Amplitude (2016) – When is a remake not a remake?

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.

Amplitude 2016 Tracks
Just like many modern rhythm action games, notes travel towards you and you need to press buttons to destroy them and keep the song playing.

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.

Amplitude 2016 Synth
Most songs have 6 tracks to keep activated to hear all parts of the music.  Power-ups can be collected in some sets of notes.

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.

Amplitude 2016 ships
There are 4 different ships to select, but they all function in the same way.

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.

Amplitude 2016 Boss
The story has “boss stages” which are more challenging.  The final one has this incredibly annoying blur effect that makes it hard to see and will ruin your eyes.

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.

Amplitude 2016 Flow
The Flow power-up allows you to sly around without worrying about notes, gathering points as you go.  It also lets you get a good look at the pretty backgrounds.

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 2016 Background
Some of the backgrounds really do look good, with bizarre shapes and colour combinations.  You won’t see it much through normal gameplay though.

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.

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14 thoughts on “Amplitude (2016) – When is a remake not a remake?”

  1. Great post! Unfortunately, it seems like Hollywood and the gaming industry seem to want to cling to name recognition instead of taking risks with new IPs. Take a concept, build a game/movie around it, and slap a familiar IP onto it so people think it’s something “new and fresh” to the formula. Sure, it works sometimes, but most of the time it only tarnishes the original IP.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. Remakes are easy money and that’s the incentive most publishers are interested in. I don’t have a problem with remakes when they are done well. Xcom and Tomb Raider are example of them done well. It’s easy to spot a cash grab though, and this certainly looks like one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Tomb Raider reboot/remake is a fantastic example of how to do this the right way! Cheap cash ins might make some money off the hype, but they rarely have any lasting appeal once people realize how flawed the product is. I’m curious to see how the “Prey” remake will pan out.

        Also, I’m not sure if one of my peers previously contacted you, but do you share these posts on any video game websites? I work over at Now Loading and this is the sort of content that makes for a great read. If you were open to the idea of posting your work on our site, in addition to also having your blog, I’d be more than happy to help you get set-up. My e-mail and more info can be found on my page (o^.^)b

        Like

  2. I’m a fan of rhythm games, too. I haven’t broken out my Guitar Hero in a while, but I still try to play DDR at least once a week to say I’m getting some exercise in. This game looks very colorful. It sucks the music is forgettable. Usually games like that will partner with some music distributor so that you have well known songs to keep players interested.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Too true! They’re around $10 in my corner of the world nowadays. Anything 3D is $15. Throw in popcorn and anything else, and it’s up to $30. I’m okay with pay the original price every now and then, but if I can play a game over and over again for less, I find that to be a far better bargain. Come to think of it, I can’t even recall the last movie I saw in theaters.

        Liked by 1 person

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