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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
PlayStation 2
GENRE: Music
PLAYERS:   1-4
March 24, 2003

 Written by Matt Partington  on March 06, 2003

Hands-On Preview: Frequency and Amplitude, how cute!

Back in the Fall and Winter of 2001, gamers across the nation were becoming wanted criminals, infiltrating compounds, and even defeating an evil force known as Sin. What was I doing during this time? I was turning into one of the top deejays in the world while playing Frequency. Developed by Harmonix, Frequency became one of the ?best games that no one played? in 2001, not to mention virtually the hands down greatest music generator game ever conceived.

Didn't play Frequency? In a nutshell, this is the simplest way to explain it: you would fly down an octagonal tunnel where each side represented a different track (instrument) of the song. Within each track were three notes and you had to either press the face or shoulder buttons on them immediately as you passed by. There were two parts of the experience, Game and Remix. Game mode is where you would recreate the music, but Remix was where you would literally mix all parts of the song to your liking (i.e. the best part). From the topnotch sound to the extremely trippy and vertiginous graphics, Frequency furshished as one of the most enjoyable, addictive, and often challenging experiences on the console.

Harmonix is back at work again with their upcoming sequel to Frequency, Amplitude (clever, isn't it?). There are some serious changes to the game, yet Amplitude plays very much like Frequency with the same unmistakable ambiance. The demo features two songs, ?Cherry Lips? by Garbage and ?Baseline? by Quarashi. This is one of the biggest changes in the game. Nearly all the songs in Frequency were heavily inspired or influenced by techno and trance, meaning if you had a huge dislike for the genre then you probably wouldn't like the game very much. But Amplitude has a huge variety of music from trance to hip-hop, alternative rock and back again. There is also three ranges of difficult in the demo: ?mellow,? ?normal? and ?brutal.? The "insane" difficulty level isn't available in the demo.

The game is no longer set in an octagonal tunnel but rather a single trail that is constantly sloping up and down on both sides. It'd be hard to believe someone when they say that the first couple times they played Frequency they didn't get dizzy or a headache. This was partly due to the constantly twirling tunnel, so Amplitude rids of this component. The amount of tracks has also been dropped from eight to six. To some this might be a total disappointment, but it's really not. Amplitude puts one track on top of the other and not only do you have to be quick with the shoulder buttons but you need to be able to press left or right on the d-pad or joystick within a split second of finishing the last track to reach the next properly. This way, you don't even recognize that there's two less tracks than before.

Powerups were a crucial element in beating Frequency. The auto-catcher makes a return in Amplitude, allowing you to finish an entire track upon deployment. One major change is that the multiplier powerup has been eliminated. Replaced with it is combos, a great new addition to the game. Each time you finish a track there will be an arrow pointing to the next track with a small number such as ?x2" under it. This means that if you complete that track, the score will be doubled. As you progress further you can reach a multiplication of eight, and at that moment the points are flying. But if you miss a single note, then you can say bye-bye (missing notes seems to be much more harsh than before). Combos aren't easy because like I mentioned earlier, it's not all that simple to switch to the next track, in fact it seems to demand well under a second on the brutal difficulty. New to the mix is the slow-motion powerup, which probably doesn't need any explanation.

Before Rez (on PS2 anyway, the Dreamcast Japanese version came out slightly before Frequency) there was Frequency, featuring extremely trippy visuals unlike anything seen before. From a technical aspect, the game was deeply lacking. But for all its shortcomings it made up more than enough in style. It's hard to describe the graphics of Amplitude, but it's where it puts other music games to shame. Everything about Amplitude looks more clear, fresh, and vibrant. Not only that, but the arenas appear to be a much higher resolution than in Frequency, not to mention there's many more things going on at one time. There's been tons of inventive new effects added (including an ultra-cool crumbling effect when you use the auto-catcher), as well as ones reappearing from Frequency yet much improved. The arena you play in during the demo seems to resemble the outline of a metropolitan skyline, it's very cool nonetheless. The background is always altering when you play Amplitude, and object begin to change based on how you're playing the song and when you're pressing the buttons.

One of the things that made Frequency so hard wasn't simply the requirement of lighting fast fingers but being able to become oblivious to all the surroundings. With thumping shapes and bright objects flying in your direction, this was oftentimes pure torture. Concentration is once again critical to beating a song, and with the added effects and a seemingly more neon-inspired environment, even I, a Frequency veteran, found myself distracted quite a bit.

Remember freQs, those little cartoon figures that would be displayed in each game in the corner of your screen? This was your identity ? a small customizable cartoon figure. It was really a great idea, but Harmonix has taken it to the next level and jumped from 2D freQs to 3D freQs. Not only that, but when you select a different track during a song, your freQ will start playing that instrument in correspondence.

When the Sony Network Adapter was released, it came with an online version of Frequency featuring a few songs to compete and remix with fellow freQs across the nation. Amplitude will be fully compatible online, which is a huge plus for SCEA and PS2 gamers alike, and really distinguishes Frequency and Amplitude away from each other.

Final Thoughts
Amplitude is already appearing to be another great game coming from SCEA and Harmonix. Frequency is still to this day one of my favorite PlayStation 2 titles, and it would only have been common sense to make a sequel to the stellar original. Amplitude is quite revamped from its predecessor, but it still feels almost too much like Frequency in some ways. I blew by both songs on the hardest difficult in the demo with ease, so let's hope that the game doesn't lighten up when it comes to putting up a challenge either. The best sequels are those that supply all the great things about the original but furnish many new superior aspects at the same time. Amplitude is planned to release on March 25th, so keep an ear out for it!

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