Feature Article

Harmonix's Amplitude Makes its Triumphant Return

Pump up the volume.

Harmonix became a household name with the Guitar Hero series, but a few years before it caused an influx of plastic instruments to pile up in living rooms across America, it created a musical gem for PlayStation 2 owners: Amplitude. It wasn't terribly different from Rock Band, but instead of playing along to the music with instruments, you fired at notes with a space ship. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense on paper, but in essence, you're still filling in various musical phrases on tracks that represent different instruments, so it's just as fun at the end of the day, minus the joy of using faux instruments.

Now, just over a decade later, Harmonix is back with a new Amplitude game, which is due to launch sometime next year. We recently had the chance to give a pre-alpha build of the game a try, and while there are still many fine wrinkles that need to be ironed out, it's already feeling like a sound follow-up to its predecessor. In fact, Harmonix actually began development on the new Amplitude by using the code base from the original, and this is evident once you start playing. It feels very similar to the original, which isn't surprising given the simple concept behind the game. You move your ship from track to track, and with your ship's three blasters, fire away to the beat of the music when a note passes into one of your reticles.

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It's a simple premise, but Amplitude keeps you on your toes as you try to stay on the occasionally frantic beat. You need to juggle multiple tracks, one for each instrument. You can lose health if you don't hit a note on your current track, but if you successfully activate every note in a phrase, which lasts for a few measures, it will autoplay for a while so that you can move on to another track and keep the music going. Phrases will eventually become deactivated during the course of a song, and you need to continue to keep phrases active if you hope to make it to complete the stage at hand. Miss too many notes or fail to focus on activating phrases, and you're done. There were only a handful of songs available during our demo, but Harmonix plans to have over 20 by the time the game ships. Many of these tracks are being produced in house, but there will also be a few songs from notable guest artists such as the vibrant band Anamanaguchi.

If you've got some friends handy, you can hop into multiplayer matches where each player must fend for themselves, and by using items earned for good performances in game, you have plenty of chances to troll your friends. The question is: focus on your own score or your opponents misery?

Amplitude, now with a fresh coat of neon paint.
Amplitude, now with a fresh coat of neon paint.

Harmonix's latest game is coming sometime next year to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, and if you happen to own both systems, you're in luck; Amplitude supports Cross-Buy, so if you buy it for one console, you automatically get it for the other. If you're lucky enough to make it to Sony's PlayStation Experience even in Las Vegas this weekend, you'll also get a chance to play the game early.

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Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.


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Avatar image for np3trop


Avatar image for Porphyriaa

I can't even tell you how many hours I put into amplitude. Best game ever. I'm a bit skeptical of how it will play with the new controllers though. With PS2 you didn't have triggers for L2 R2 they were just buttons so you could press them quickly. A trigger takes probably twice or three times as long to press. This might cause problems in those fast paced songs on insane difficulty.

Avatar image for bubba_1988

Glad they got the funding for this game. I was hoping for for something a little more innovative with regards to the track design, make it feel more like you are a space ship interacting with the environment.

Avatar image for BassMan

That pre-alpha footage looks terrible. Looks like the game is on cruise control. It is so slow and lacks any visual excitement and stimulation. Hopefully they get things sorted out.

Avatar image for slashkevin

<< LINK REMOVED >> They appear to be playing on Normal. It was explained in a video (only visible to backers, I think) that they slow down the road on the lower difficulties, even more so than they did in the original PS2 release. In another backers-only video, they showed play on Expert and it was much faster and just as intense as the original. And yes, they haven't put in any of the backgrounds yet.

Avatar image for gamerboy100

<< LINK REMOVED >> Maybe because it's pre-alpha?

Avatar image for Aldarish

<< LINK REMOVED >> Frequency and amplitude never did send you at blazing speeds down the track, just more frantic notes come at you. So I wouldnt expect this to be any diffefent. And they do really stress the PRE alpha part in terms of visuals especially. Heres a different video from the devs that show a bit more of the frantic notes. << LINK REMOVED >>

Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow

What a fun game Amplitude was. This is a definite buy for me. I remember playing the heck out of Amplitude and it's sequel.

Avatar image for Porphyriaa

<< LINK REMOVED >> Amplitude was the sequel. The first one was frequency.

Avatar image for BelaidKL

Definitely... Most DEFINITELY.... Going to buy this game... I absolutely LOVED Amplitude... That's what drew out my love for track based rhythm games!

Avatar image for 51gamer

I'll definitely be buying this, loved this game. I've really loved most rhythm games since Bust a Groove on PS1.

Avatar image for humdingermarkie


Avatar image for Porphyriaa

<< LINK REMOVED >> Check out fantasia? Made by the same people and looks pretty cool.

Avatar image for gamerboy100

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sony and Harmonix both have joint ownership of the series, so that probably won't happen.

Avatar image for humdingermarkie

More DDR would be Max.

Avatar image for ps3gamer1234

Cool Time to rock my headphones.