Before Guitar Hero and Rock Band reduced our living rooms to a plastic peripheral junkyard, developer Harmonix made a little-known title for the PlayStation 2 called Frequency, a fast-paced rhythm game that used a standard PlayStation 2 controller to perform songs. So too did its follow-up, Amplitude, which upped the pace and made the seizure-inducing visuals even more outlandish. Both were incredibly tricky beasts to master, arguably much more so than even the most difficult of Rock Band tracks. They were games for the hardcore rhythm nut--frantic, fast, and completely ruthless.
If you've been hankering for a return to the old school, then we suggest keeping an eye on the upcoming XBLA and PSN release Rock Band Blitz. Though it bears the Rock Band name, there are no plastic peripherals required. Instead, you navigate the familiar scrolling note charts with your controller. Like in Frequency, you're tasked with performing each part of the song simultaneously, which in this case includes the drums, bass, guitar, and vocal lines.
Each instrument has just two note markers to follow, but don't for a second think that makes things easy--you need some serious coordination to rack up the points. That's down to having to navigate multiple tracks by flicking between them using your controller's triggers: spend too much time on a single instrument, and your multiplier goes down. The key to success is finding a balance between all the instruments before you hit one of the strategically placed checkpoints in each song, which increases your score bonus.
It's incredibly frantic stuff that's made all the more hectic by various power-ups you can assign yourself before each song. There's the bottle rocket power-up, which blows up a bunch of notes on the chart; the autoplay power-up, which is exactly as it sounds; and the pinball power-up, which places a ball on the chart you can bat around with the chart selector and use to remove notes from your stream. And, of course, there's the Star Power-like Blitz mode for all-out high-score carnage. Further powers are unlocked by earning XP, which you accumulate by your super-awesome rhythm skills.
While Rock Band Blitz is only a single-player experience, its longevity lies in leaderboards. All your scores are linked up with other users, and there's nothing more infuriating than seeing your once-mighty high score toppled by a friend. There's asynchronous multiplayer too, which is basically a virtual version of smack talk, letting you send out custom challenges to other players.
In terms of songs, Rock Band Blitz introduces 20 new ones, but also lets you play tracks from the huge Rock Band library. Any content from previous games, and any DLC you've bought, can be imported into Blitz for free. And, if that's still not enough songs for you, a music store--complete with recommendations based on the songs you play--is integrated into the game.
Sadly, Harmonix hasn't announced exactly how much Blitz is going to cost but has mentioned it'll be priced similarly to other XBLA and PSN titles. Regardless, it's shaping up to be a great little game, one that goes back to the roots of the genre for some seriously hardcore button bashing. It's definitely one to look forward to.
Rock Band Blitz is due for release this summer on XBLA and PSN. Look out for more on GameSpot soon.'