By Christopher J. Snelgrove

Frequency - Playstation. (2001)

American Cover

European Cover


Back in 2001, before a little game called Guitar Hero brought music gaming into the mainstream, a small Boston company set out to create a game that would bring the experience of making music to console owners. That company was Harmonix, and the game was Frequency.

At the time, most games in the music simulation genre were developed by Konami, and their Japan-based Bemani series of music gaming. However, the only game from the expansive series to catch on in America was their Dance Dance Revolution series; the games more focused on creating music, such as Beatmania and Guitar Freaks, stayed in their home country for the time being. While the Konami music games tended to focus on Eastern-composed music, Frequency was focused on bringing the Western sound home.

Despite being primarily composed of electronic music from American and European artists, with a sampling of industrial-esque rock here and there, Frequency shares a few similarities with its Bemani counterpart, Beatmania. The player is required to hit a key button when it arrives at the end of a track, and if the button is hit on tune, it creates a beat. If the player can maintain this pattern long enough, then the entire song is created. However, Beatmania relies on a single track for this: every key can create a given sound from any instrument through the course of the song. Frequency separates its notes by 'tracks': a different path of notes for every instrument. A rock song, for example, can have five different tracks: vocals, guitar, bass, drums, and occasionally synth (or a second guitar track in some instances).

Each track generally requires the player to hit two or three sections of notes before completing it, at which point the segment of music loops on its own, and the player must move on to the next track, assembling the song piece by piece. Once every track is completed, then the song sounds as it should. This gives the player a brief point of time to collect bonus points with an impromptu 'remix' session, where the melody can be altered with scratching and additional synth effects, but this is only until the start of a new section. Then the tracks return, and the player must repeat the pattern. If the player can't keep up with the notes or maintain a certain section, the energy bar drops. If it empties completely, the game ends, and the background turns to static.Fortunately, a player doesn't have to stay on the same track to keep the meter going. If a track proves too difficult, it can just be skipped in favor of the next. However, if all other tracks are completed, the avoided one must then be attempted, or the energy continues to decrease for every section that it's ignored.

The player is given other tools to make completing a song easier, fortunately, in the form of various power-ups. Every now and then, a unique icon comes along during the course of a note stream, usually appearing in the pattern of an entire section. If that section is completed, the player earns that respective power up. The Multiplier doubles whatever points the player is currently earning at that time. If the player has maintained a combo thus far(which can normally reach a 4x bonus), this can allow the score to gain as much as 8x the normal amount of points. Freestyle completely removes the player from the field of notes, and instead allows a period of free remixing. This both allows for a reprieve from a difficult section, and a chance to earn additional points(which can be used with the Multiplier effect for additional benefit). Autoblaster completely removes an instrument from the section. This only lasts until the start of the next section, at which point that instrument's section of notes may return. This differs from song to song, as certain sections of a track may not use that instrument at all.

As graphics go, Frequency has a fairly simple appearance. Notes travel through an ongoing tunnel towards the player, with as many as eight separate paths (all connected to one another from side-to-side). The gems that make up the notes should look familiar to Guitar Hero fans. While playing a song, various lights and images pass through the tunnel's exterior, the differing aspects of which appear on the television screens strewn throughout the background. The content of the screens varies from song to song, usually showing either abstract images that go to the beat (such as a set of break dancers in Control Your Body, or a flashing convertible in Motomatic), or images of the artists themselves (No Doubt, Powerman 5000, et cetera). The exact manner in which the screens are shown varies from level to level (one, Videowall, makes the screens its focus, as they are practically all the player can see). The player is depicted by a small avatar shown in the lower left of the screen, that he or she creates, either from predetermined templates, or from scratch, using various colors, blocks, and symbols. The result has a simple appearance, at best, but it's one that the Frequency community still keeps a fondness for.

As with all music games, what makes or breaks Frequency's appeal is its music. If you aren't into electronic genres such as techno or trance, it's safe to say this game may not be for you. If you are, or are new to the medium, then Frequency offers a wide variety to select from. Each level initially has four songs to select from. Once all four are completed, a bonus song is unlocked. Frequency has several difficulty levels. The higher the level, the more levels which can be played. For instance, Level 4 can only be selected on Hard, and Level 5 is Expert only.






The song list, with the artists and their biographies (directly from Frequency), follows.

Level 1

The Winner - The Crystal Method
big beat - 127 bpm
Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan, a.k.a. The Crystal Method, are back with their new album, 'Tweekend'. This bass-fortified, hard-rolling techno concoction will keep the club kids moving.

Exterminator - Akrobatik
hip hop - 96 bpm
Boston born and raised, MC & producer Akrobatik is best known for his underground classics 'Say Yes, Say Word' and 'Internet MC's." His self-titled EP on Detonator Records further solidifies his position as one of hip-hop's brightest new talents.

Ex-Girlfriend [The Psycho-Ex Mix] - No Doubt
electronic rock - 100 bpm
Formed in Anaheim, California in 1987, No Doubt deliver a signature mix of rock, reggae, and new-wave musical styles. Their most widely known albums include 'Tragic Kingdom' and 'Return of Saturn.'

XLR8R - Orbit
rock'n'roll - 135 bpm
Orbit's signature sound combines driving, dynamic bass and guitar lines with passionate vocal melodies. Their hit song 'Medicine' from 1997's 'Libido Speedway' earned them a spot on the Lollapalooza tour and all the usual hype.

Hidden Stage
Science Genius Girl - Freezepop
synthpop - 137 bpm
Freezepop is a trio of fashionable gadabouts from Boston with an infectious flair for synthpop songs about robots, and love, and loving robots. Look for their full length album, 'Freezepop Forever'.

Level 2

Official Chemical - Dub Pistols
beats'n'rhymes - 125 BPM
The Dub Pistols' Barry Ashworth is a fearless soldier working behind the frontlines of the UK's thriving dance music scene. Barry began his musical journey by working as a club promoter and formed the Dub Pistols in 1996.

Lo Fi's In Ibiza - Lo Fidelity Allstars
disco house - 129 bpm
The Lo Fidelity Allstars are five lovely lads from up north who produce quality dance music for indie kids and club heads alike. The Lo Fi's are back with a new single, 'Lo Fi's In Ibiza,' the first from a new album due early 2002.

Frequency - Fear Factory
industrial rock - 150 bpm
Fear Factory have been together since 1990. This LA krew is constantly pushing the envelope of the heavy music genre. With four albums, a remix album, and an EP under their belts, Fear Factory is still going strong with no end in sight.

See It - Paul Oakenfold
trance - 135 bpm
Paul Oakenfold is the world's number one DJ. No one else can claim such a seismic role in everything from the Balearic house explosion and the re-invention of British club culture to the birth of 'Madchester' and the high impact collision of dance and rock.

Hidden Song
Selecta - Ethan Eves
drum'n'bass - 180 bpm
Ethan E. Eves has been producing energetic electronic music sine 1996 in various groups and collaborations around the United States. His most recent endeavors have been in Southern California producing jungle and drum'n'bass.

Level 3

Danger Is Go - Powerman 5000
industrial rock - 156 bpm
They came from Boston, a raging crux of metallic funk juice and silver alloy inlayed sonic mayhem hurtling through the atmosphere, skimming under the radar as an unidentified flying object known only by the hidden codename of Powerman 5000.

Funny Break (One Is Enough) [Weekend Raver's Mix] - Orbital
techno - 130 bpm
Orbital is manned by Phil and Paul Hartnoll. Ever since their first Top 20 single in 1990, 'Chime', the brothers have been at the vanguard of dance music and have been responsible for some of the most beautiful machine-assisted music ever recorded.

Cosmic Assassins - DJ Q-Bert
turntablism - 96 bpm
DJ QBert is widely considered the greatest skratch DJ in the world. His film and skratch album, 'Wave Twisters', received international attention and praise.

Smartbomb - BT
big beat - 100 bpm
Artist, producer, composer, and remixer BT has been busy. Not only is he working on a follow-up to his album, 'Movement In Still Life', but he has also produced *NSYNC's hit single 'Pop' and remixed tracks for Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Madonna, and Seal.

Hidden Stage
Worst Mistake - Curve
electronic rock - 150 bpm
Curve set the stage in the 90's for female fronted electronic rock and continue to rock hard to this day mixing heavy beats and screaming guitars with sultry vocals.

Level 4

What's The Five O - The Jungle Brothers
drum'n'bass - 172 bpm
Hip-hop pioneers Mike G Afrika have always pushed the boundaries of hip-hop, from founding the Afrocentric Native Tongues movement through the smash hit, drum'n'bass sound of "Jungle Brother (Urban Takeover Mix)."

Ignition - Funkster De Luxe
funk - 115 bpm
Funkstar De Luxe kicked in the doors all over the world when he remixed Bob Marley's "Sun Is Shining." To get the atmosphere just right for the recording, the studio was decorated with palm trees and all the actual work was done only when the sun was shining.

Railing Part 2 - Roni Size / Reprazent
drum'n'bass - 175 bpm
Roni Size is probably the most successful and innovative producer to have emerged from the UK drum'n'bass explosion. Roni has his own underground label, Full Cycle, plus his group Reprazent, with collaborators Krust, Die, Suv, and Dynamite MC.

Dynamite Fresh - Meat Beat Manifesto
beats in space - 134 bpm
Meat Beat Manifesto is Jack Dangers - widely acknowledged for his sonic inventions in the realm of electronic music as recording artist, producer, and remixer. Recent works include his guise as co-creator of Tino, performed live as Tino Corp.

Hidden Stage

Higher Ground - Juno Reactor
techno - 143 bpm
Juno Reactor are constantly challenging the concept of what an electronic-based band should be and sound like, as evidenced on their latest album, 'Shango.' They push the boundaries even further in their live show, with South African percussionists Amampondo.

Level 5

Motomatic - Tony Trippi
hard electro - 135 bpm
Old school computer game composer Tony Trippi crashes through your living room with his high-octane jam 'Motomatic.' Since 1988, Tony has been droppin' the grooves that make the video kids freak. Get behind the wheel and get your groove on yo!

Ibiza Dreamz - DJ HMX
trance - 144 bpm
Superstar DJ HMX returns from his world tour to deliver the smash hit 'Ibiza Dreamz.' Let the synth waves wash over you as HMX takes you to a higher level.

Funky Dope Maneuver - Symbion Project
big beat - 140 bpm
The Symbion Project is the brainchild of electronic guru and international superstar DJ Kasson Crooker. Boogie down to the funky beatz.

Control Your Body - Komputer Kontroller
hard house - 144 bpm
Komputer Kontroller controls your body with his latest hard house anthem. You will not be able to resist his funky beats or thumping bass. You are now under kontrol!

FreQ Out - Symbion Project *
hard breakz - 155 bpm
Symbion Project hitz you one last time with an aggressive breakbeat masterpiece. This one is going to wear you down.
*This is also the song used in the opening movie.

Hidden Stage
Luge Crash - SurgeCore
melodica - 120 bpm
With a background shrouded in mystery, rumor, and whispered half-truths, SurgeCore has emerged from the post-industrial German heartland with an assault of melodic electronica. Choirs of robots sing the praises of a new synthetic dawn.

Extra Hidden Stage
(To play the Extra Hidden Stage, all songs in Level 5 must be completed.)

End of Your World - Robotkid VS Inter:sekt [Symbion Project Remix]
bionic sonic beats - 160 bpm
Robotkid and Inter:sekt duke it out on the dance floor with 'End of Your World'. Put on your stompin' boots and get on down. Remixed by Symbion project.

You might have noticed the recurring name 'Symbion Project' among all those websites. DJ Kasson Crooker, also a member of Freezepop, has been a long-term member of the Harmonix staff, and composes music under several aliases. While his primary moniker that he releases his albums under is Symbion Project, Kasson also goes by(while not being limited to) the names of: The Duke of Panneoken/Belgium Waffles, DJ HMX, Komputer Kontroller, and Cosmonaut Zero(as seen in Amplitude).

Outside of the regular game scenario, Frequency also offers online play for versus and remixing game play, as well as a full remixing section, where the player can rework the beat of a given song from the ground up, using the standard instruments/melodies of the track. There are also several remixed pre-included in Frequency, in case the player wants to see examples of how it can be done. Many of them were notably done by other Frequency artists, such as Josh 'Robotkid' Randall(also a member of Harmonix staff).

As with most music games of the time, Frequency was doomed to a niche following. While it gained numerous accolades from critics(much like its sequel would), gamers as a whole all but ignored the experimental game. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the control scheme, but this wasn't the game that would get Harmonix Music Systems the attention it deserved. Still, before long, Sony decided to give the company another shot, and this is where Amplitude comes into play.

MP3s Download here

Symbion Project - FreQ Out
Komputer Kontroller - Kontrol Your Body

Opening Move



On to Page 2 - Amplitude

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