Amplitude Preview – Return to Simplicity

Harmonix will return to simplicity in gameplay with Amplitude on PlayStation 4 and 3. You see this past weekend I got the opportunity to attend the PlayStation Experience in Las Vegas, Nevada. There Sony had an entire convention space dedicated to various games from large publishers to smaller independent developers. One of the games I played was from Harmonix, most known for their work on Rock Band in the previous console generation. Now that they have moved on from those plastic instrument games, they are focusing on bringing back an old title, Amplitude. I never played the original Amplitude, which is why I was happy to be able to not only interview one of the developers of Amplitude at PSX but also get some hands on time with the title.

I’ve played my fair share of Rock Band and all of its various incarnations, but never had I touched Harmonix’s previous efforts, Frequency and Amplitude. The latter was the focus of a nearly failed Kickstarter that sought to bring the game to PlayStation platforms in 2015. For the first time Amplitude’s multiplayer was playable for the public, and the base game was available to attendees as well. Instead of using a plastic guitar, you only have to use the controller’s face buttons to earn points. The base gameplay is the same, time button presses with the corresponding on-screen gem. However linked gems are the goal here, as successfully shooting each gem with your ship avatar destroys a portion of that track. The gems only appear along three lines, matching the Circle, Triangle, and Square buttons of the Dualshock 4. This is toned down from the six note lines of Rock Band which easily led to very complicated combinations. Each destroyed track adds to your multiplier and begins a combo increasing your overall score. You can freely swap between the five tracks at anytime, and as you destroy them you are also adding new layers to the music playing. In multiplayer destroying tracks will kick players off of your current track or allow you to steal another player’s points.

As the difficulty increases so does the beats per minute and the amount of gems speeding down the tracks. There is less opportunity for failure however. Unlike Rock Band where unplayed note gems cause you to lose a multiplier and points, in Amplitude you are not required to hit every note, and instead can freely focus on the linked gems. The only penalty for not participating would be mute music and a low score. The soundtrack will be mostly made in-house at Harmonix. I sampled two tracks, both of which were high quality. Harmonix is reportedly in talks with other smaller groups to bring their music into the game, though nothing has been announced officially. I welcome the return to simplicity, despite not playing Amplitude on the PlayStation 2 I can appreciate the team tuning back some of the difficulty of Rock Band by bringing back their second game. Amplitude will come out on PlayStation platforms sometime in 2015.