? Did I miss that? Is this game, in fact, super meta?! No. No, I don’t think it is. The songs are just boring.
The games mechanics are as fine as ever with everything functioning as it should. The multiplayer is fairly fun with some nice weapons to use against your opponents in pursuit of the highest score. The graphics are lovely, although you probably won’t have much time to look at the backgrounds. The songs are challenging on the higher difficulty levels which could keep you coming back if you’re a completionist. But all this is fairly meaningless when the songs themselves aren’t fun to listen to. Rock Band and Guitar Hero cottoned on to the idea of having a good variety of genres in their track list, even though it didn’t tie into the “rock” thing they were going for. Variety is the spice of life they say, and this is quite true when it comes to your rhythm action game’s playlist.
Its for this reason that I included the question “When is a remake not a remake?” A remake should, in my opinion, include at least something on a similar level to the original. This game, budget price or otherwise, feels like a shell of the former games in the series due to its lack of content (30 very samey songs and not much to do once you’ve mastered them), variety and reason to play the tracks more than a couple of times.
Amplitude was developed and published by Harmonix. I played the game on PS4 and would not recommend this. Perhaps if you’re crazy for electro music you may get some enjoyment from it, but to me it was a list of songs that all sounded the same. Maybe I’m just getting old and don’t understand all this new music the kids are listening to. Or maybe it’s just a bit rubbish.