This is What You Are
I love Amplitude. I loved Amplitude years before today because it's what got me into music games. Before DJ Max, Theatorhythm, Rock Band, Bemani, Project Diva, and Guitar Hero there was Amplitude. Sure I played a lot of PaRappa and liked it but Amplitude had a difficulty progression that only really existed in DDR at the time. The large number of tracks with their genre variation and the driving difficulty makes it one of my favorite games of all time.
God damn it, I love Amplitude but this isn't about old Amplitude, this is new Amplitude and the new Amplitude exists at a different time and space than old Amplitude...
The core of the gameplay involves playing a song but every instrument is separated into different lanes. You constantly switch between the different lanes/instruments, playing for a couple measures which clears the lane for a set amount of time, then switch over to a different lane/instrument without missing a note to keep your combo going. Occasionally when playing the game there will be power-ups you obtain from hitting a streak of notes which you can use to correct a mistake or make sections of game-play easier. A fairly simple game mechanically but moving through the difficulty makes you glad it stays as simple as it does, but that's what makes Amplitude as good as it is.
The core of Amplitude feels so rock solid to play. While Rock Band has more of a good time vibe by emulating playing fake instruments, Amplitude knows you are just tapping along to music on a controller and has to work extra hard to channel you directly into the music. This is where the difficulty comes in. The game at it's core is very simple to play but uses the difficulty to engulf 100% of your attention while playing. It's not just keeping up with difficult note charts but transitioning from one instrument to another. You have focus on the note chart for the instrument you are currently playing but also, having to pay enough attention to the other instruments so that you don't lose your combo when you need to make the transition. This focus that the game forcibly pulls from you also pulls you into the zone or whatever moment of zen you want to call it. This occurs from playing all music games but it comes easier here because of constantly switching tracks. While other music games have you focus on only one aspect of the song as a whole, it takes longer to get to a familiarity with the game or to get to a personal difficulty level to get into this zone so people drop off of playing it. The design of Amplitude allows the game to wrap around you no matter the difficulty. That is as long as you actually have a drive to play music games and you progress through the difficulty. Everything I've said up to this point would apply to both the older 00s version and the modern 2016 version. So what about this specific release?
Amplitude is visually very crisp and clean visually along with a neat futuristic theme. Because the game was Kickstarted they didn't scope the game to have a fully curated soundtrack of popular artists. Instead the artists at Harmonix created a 15 track concept album for the game revolving around a woman in a comatose state that you attempt to awaken (by playing Amplitude.) This works wonderfully as the composers at Harmonix knew exactly how the music would be used and it creates a wonderful crescendo of difficulty throughout the campaign while making the gameplay for the songs more interesting then if the soundtrack was purely curated. This is a fantastic achievement for the developers and works wonderfully. In addition to the 15 track campaign there is an additional 15 tracks from mostly people in the video game music industry for a grand total of 30 tracks in the game at time of release. This is where the problem lies with Amplitude. There's just not the diversity in music genres that I want. There's a good chunk of songs that I really like musically and another handful I really like gameplay wise but I'm not sure I would have as good of a time with the game to keep me playing as much as the first one. It's a shame because there's still a lot of excellent tracks on the soundtrack. The Insomniac "Crazy Ride" rock song is ludacris and fits perfectly. Danny B shows up but instead of an original track it's just track two of Crypt of the Necrodancer. Freezepop shows up with their weird awesome electro thing they do and there's even a track from the criminally under-appreciated Skullgirls, which having a jazz track in the game does wonders. Amplitude has promised DLC support which hopefully adds some more variation to the game but as it stands now I just don't have the capacity to say if the soundtrack has the ability to keep people continuously coming back to the game like the first one did for me.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm really bias when it comes to this game. I've played and loved a ton of the previous version (But weirdly enough I didn't like Frequency) and I'm really good at it. I've probably spent 15 hours playing it the past week and after clearing the rust and getting used to the current iteration I'm currently sitting at the top 4% of the leaderboard. I want to give this five stars but I just can't. The limited soundtrack in it's current state just doesn't do it for me in the same way the last one did, even with the perfect concept album for the game leading the charge. Don't get me wrong, the music in the game is absolutely fantastic but there just isn't the same amount and variation as I'd hope. Only a couple tracks are actually bad. Without a doubt, this is one of the best $20 games available on the PS4 and I wholey recommend it to anyone with a slight inclination to play a music game. I am just too unsure of the staying power for newcomers to the series to give it a five star rating.