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Review: Amplitude

Jan 05 // Chris Carter
Amplitude (PS3, PS4 [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: HarmonixMSRP: $19.99Released: January 5, 2016 (PS4) / TBA (PS3) Amplitude might be hard to master, but it's extremely easy to pick up. If you've played the series before you'll be able to jump right back in at the highest difficulty level, but for the rest of you, a quick five minute tutorial is all you'll need. Simply put, notes are laid down on tracks that symbolize instruments (or vocals), with L1, R1, and R2 (or Square, Triangle, and Circle) triggering the left, middle, or right notes respectively. Players are required to hit specific notes on beat on each track, then move to the next one. That's essentially it. There are a few more nuances like "Streaking" (combos, initiated by quickly moving and playing notes on a new track), and power-ups (simple concepts like clearing a track instantly), but you'll pick up the basics in no time. And in many ways, that's what's so great about Amplitude. The concept of a ship driving down a literal road that signifies your progress in a song is brilliant, and although it's been done a few times since the franchise's retirement, Harmonix does it best. All four difficulties (plus one bonus unlock) feel balanced, and the highest (Expert) is sufficiently challenging. Amplitude doesn't have a whole lot on offer though, content-wise. The campaign is a mere 15 songs long, consisting of a "concept album" created by Harmonix. It's a neat idea in theory, but it's over before you know it, and will definitely leave players wanting more. The fact that it cannot be played with friends and is required to unlock a handful of songs for multiplayer also isn't ideal. After finishing up the campaign, I had no desire to ever play it again. [embed]328939:61634:0[/embed] In that sense, the vast majority of your time will be spent in the free play mode, which supports up to four players in both versus or team play (1v3 or 2v2) situations. It's just as fun as it was in the past, as there's even more strategy involved with more ships on the track, since you can block out opponents from entering a track by claiming it first. With all of the power-ups being used in tandem, things can get hectic. It's Amplitude at its best, and truly successful players will need to watch their own track as well as peruse the entire board for the next move on top of counter-maneuvers, taking other ships into account. Where Amplitude really falls short is its lackluster 30-song soundtrack. You can take a look at the full setlist here to get an idea of what to expect -- spoiler: it's a lot of in-house work. Most of it is competent electronica crafted by the talented folks at Harmonix, but I just don't dig most of the vocal work -- either the performances or the lyrics -- and the majority of songs are not nearly as memorable as classics from the old games like Garbage's "Cherry Lips" or David Bowie's "Everyone Says Hi." I would play those songs for hours on end years back, but like the campaign, I'm willing to skip out on most of the new tracks. The original games weren't afraid to get out of their comfort zone with songs like "Dope Nose" from Weezer and "King of Rock" by Run-DMC, and the lack of risk-taking really shows with this new iteration. Another general issue I have is the way songs are doled out while playing. Tracks are locked behind the campaign as previously mentioned, but others require players to complete a ton of songs to access them. One even takes 60 plays to unlock! Why did Harmonix feel the need to do this? To gate the experience and ensure it lasts longer? It goes against the party-like nature of the game, and feels like a relic of the past. I wouldn't mind doing this if the reward were greater (like the original), but it isn't. Amplitude is a competent rhythm game that should provide lots of fun at parties, but the hamstrung tracklist is a severe detriment to its longevity. Harmonix was able to preserve the classic experience, but may have gone overboard in its effort to do so. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. I did not contribute to the Kickstarter campaign.]
Amplitude review photo
This Amp doesn't go to 11
Before there was an abundance of rhythm games out there with plastic peripherals, there were developers like Harmonix leading the way with controller-based experiences. Along with some long sessions of Gitaroo Man and Pa...

Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4 to wipe leaderboards due to 'gnarly bug'


That's a cute way to put it
Dec 24
// Chris Carter
I enjoyed Rock Band 4 for the most part, but that game shipped with a few issues that weren't discovered or sorted out until after launch. Mostly relating to physical instrument troubles, but there was another bug that f...
Amplitude photo
Amplitude

FreQuency mode comes to Amplitude reboot


To tunnel or not to tunnel
Dec 23
// Vikki Blake
The rebooted Amplitude will feature a FreQuency mode which turns the otherwise flat tracks into 3D tunnels. "In the original Amplitude, we got away from the tunnel design of FreQuency and flattened out the tracks," Harmo...
Rock Band 3 photo
Rock Band 3

Here's how to bring Rock Band 3's tracks into 4


It's pretty easy
Dec 17
// Chris Carter
Harmonix has finally added in the ability to bring over every track from Rock Band 3 into the newest iteration. Yep, that's every track, and despite the import licensing issues in the past, all 83 songs are good to go. P...

Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Harmonix: 'We're not yet sure where online multiplayer fits in our roadmap' for Rock Band 4


So don't hold your breath, k?
Dec 16
// Vikki Blake
Harmonix has confirmed that while online multiplayer is "very much on the table" for Rock Band 4, it's not yet clear on "where it fits in our roadmap." "Online multiplayer is a part of a much bigger conversation. We know it&r...

Brutal Mode is the best thing to happen to Rock Band in years

Dec 11 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]325866:61490:0[/embed] Take a look at this video of me playing. It'll give you a greater sense of what actually makes this difficult. Sometimes I play well, other times I play poorly. At no times, however, am I playing comfortably. For those who have spent countless hours honing their Rock Band proficiency, this is the perfect addition to the game. It forces the hardcore community to play differently than they've played before, but while still using the same skills. This is built for the people who chase full combos and won't accept anything less. It taps into their meticulous drive to play well, and beautifully flips it on its head. Brutal Mode is maddening and it's not because of the vanishing notes. It's because of the psychological mind games the mode plays. Any well-versed player will tell you that they don't watch the notes reach the bottom of the track. Instead, they reach a sort of inner-harmony where they immediately internalize the note and play it in time while doing the same for every other note that flows downward. It's not a sensation that can be easily explained to anyone who hasn't felt it. This mode's brilliance lies within the fact that it changes the Rock Band experience from a visual one to an audial one. Sure, there's a preview of the upcoming notes, but it's on you to know the correct time to play them. Feeling the music is necessary; disconnecting from the music and trying to brute force the notes on what seems to be the right beat will just result in awkward plunks and wails. Overthinking it is a formula for failure. Ironically, when you're failing is when Brutal Mode is maybe at its toughest. It'd seem natural that the inverse is true; the worse you're doing, the longer you can see the notes. That should be easiest. It's not, though. Not even close. Any fluctuation in the process can temporarily damn you. Seeing those notes and thinking about them switches your mindset back from audial to visual. As it turns out, your brain can adjust to sticking to one of those; flip-flopping is where you get confused and freeze up. The invention of Brutal Mode is a staunch informer that being able to see the notes is a huge crutch, even if it doesn't seem that way.  In 2010, Harmonix tried to advance the Rock Band experience by introducing Pro Mode -- a way for players to actually learn the instruments they were simulating. It didn't fare all that well. The barrier to entry was high and the learning curve was steep. As it turns out, a lot of people who spent a bunch of time mastering Rock Band and Guitar Hero didn't want to start from scratch on a new skill; they wanted to build on the ones they already have. Brutal Mode feels as if it were built for that audience. It's an extension of the toughest Rock Band has to offer while managing to change the way the game is approached. Anyone who's good enough at Rock Band to take a serious try at Brutal Mode has long ago lost the magic that comes with improving at the genre. This helps recapture some of that. That's a win by any measure, brutal as it may be.
Rock Band 4 photo
And the toughest
Harmonix rolled out an update for Rock Band 4 earlier this week that included a whole bunch of unexpected additions. It's impressive in its scope. A lot of the changes were meant to make Rock Band 4 feel more like a...

Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4's newest mode gets harder as you get better


Become a brutal legend
Dec 04
// Brett Makedonski
As a part of the December 8 update to Rock Band 4, the game's most adept and hardcore players will get a new challenge that requires their finely honed skill set. Harmonix is introducing Brutal Mode to the game, a variation ...
Rock Band VR photo
Rock Band VR

Harmonix is doing Rock Band VR for Oculus Rift


Huh, okay
Dec 03
// Jordan Devore
As announced this evening during Geoff Keighley's The Game Awards, Harmonix and Oculus are partnering for Rock Band VR. A rough clip with first-person footage of a player holding a guitar was shown, as well as a bit between Oculus founder Palmer Luckey and the band DragonForce. He wore flag pants, you guys. The Oculus Rift launches in Q1 2016, and Rock Band VR will be out sometime next year.
Amplitude photo
Amplitude

Amplitude set to release on January 5 for PS4


Ring in the new year
Dec 02
// Darren Nakamura
It has been a bit of a wait for Amplitude, Harmonix's 2014 Kickstarter success. It was originally slated for release in March of 2015, but was pushed back a few times to January of 2016. Still, a year is nothing if you consid...
Fallout Band 4 photo
Fallout Band 4

Look like a wasteland warrior when Fallout 4 invades Rock Band 4


A duet of cuatros
Nov 24
// Brett Makedonski
If you fancy yourself a living room faux-musician, this is probably the closest you'll ever get to looking like a Fall Out Boy. Harmonix has collaborated with Bethesda to add free Fallout 4 Vault-111 jumpsuits to the Ro...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

There's a ton of stuff coming to Rock Band 4 in December, including Rock Band 3


Good stuff for the hardcore community
Nov 19
// Brett Makedonski
Rock Band 4 launched in a state that felt kind of bare bones. Several features were cut from past games in favor of just getting you to simulate playing music in your living room again. A lot of that's getting added afte...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Over 400 Rock Band songs are still missing in Europe on PS4


No word exactly when a fix is coming
Nov 13
// Laura Kate Dale
If you're a PS4 owning Rock Band 4 player in Europe, there's a good change you've noticed that a chunk of your old library of PS3 Rock Band tracks don't seem to be playable on Rock Band 4 yet. You're probably not alone in thi...
BeatNiks photo
BeatNiks

Harmonix just released a music-powered virtual pet called BeatNiks


Beans, beans, the musical fruit
Nov 05
// Darren Nakamura
Harmonix sure has diversified in the past five years. Sure, the studio just released Rock Band 4 and it focuses on interacting with music in all of its games, but with stuff like Chroma and A City Sleeps, it has gone further ...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4 is getting an interim patch next month


Before the big Rock Band 3 import
Oct 27
// Chris Carter
Harmonix is getting ready to bring Rock Band 3 over into Rock Band 4 in in December, but before that, it has a few minor fixes to push next month. In addition to adding in custom characters as stand-ins for quickpla...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

[Update] Harmonix employees have been posting reviews of Rock Band 4 on Amazon


Leave the astroturfing to Ground Force
Oct 22
// Joe Parlock
[Update: We have received this statement from Harmonix, acknowledging the reviews were from its employees: Harmonix has clarified its internal policy about posting reviews of our own products on retail sites, and we've asked...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 3 tracks should be playable in Rock Band 4 by end of year


The export fee is $15
Oct 21
// Brett Makedonski
People who played Rock Band 3 can expect their Rock Band 4 library to grow significantly in the coming months. Since Rock Band 4's October 6 launch, Harmonix has been at work trying to bring old content onto the new...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Here's how to turn off Rock Band 4's Freestyle guitar solos


Viva la scripted solos!
Oct 08
// Brett Makedonski
Rock Band 4, largely the Rock Band that you already know and maybe love, has one big change from previous games. That is the Freestyle guitar solo. Its intent is to break away from the traditional and sometimes very toug...
Rock Bugs 4 photo
Rock Bugs 4

Are you having issues with Rock Band 4? You're not alone


Issues and some fixes here!
Oct 07
// Jed Whitaker
[Update: A Harmonix spokesperson reach out to us to issue the following statement:  “The Rock Band experience is as important to Harmonix as it is to our players. We are passionate about Rock Band, and we'll suppor...

Review: Rock Band 4

Oct 05 // Chris Carter
Rock Band 4 (PS4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: HarmonixPublisher: Harmonix (with distribution by Mad Catz)Released: October 6, 2015MSRP: $59.99 (game), $129.99 (guitar bundle), $249.99 (Band-in-a-Box) So let's get right into it. The setlist (seen here) is going to be a point of contention for many. Point blank, I'm not really a fan of most of it, for multiple reasons. Firstly, U2 (the Guy Fieri of music) was added last-minute, and features not one but two songs featured in career mode. This completely obliterated the "random" feature for one of the groups I played with, as they hilariously refused to play U2 on the principle that they "might" come up. Then you have the issue of era disparity due to a disjointed design. Often times you'll find similar types of music grouped together, but generally speaking, Rock Band 4 is all over the place. For instance, there's one Elvis song ("Suspicious Minds," which I really dig), but then, there's nothing else even close to that age or style of music. You also have the issue of showcasing a heavy helping of B-hits from major artists, like "Kick it Out" from Heart or "Prayer" from Disturbed. Of course, music is subjective, but my major issue is the lack of any real epic rock tracks (and I don't mean "epic" in the bad meme sense) on offer here, which every rhythm game tends to provide. I mean, "That Smell" from Lynyrd Skynyrd? You can't help but feel like the rights to a lot of big-ticket songs weren't on the table, some of which instead went to Activision's Guitar Hero Live. But I think this weaker setlist is kind of what Harmonix is going for. They're banking on the fact that you already own a ton of DLC, or are willing to shell out for it. That's going to be a point of contention for many people, who may have started out in the Rock Band ecosystem on Xbox, but like most of this generation, have since switched to PS4 exclusively. I'm kind of torn on where I stand personally, because while I do see Rock Band as a "platform," I wish the included setlist were as strong as it has been in the past. Just to clarify with Harmonix as of this week, I double-checked on the DLC roadmap beyond the singles in the store now (of which there are hundreds of piecemeal tracks). Track packs (read: those discs of songs you bought) are being worked on currently, and aren't up for launch. Additionally, title exports (Rock Band 1 and 2 songs mostly) are not available yet, and have no time frame at the moment. Finally, Harmonix is "looking into" exporting Rock Band 3 but nothing is finalized. None of this affects this review as it's all theoretical, but it's good to know. As disappointed as I am with the base setlist, the game, as always, is sound. The common theme here with Rock Band 4 is "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," which is great for those of you who just want a current-gen Rock Band, and bad if you wanted something revolutionary. While the voting system (which allows players to select tracks, or vague categories such as eras and genres in a democratic fashion) is very cool, the career mode, despite promises of a major shakeup with the choice system, is largely the same. [embed]312826:60607:0[/embed] While there are choices such as picking between selling out and making more money in the short term or going on the road and garnering more long-term fans, they all feel very gamey in the end ("do you want fans or money?"). I really like the little story blurbs that pop up along the way that provide updates for the narrative such as "your van that you bought for next to nothing lost a door," but they really are more fluff than substance. Plus, the concept of playing tons of gigs with set songs (and some open-ended lists) for cash to buy new accessories never appealed to me -- when combined with the so-so story and the fact that every song is unlocked from the get-go, it doesn't feel like a gametype worth the effort. As a result, most of my time was spent with the quick tour and freeplay modes, which are still a lot of fun with a group. It's as simple as syncing the instruments (which is incredibly easy to do now) and pressing start, then you're ready to rock. The aforementioned voting system is a ton of fun, as it accepts every band member's choices, then triggers a slot machine-like animation that randomly picks one. It's fair, and it's a nice break from manually choosing songs. In terms of the adjustments to the instruments themselves, I also have mixed feelings. Everything has been marginally upgraded (both physically and in-game), but I'm still reeling from the complete lack of keyboard and Pro Guitar support. Harmonix certainly has a strong argument in that most players simply did not use these features last time around, but I can't help but feel like Rock Band 4 has been downgraded as a result. While I never really preferred the Rock Band style guitars (X-plorer for life), the build is noticeably more sturdy, which also applies for the new drum kit and microphone. The new gameplay feature with the guitar is the addition of freestyle sections, which no longer bound players to the rigors of tough solo portions. For casual players, this change is pretty great, and allows anyone to rock out in a fashion that more accurately portrays the spirit of the franchise. In essence, during your solo spots, you'll see new markers for blue and orange freestyle notations in the track. You'll simply strum to the beat, with the blue portion notating the top frets and the orange noting the bottom, and that's basically it. Sometimes you'll have to strum once and hold, for others, you'll have to shift rapidly to different frets. You won't lose any momentum here if you screw up, and every fret will cue a different sound, so you can come up with your own concoctions. The best part is this is wholly optional, so if you want to shred "Through the Fire and Flames" on expert, you can. Also, every song supports a full-time freestyle solo through a separate menu option. The drums have remained mostly the same, outside of Dynamic Drum Fills, and, as an exception to the lack of Pro instruments, Pro Drums (if you buy the Mad Catz Rock Band 4 Cymbal Expansion Kit of course). The former feature allows you to deploy Overdrive (Star Power) during pre-determined sections -- it's a minor change, and fortunately, like most of the new stuff, you can also turn this off. If you rock the mic, you'll have a few other marginal improvements as well. Now there's Freestyle Vocals, which allows people to improvise a bit. As long as you still sing on key, you'll be able to score points. It makes things a little more fun for singers as they don't have to follow as rigid of a pattern. Again, every instrument has been improved on paper, but not in a way that completely eclipses a lot of the advancements made with the last iteration. The physical element of bringing over instruments is also a bit strained, partially outside of Harmonix's purview. Firstly, you'll have to follow their compatibility chart here to see if your device will even work with the new game. Additionally, due to the shift in technology from the 360 to the Xbox One, you'll need a $20 adapter to even use your old instruments that do work. When you add in that nothing works cross-console family, things get even more tricky, as it'll cost you $250 to grab a new guitar, drum kit, and a mic -- and if you want to get a second guitar, it gets even pricier.  Rock Band 4 is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, it's not only a hassle to switch generations due to the fact that so many elements don't work with the new one, but additionally -- Rock Band 3 is still a thing, supports all of your DLC, and has more features. On the other, there's nothing inherently wrong with this iteration, and for those of you who missed out in the past or have broken 360s or PS3s, you'll still be able to rock out into the night with friends and have a whole lot of fun. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher. The Band-in-a-Box bundle with a guitar, drum kit, and mic was assessed for this review. DLC or pre-order content of any kind was not provided, and was purchased by the reviewer.]
Rock Band 4 photo
Back in plastic
[Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the preview. I personally didn't work with Chester ...

Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Re-downloading your Rock Band DLC is a giant pain in the ass on Xbox One


Hope you like spreadsheets
Oct 02
// Brett Makedonski
In preparation for Rock Band 4's release next week, I figured it's about time to start downloading the songs I bought on Xbox 360 for use on my Xbox One. There's no doubt in my mind that if I have friends over to play and all...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4 releases next week, last chance to stock up on cheap DLC


It doubles in price on October 6
Oct 02
// Brett Makedonski
It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is a rare example of a time when you might want to purchase downloadable content before a game comes out. I know, I know -- we usually rally against that hard, but bear with us just thi...
U2 Rock Band additions photo
U2 Rock Band additions

U2 song forced onto your iPhone is now coming to Rock Band


Only band with two tracks
Sep 28
// Steven Hansen
Harmonix has announced two new songs for Rock Band 4 through its official Twitter account. They are both U2 jams. "Cedarwood Road" from the group's debut and "I Will Follow" from 2014's Songs of Innocence, which I assume peo...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Faux '80s Rock Band 4 video goes over the basics


What to expect in a few weeks
Sep 16
// Chris Carter
While a lot of companies have been getting on the "that's so random!" meme-wagon in recent years as part of their marketing efforts, the folks over at Harmonix have always been a little strange, in a good way. That's most ce...
Rock Band 4 setlist photo
Rock Band 4 setlist

These are all of the songs in Rock Band 4


Are you up for another gig?
Sep 14
// Jordan Devore
I've been content to let other writers at Destructoid cover the Rock Band 4 track announcements so far, which is for the best. I'm not even sure I want to pull out the plastic instruments again. (Unless it's to replay The Bea...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Tough decisions lie ahead in Rock Band 4's career


Stardom don't come easy
Sep 10
// Brett Makedonski
Pretend for a minute that you're in a band that has achieved some degree of notoriety. Sounds great, right? Maybe not. There are a lot of decisions that need to be made, and sometimes the people influencing you don't have you...

Rock Band 4 made me forget that I suck at rhythm games

Sep 09 // Alissa McAloon
During my time with the game I was perfectly content to just smash out different notes on the guitar and see what sounded best, but more skillful players should note that there is an art to creating solos. Switching notes at the right time or using certain strums with certain chords all create different and unique sounds. The notes themselves may change slightly to fit with the key of certain songs, but those patterns do not. With a little time and effort, players can figure out how to create specific tunes in Freestyle Solos and create their own finely crafted guitar solos from scratch. Playing around with solos, both in the training modes and in actual songs, made me feel like I was actually good at the game. The half hour I spent with Rock Band 4 marked the most positive experience I've ever had with a music game of any kind. As someone who is chronically clumsy with any sort of rhythm game, this endorsement doesn't come lightly. I can only imagine what some of those hardcore Rock Band players will be able to do with Freestyle Solos when the game releases for PS4 and Xbox One on October 6. 
Rock Band 4 photo
Freestyle solos are way too much fun
[Disclosure: Nick Chester, who is currently employed at Harmonix, previously worked at Destructoid. As always, no relationships, personal or professional, were factored into the preview.] Rock Band 4 is spearheading the rhyt...

New Harmonix game photo
New Harmonix game

The joy of hitting balls: New Harmonix game an Apple TV exclusive


From the developer of Rock Band
Sep 09
// Steven Hansen
Harmonix is busy. There's Rock Band 4 to finish and a delayed-into-2016 Amplitude. There's an additional game that needs to be crowdfunded, which I assume is not Beat Sports, which was just announced at Apple's live streamed...
Harmonix and Fig photo
Harmonix and Fig

Harmonix will need your help (again) to make its next game


Sometime this fall
Sep 03
// Brett Makedonski
Harmonix is going back to the crowdfunding well after its successful Amplitude campaign, but it's not going the Kickstarter route. It's going with something far more trendy right now. The music game developer plans ...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

The Rock Band 4 disc will cost $20 extra on Xbox One


All due to wireless protocol
Aug 24
// Brett Makedonski
Those who plan to play Rock Band 4 on Xbox One with their instruments from Xbox 360 will have to pay a bit for the privilege. As it turns out, the standalone Rock Band 4 disc will cost $80 instead of $60. That price...
Rock Band 4 photo
Rock Band 4

Rock Band 4's latest big addition is Van Halen


PANAMA! PAN-A-MAH-HUH!
Aug 17
// Brett Makedonski
Not recognizing a majority of music in games has been a running theme this year. Guitar Hero Live largely falls victim to this. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5 definitely does. Fortunately, Rock Band 4 does not. Harm...

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