Amplitude (2015) Preview

Back on track.

Playing the upcoming Kickstarted reboot for Amplitude was like visiting an old friend. As I wrote in my Developer Spotlight on Harmonix, I cleared every song on every difficulty for the original 2003 release of Amplitude on PS2, and it's one of the reasons I became smitten with the rhythm genre. So after seeing the Amplitude reboot in the corner of my eye available as a demo at PlayStation's booth at GDC 2015, I knew I couldn't miss out. After all, blasting capsules while flipping between tracks has become one of my best (albeit most useless) skills.

Graphically, the entire game has been enhanced to fit the HD resolution of the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The circular capsules that you need to blast on each track has been raised to what seems to be like crystals and each track that you need to switch between has been given a cool texture. Backgrounds are less glitzy and are filled with softer gradients and interesting shapes that aren't as distracting.

As a quick primer if you haven't played Amplitude or its predecessor, Frequency, before, the object of the game is to unlock tracks by hitting all of the capsules using three of the face buttons along a certain length of the track (usually, two measures). Clearing a track makes a certain musical track in the actual song (vocals, drums, guitar, etc.) turn on for a good amount of time. If you can unlock every track, you will hear the entire song in its entirety.

What's difficult is adding and maintaining the streak multiplayer by flipping from one track to the next in time. Sometimes it's impossible to flip between lanes fast enough to keep the score multiplier alive, so making sure that you don't move all over the place is important. Luckily, the game now allows you to flip between the outermost lanes instead of having to press left or right too many times in a row.

At the same time, you want to maintain your energy and not miss any capsules or you'll eventually fail the song. Tracks with a lot of capsules are worth more points when you clear them, but sometimes it's better to select another track with fewer capsules or wait until the track with complex capsules becomes simpler as the song goes along. Finding a solid route will be important for score hunters, who will also be looking for places to gather power-ups like instant clears and double multipliers. If you can reach a x9 streak with a multiplier power-up, your score will blast through the roof.

The roster of seven songs in the demo build mainly consisted of original creations from Harmonix, with one from Freezepop called "Phantoms". The descriptions for each track have a psychological spin on them involving mentions of the visual cortex and frontal lobe, which may give a hint as to the story context, perhaps asking players to examine songs that stimulate brain activity.

The Amplitude reboot is due for a mid-2015 release for PS3 and PS4. According to a recent blog post on PlayStation, we can also expect the new team multiplayer mode, a 2v2 or 3v1 mode between players that will be available at PAX East, in addition to the classic Free-For-All Multiplayer mode.