Amplitude is a music video game developed by Harmonix for the PlayStation 2. It is the sequel to the previous game, Frequency. The game was released in North America on March 24, 2003 and in Europe on September 26, 2003.
In Amplitude the player controls a beat blaster ship across a lane of six tracks, each track representing a musical instrument and containing note gems that the player shoots at in time with the music. The player earns points for accurate playing and increases their scoring multiplier by playing a series of flawless sequences; the player loses energy by missing too many notes and can end the song prematurely if they run out of energy. Compared to the original Frequency which used more electronica and trance music, Amplitude included additional pop rock songs in its soundtrack.
The game was a critical but not a financial success, and would lead Harmonix to become a major studio in the development of music games. In 2014, Harmonix successfully offered a Kickstarter campaign to raise over $840,000 in funds to build a new Amplitude game for PlayStation 3 and 4 consoles; the remake was released in January 2016.
In Amplitude, the player controls a ship (referred to as a "Beat Blaster") moving down a path of varying shapes and lengths, containing up to six tracks. Each color-coded track corresponds to a different aspect of the song, such as percussion, synth, bass, or vocals, and contains a sequence of notes. As the player hits buttons corresponding to the note placement on the track, the notes activate a small portion of the track. If the player successfully activates enough notes in sequence, the track is "captured" and the section will play automatically for a number of bars, freeing the player to capture another section.
The object of the game is to capture a sufficient amount of sections to reach the end of the song. If the player continually misses notes, an energy meter empties until the game is over.
There are several different powerups available to the player to make gameplay easier. Powerups are gained by activating a series of specially shaped and colored notes. Such powerups allow immediate capturing of tracks, doubling of points scored, slowing down the speed of play, and jumping into freestyle mode (which allows the player to riff to the music, gaining points without the difficulty of playing predefined tracks).
Amplitude offers four different modes of play: single player game, remix, multiplayer and online.
In single player, the object is to unlock and complete all of the songs. There are four levels of gameplay difficulty: Mellow, Normal, Brutal, and Insane. Certain songs are only available to play on harder difficulty settings. Often the player is rewarded with pieces to construct and customize their "FreQ" avatar.
The remix mode in Amplitude is much like the one in Frequency. The player may place notes to every section of the song (except the vocal section) in whatever patterns they so choose, creating a unique version of the song. The effects (chorus, delay, etc.) and tempo of the song are also controllable. Finished remixes are available for gameplay in both single player and multiplayer modes.
Multiplayer mode offers three distinct modes: a typical gameplay mode, a head-to-head mode and a remix mode. The main multiplayer mode offers up to four players simultaneous gameplay through any of the unlocked songs. The head-to-head mode features Simon says-esque gameplay between two players, in which the players alternate creating riffs and then attempting to play them back. The remix mode is identical to the single player remix mode, but with the participation of more players.
Online mode offers multiplayer play with an internet connection. However, Sony of America shutdown the online Amplitude servers on February 26, 2007, preventing this feature from being used. Despite the SCEA servers shutting down, online play is still available in European countries.
There are 26 songs in Amplitude, the majority of which are tracks by popular music artists, with genres ranging from electronica and dance to hip hop and alternative rock. Some of the tracks, however, were produced "in-house" specifically for Amplitude. For example, Kasson Crooker, who served as the musical director for the game, contributed the songs "Cool Baby", "Synthesized", "Robot Rockerz" and "Spaztik", as well as "Super Sprøde" as performed by his band Freezepop.
The following is a list of artists who contributed songs to the game, with corresponding song title, in order of gameplay. The fourth song in each section is a "boss" song while the fifth is an unlockable bonus song. "Spaztik" is unlockable only in the Insane difficulty.
Amplitude is the sequel to Harmonix's previous title, Frequency, released in 2001. Frequency was funded and published by Sony, and while not a commercial success, was considered by Harmonix's Ryan Lasser as the game that helped to give Harmonix a positive reputation in the game industry. Sony funded and published the game's sequel.
In making the sequel, the team considered lessons they learned from Frequency to make Amplitude more enjoyable. One aspect was the "tunnel" approach they used in Frequency; this was borne out from trying to create a cyberspace-like environment based on concepts from the movie Tron as to help create a synaesthesia for the player. However, on reflection, they found this tunnel to be limiting and claustrophobic; further, in testing an initial prototype for Amplitude, they found that when they left the tunnel, the experience of seeing the tunnel from the outside inspired the idea of vaster landscapes. The tunnel approach also limited an effective means for local multiplayer. This prompted the team to change from the tunnel to a spread-out track for Amplitude. The flatter track enabled players to have a better concept of where they were on the instrument spread, though the decision was criticized by fans of FreQuency.
The second factor they considered was that both Frequency and Amplitude, published at a time where most video game coverage was based on print media, did not come off clearly in static screenshots. The screens appeared confusing and had little personality to them, according to Lasser. They came up with the idea of the "FreQ", an avatar that would be on-screen, performing with the music, as to help create some personality with the game; the FreQs would also help to emphasise the player-vs-player nature during multi-player.Game Revolution - B
GameSpot - 8.8/10 (great)
GameSpy - 79/100
GameZone - 9.7/10
IGN - 9.3/10
Game Informer - 8.75/10
Electronic Gaming Monthly scored the game 7.5/8/7.
GameRankings - Aggregate score of 85.30% (as of 10/21/10)
Amplitude sold better than Frequency but wasn't a financial success for Harmonix.
On May 5, 2014, Harmonix launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise US$775,000 to fund a successor for Amplitude, which would be released digitally and physically for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The new game would keep the same style of gameplay from the original title, but would feature new songs, modern graphics, and integration of the modern hardware features of the PlayStation consoles and DualShock controller.
Harmonix' Ryan Lesser stated the choice for using Kickstarter was based on knowing that demand was high for a sequel to Amplitude, and opted to use the crowd-funding mechanism to see if it was a viable vehicle for future projects for the company. The company later stated that they have also tried to obtain funding for this remake by other means prior to using Kickstarter, and noted that the funds they seek were less than half of the amount needed, having planned to provide the other half from internal funding if the response was good. Harmonix noted that they were limited to only providing the game for PlayStation platforms, as the Amplitude concepts are still property of Sony.
Originally the game was planned to be released with music provided by in-house musicians from Harmonix with the possibility of licensed music by reaching various stretch goals. During the Kickstarter period they were able to secure offerings by groups like Freezepop and Kasson Crooker who have provided music before for the original Amplitude as well as other popular video game music groups including Anamanaguchi, Danny Baranowsky, and Jim Guthrie. A total of 30 songs are expected to ship with the title on release.
The campaign reached its target on May 22, 2014, within 24 hours of the funding period's deadline. The Kickstarter completed with over $844,000 in funds from over 14,000 users. Major funding backers included Insomniac Games' CEO Ted Price.
Though originally slated to be released in March 2015, Harmonix announced that due to their inexperience on working on the PlayStation 4 platform, they were now aiming for an early 2016 release to assure the quality of the remake. The game was available in a playable form during the PAX East convention in March 2015.
In addition to the original's features, the game includes team play mode, allowing for cooperative-competitive gameplay. This mode, suggested by Harmonix' Pete Maguire and adding late in the development period, allows two teams, either 2-on-2 or 3-on-1, to play through a song without failing, accounting for difficult player difficulty levels between all players. The game also includes a FreQuency mode, where the nearly-flat track layout can be switched to the tunnel approach that was used in the original FreQuency. Harmonix developed a new game engine, Forge, which was also used for the development of Rock Band 4, for the remake.
The remake was released January 5, 2016 for the PlayStation 4 with the PlayStation 3 version releasing on April 5, 2016. The game shipped with more than 30 songs, including 15 songs composed by Harmonix in the game's "concept album", used for the game's campaign mode.
† Kickstarter bonus tier exclusive