By Christopher J. Snelgrove

Amplitude - Playstation. (2004)

American Cover



Frequency, despite critical acclaim and the gathering of a fairly devout following, was not the financial success that SCEA likely had in mind for Harmonix's first project. Fortunately, two years later, they got another chance. Amplitude was, for all intents and purposes, a sequel to Frequency. Despite getting a complete makeover visually and musically, the core gameplay in Amplitude is the same as it was in Frequency. The game still handles the same way, and melodies are still created by hitting notes along predetermined paths to create a song segment-by-segment.

One key difference between the two games is the music. While Frequency's songlist was almost completely composed of electronic music, its successor goes for a far more diverse array of genres. In addition to a handful of techno and trance music for Frequency veterans, Amplitude also includes styles of music ranging from pop-punk, to alternative, to hip-hop, and even hardcore metal. As is expected of a sequel, Harmonix's second project also received a complete visual makeover. Instead of continuing through static arenas where the only difference between songs were the assorted images, each of Amplitude's sections takes place in a completely different 'world', of which individual songs showcase a different segment.The arenas were made more detailed, colorful, and also utilize full-motion video in several sections(as displayed on screens in the background, similar to Frequency's), many contributed from the respective artists' own videos.

From time to time, certain arenas can offer complications similar to some of Frequency's more complex-pathed stages: unpredictable directions. Some of Amplitude's arenas carry the tracks skyward at a tangent similar to ascending a roller coaster, which can make the correct timing of oncoming notes frustrating at best. For avatar purposes, Amplitude also uses a more graphically advanced, but less creativity-driven, character creation process. Similar to the types of models used in their current projects, the Amplitude avatars are made by selecting assorted faces, body types, outfit accessories, and other characteristics to create the player's appearance.The avatar also plays along with the song and track currently being controlled, and will be shown playing the instrument of the present section.

While the core gameplay between Amplitude and Frequency is basically the same, some variations were made to lessen the random nature of Frequency's song courses. When an instrument's section in Frequency was completed, there was still a high probability of the same track coming up in the very next section, even if it had been just completed only moments prior. In Amplitude, if a instrument's track is completed, it will always vanish for the same set amount of time. This can be both a benefit and a detriment. Completing every track in a Frequency song would often lead to continual sections of no notes whatsoever; simply prolonged opportunities for the player to 'freestyle' the completed song. Occasionally this would only go on briefly; sometimes it could last the entire final section of a song. is made passing a song much easier, it also made it harder to keep up a high score, since completing note charts are worth far more points than freestyle segments. In Amplitude, the notes will constantly return to challenge the player until the very end of the song(usage of powerups aside). However, the strict pattern-based nature of Amplitude's note repetition can also make it difficult to maintain a chain, since a player may be required to link two instruments that are on completely separate sides of the arena, if all the ones between them haven't regenerated yet.While it is possible, it can be very difficult to effectively pull off.

For the most part, Amplitude's power-ups are exactly the same as Frequency's. The Autoblaster returns, as the familiar green square, letting players eliminate a complete track of instrument notes in one shot. Freestyle has also made a come back, depicted as a blue triangle, though it functions a little differently than it did in Frequency. Instead of creating a melody with assorted scratch instruments on a blank track, Freestyle completely removes all the tracks from play, and the player controls a disembodied spark of energy, which creates random scratch and music effects along the resulting empty space, while drawing assorted patterns and pathways. Freestyle still remains one of the most valuable power-ups for evading a particularly difficult set of notes.

Multiplier functions the same, depicted as a yellow star. When used in conjunction with a high note-collect streak and Freestyle, it can rack up an almost unbeatable amount of points.The new power-up in Amplitude is the Slow-Mo. Depicted as a purple square, Slow-Mo reduces the speed of the song to half for a short duration of time. While not as valuable as Autoblaster or Freestyle, this is the next best thing, since even the most ridiculous of note-charts can be read easier with this item in play.

As Amplitude's front cover attempts to make obvious at a glance, the game contains one eclectic soundtrack. Like Frequency, certain songs are only playable on higher levels. The second-to-last world can only be played on Hard('Brutal'), and the final world is only accessible on Expert('Insane'). Another notable difference between Frequency and Amplitude is the addition of the 'Boss Song'. Each world has three songs to begin with. Once those three are completed, the player will then be revealed the identity of the Boss Song. If the player completes all four with a high enough score, then the player can unlock the Bonus Song. The Bonus is completely optional, but the Boss Song must be completed to continue to the next world.






The song list, as depicted in Amplitude's song select:

Level 1 - Neotropolis

Boom! - P.O.D. vs. The Crystal Method [The Crystal Method Remix]
electroraprock - 104 bpm
Hailing from San Diego, CA, P.O.D. took the world by storm with their breakthrough triple-platinum album 'Satellite'. Adding more melody and tighter songwriting to their hardcore roots, 'Satellite' spawned hit singles including 'Alive' and 'Youth of the Nation'. Electronica pioneers The Crystal Method bring new textures to this rock anthem in this remix.

Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) - Garbage
electronic rock - 116 bpm
Take 3 pioneering producers and one antagonistic yet charismatic front lady and you have Garbage, a group that has captivated fans and critics alike. From their sonically charged debut, to the melodically soaring 'Version 2.0', their latest work, the hook-heavy 'beautifulgarbage', demonstrates an unprecedented level of studio sophistication.

Baseline - Quarashi
raprock - 98 bpm
Straight outta Iceland! Quarashi mixes hard rhymes, hip-hop beats, and crunchy metal guitar licks to rip up shows from here to Reykjavik. "We started off rapping in English because all our influences were from America. There wasn't any model for rapping in Icelandic, so we had to figure it out ourselves." Quarashi will make you feel the beat, no matter what country you are from.

Boss Song
Shades of Blue - Chris Child with Melissa Kaplan
trance - 136 bpm
Producer and remix artist Chris Child teams up with Melissa R. Kaplan to create this ethereal trance anthem. Chris' music spans across a variety of electronic music genres, containing elements of trance, electro beatz, and processed vocal hooks. Look for a release of remixes as well as his original music in the near future. Check out his webpage for more details!

Bonus Song
Uptown Saturday Night - Logan7
funky beats - 137 bpm
His name was Logan. Beyond that, we didn't know much. Possessing the grace of a duke and the bite of a cyberspace punk rocker, he was a diamond-toting, martini-sipping chameleon. But where did he come from? What did he know? From Harlem to Hong Kong they feared the name, the fame, and the fury of Logan 7!

Level 2 - Beat Factory

King Of Rock - Run-DMC [The X-Ecutioners Mix]
hip hop - 98 bpm
Run-DMC team up with superhuman scratch artists The X-Ecutioners in this remix of the rap-rock song that started it all. As the first and the greatest of hip-hop's superstars, Run-DMC's mission has always been(in their words) to "crash through walls, bust through ceilings, and knock down doors." In the 17+ years Run-DMC have been rapping, they've brought people together with their beats and rhymes, and changed the way people think about music.

Urban Tumbleweed - The Baldwin Brothers
hip hop - 105 bpm
Based in Chicago, The Baldwin Brothers create a rump-shaking jazz-funk stew mixing impeccably tight live instrumentation and stanky ol' Fender Rhodes grooves with whimsical samples, thick beats, and turntable skills. Their ultra-hip debut album, "Cooking With Lasers", was one of 2007's underground favorites.

Dope Nose - Weezer
rock - 128 bpm
Drawing from the heavy power-pop of arena rock and the angular guitar leads of the Pixies, Weezer leavened their melodies doses of '70s metal learned from bands like KISS. None of the members of Weezer, especially leader Rivers Cuomo, were conventional rockers - they were kids holed up in their garage, playing along with their favorite records when they weren't studying or watching TV.

Boss Song
Everyone Says Hi - David Bowie [Metro Mix]
house - 128 bpm
David Bowie, as a musician, performer, and songwriter, defies all conventions. From his humble folkie beginnings in the '60s to the '70s glitter and glam of Ziggy Stardust to the elegance of the Thin White Duke to the multiplatinum pop star of the '80s to the most recent rock album 'Heathen', he has continually reinvented himself and his art.

Bonus Song
Super-Spr0de - Freezepop
synthpop -150 bpm
Uber-blippy synthpop band Freezepop is here to tell you how much they love you with their new hit song, "Super-Spr0de". After gaining many new fans from around the world with their song "Science Genius Girl" in Frequency, Freezepop wants to show their appreciation with this super-catchy electropop song. Be careful though, you might be humming this one for a while!

Level 3 - Metaclouds

Respect - Pink
pop - 133 bpm
Pink makes 'real music you can live or die to, songs that make you want to stand up and change your life'. Her debut album was an out-of-the-blue double platinum smash within the U.S. and gained platinum and gold discs around the world. Her debut album spun off three Top 40 hits, two of them Top 10, one gold.

M-80 (Explosive Energy Movement) - Papa Roach
rock - 173 bpm
Papa Roach makes it plain that no pigeonhole is big enough to contain them. Their latest album, 'lovehatetragedy', heralds the refining and refocusing of their sound as they shed some of their identification with rock-rap fusion and strip down to a purer, but equally high-impact, rock attack.

What's Going On? - Mekon with Roxanne Shante
funky beats - 123 bpm
Mekon is John Gosling, one of breakbeat's pioneers, whose first release, 'Phatty's Lunchbox', was a genre-defining classic. His second album from 2000 paired Mekon with such favorites as Skooly D and Roxanne Shante. 'What's Going On?' is a result of the Shante soundclash, and Mekon's biggest hit to date.

Boss Song
Rockit 2.002" - Herbie Hancock featuring Mix Master Mike, DXT, Rob Swift, DJ Qbert, Baby, and Faust & Shortee
old skool - 113 bpm
Herbie Hancock is an icon of contemporary music. He is a major composer, an influential virtuoso pianist, an Academy Award-winning soundtrack composer, a multi Grammy Award Winner, and an inventor of classic R&B and hip-hop grooves. Now a partner in an independent label venture, Transparent Music, his latest album is entitled 'Future2Future', an exploration of electronica, hip-hop, and nu-soul.

Bonus Song
RockStar - The Production Club
rocktronica - 110 bpm
The Production Club is the creation of producer Wally Gagel who has worked with acts such as The Folk Implosion, the eels, The Dust Brothers, Esthero, Orbit, and the Rolling Stones. Originally based in Boston, he worked at the legendary Fort Apache studios before moving to Los Angeles. 'Follow Your Bliss' is the first full-length release for The Production Club.

Level 4 - Elektro Kore

Cool Baby - DJ HMX with Plural
house - 128 bpm
International superstar DJ HMX returns from Ibiza to join forces with up-and-coming club sensation Plural. This track will get you dancing in front of your TV! Look for more trax from Plural and DJ HMX in the future!

Kimosabe - BT with Wildchild
electro-rap - 126 bpm
BT, AKA Brian Transeau, is best known for his epic trance albums 'IMA' and 'ESCM', and the wildly-diverse 'Movement In Still Life'. His mixing skills are some of the most sought-after in the world, with credits like Korn, Seal, Madonna, Sarah McLachlan, *NSYNC, and Tori Amos. In addition, BT is also lauded for his moving film scores, including 'The Fast & The Furious', 'Driven', 'Under Suspicion', and 'Go'.

Nitro Narcosis - Manchild
breaks - 135 bpm
Manchild are songwriting partners Max Odell & Brett Parker. Their critically acclaimed debut album 'Untied States' is an exciting mixture of dance, rock, & hip-hop and features guest appearances from Kelly Jones (Stereophonics), Andy Cairns (Therapy?), Sadat X (Brand Nubian), and Motion Man (Mastaz of Illusion, Linkin Park). They are currently in the studio putting the finishing touches to their follow-up album, 'Anamorphic'.

Boss Song
I Am Hated - Slipknot
metal - 126 bpm
The spore that is Slipknot exploded three years ago with the release of their self-titled album, and the infestation has continued ever since. Comprised of nine masked members with numbers instead of names, Slipknot are not just a band, they are a force that has swept through popular culture and galvanized millions of fans, their 'maggots', worldwide.

Bonus Song
Push - Game Boyz
electronic rock - 122 bpm
Game Boyz' creator, composer, musician, and producer, Ged Grimes, has rapidly become one of the major rising stars of today's interactive entertainment industry. With a string of game music soundtracks under his belt and the adrenaline-fueled rush that identifies the Game Boyz sound, expect to hear fireworks.

Level 5 - Blastlands

The Rock Show - Blink-182
pop-punk - 193 bpm
It's safe to say that Blink-182 is now a worldwide phenomenon, with their records reaping platinum and their concert tours packing 'em in all over the world. Produced by Jerry Finn, their fourth studio album from 2001 is titled 'Take Off Your Pants and Jacket'. The album features the hits 'The Rock Show', 'Stay Together For The Kids', and 'First Date'.

Subculture (Rock Remix) - Dieselboy + Kaos with Styles of Beyond and Actual Proof
drum'n'bass - 174 bpm
What do you get when you combine America's #1 Drum and Bass artist Dieselboy and his production partner in crime Kaos with cutting-edge L.A. rappers Styles of Beyond and up-and-coming alternative rockers Actual Proof? The answer is a funked up, heavy, rolling monster in the form of 'Subculture', featuring live drums and guitars alongside rinsing beats and deep lyrical flow.

Out The Box - Symbion Project VS Akrobatik
funky beats - 132 bpm
Two FreQuency veterans, Symbion Project and Akrobatik, team up to bring the beats real raw in 'Out The Box'. Ak's rough-and-ready rhymes fueled by Symbion's pounding beats will have your ears popping and your fingers burning. Let's hope we hear more from this duo in the future!

Boss Song
Synthesized - Symbion Project
drum'n'bass - 180 bpm
Featured in FreQuency with songs like 'Funky Dope Maneuver' and 'FreQout', Symbion Project returns to aurally assault you with these frenetic beats. 'Synthesized' comes at you hard with mad patterns and catchy hooks, so pay attention. Normally writing down-tempo songs, Symbion Project continues to defy genre at every turn, and 'Synthesized' is no exception!

Bonus Song
Robot Rockerz - Komputer Kontroller
techno - 150 bpm
Komputer Kontroller unleashes his funky robot army to destroy the dance floors of the Earth! Foolish Earthlings, cower before the awesome techno onslaught of nine-hundred-and-nine robots dancing in unison. This track will make you run for your lives!

Extra Bonus Song
(unlocked after completing Robot Rockerz)

Spaztik - Cosmonaut Zero
drum'n'bass - 97 bpm
No one knows where he came from, and no one knows where he's going, but know this: Cosmonaut Zero is here to deny you glory. Bulk up on some ginseng and caffeine before attempting this level. Or just give up now, really, there is not much point in trying to beat this track.

There's also a notable demo disk for Amplitude. P.O.D.'s third-to-last album, their self-titled one, came with a bonus disk that was a single-song 'demo' for Amplitude. This is a bonus P.O.D. song which is actually pretty difficult.

It's a matter of some debate what constitutes the most difficult song between the two games, but few if any believe it to be 'Spaztik'. The song is long and tedious, but not difficult. My personal opinion is that the most difficult song remains 'End Of Your World' from Frequency, but 'Robot Rockerz' is a very solid contender.

When all's said and completed, much like its predecessor, Amplitude still offers the option of remixing any song from its soundtrack. Additionally, it offered the option of playing online against other players, with several exclusive 'attack' power-ups to use against the competition, but to the best of my knowledge, finding players online is not a common occurrence nowadays.

Did Amplitude deliver in ways Frequency didn't? In several ways, definitely. Unfortunately, it did not deliver a financial success. While both games received critical acclaim and maintain a devoted following, many of whom still wait and hope for a third game in the series, the series never achieved the widespread popularity of both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band series that eventually made the Boston developers at Harmonix a household name.

It's unlikely the 'FreQ' community will ever receive the third game that has been years in the waiting (even rumored to have been called 'Wavelength' at one time), due to Sony having rights to the Frequency/Amplitude series. The closest is Harmonix's own Phase for the iPod, which automatically generates note patterns based on the song being played. On the bright side, there's still two games that remain as intense and innovative as they were from day one, and if nothing else, they gave Harmonix their first steps toward taking the music gaming industry by storm. Rock on, HMX.


Harmonix Official website
FreQ Harmonix fan site



Back to the index

Back to Page 1 - Frequency