Good luck, Harmonix...
Sorry if I come off a little dramatic here, but Amplitude’s release seems like a tragic full circle coming to fruition. It was the original Amplitude from 2003 which gained Harmonix the notoriety, after all. Not the cash cow juggernaut Rock Band was, but a critical darling that expanded on the groundwork of the trance-laden Frequency. And like the original Amplitude, this is releasing on little to no fanfare, backed by a Kickstarter that barely made it to the finish line. The few people who do see it will most likely scoff and say it looks like some kind of proto Guitar Hero or Rock Band; the worst thing I can say is that it looks exactly like Amplitude.
So if you like the original Amplitude and are clamoring for more Amplitude, this 2016 version is a perfect, high resolution version with thirty new tracks which sound more or less like what was offered thirteen years ago (no Quarashi though, which is a plus I guess). The difference here, and was inherently the same problem in the wild experiment that is Guitar Hero Live, is that the music featured here isn’t all that great. Music is subjective and all, and perhaps Amplitude 2003 was allowed a pass due to how fledgling and niche the music game genre was then, but man, this tiny batch of electronica tracks just don’t speak to me. Selling for a third of the price of a standard AAA game and developing off a Kickstarter budget, Harmonix decided it’d be essential to record most of the tracks in house. There’s even a few songs written by Kickstarter backers, which more than anything else defines this remake as a love letter for only the most hardcore of Amplitude’s fanbase.
Trippy visuals and the same old music roads populate the game world, and for those who have never experienced it, allow me to explain. Imagine if Guitar Hero had not one, but five alternating roads consisting of drums, synths, guitars, vocals, and bass. Your objective is to successfully hit a few notes on one track (using the rudimentary controller), and then seamlessly transition into the next track. So as an example, if you complete a row of drums, switch over to guitar and muck that up, you’ll only have the drums of the song audible. Do well and you’re rewarded with one of four power-ups: sedate (slow down), cleanse (eliminate an entire bar of music), and multiply (score doubler). It’s an ingenious concept and still ridiculously fun, even all these years later. The reward for working every instrument into the mix is unmatched, but yeah, if only the music gave me further incentive to keep at it.
The most puzzling thing about Amplitude Revisited is Harmonix’s decision to make multiplayer local only. Releasing on the verge of online console gaming, I always recall the original Amplitude being the tent pole of Sony’s internet initiative. And for such a score driven game, the decision to limit multiplayer in today’s landscape is so unforgivable that it makes me wonder if Harmonix even had the budget to put it in. Without online play and the severe lack of intriguing music, 2016’s rendition of Amplitude is an occasionally fun but ultimately frustrating and essentially pointless update that can hardly even be considered one at all.