Frequency Could be Better than Rock Band…as a Game

May 21, 2009 § 3 Comments

I hate to be the one to break this to the world, but it’s not just Xbox 360’s that break. Sadly, I almost wish it had been a 360 that broke on me two days ago, at least that way it would have been within Microsoft’s epic 3 year warranty, but as it stands I’m currently looking at a bill of around £100 for Sony to breath life into what has become one of the most expensive paperweights I have ever owned.

This may be something of a blessing in disguise, not only because it removes one of the biggest barriers to my A-level revision, but because it’s a perfect excuse to reach back in time to play the great PS2 games that passed me by first time. First up on the list was Viewtiful Joe, now enjoying a nice long stint in the naughty corner for pulling Capcom’s favourite “Here’s all the bosses you’ve fought thus far…in a row!” bullshit. Next up, Frequency, the spiritual ancestor to this whole Guitar Hero thing, and the inventor of the phenomenon known as ‘tunnel vision’.

First impressions were not good. Visually the game has dated badly, though not I might add due to its graphical quality, but because the game draws heavily on the rave scene aesthetic, complete with garish fluorescent colours, and DJ’s wearing flight goggles for whatever reason. Additionally the song selection seems schizophrenic at best, mixing the obscure (to me at least) dance and hip-hop tracks with some nu-metal that couldn’t exist further away from the colourful world of Frequency.

For those unaware, whilst Frequency may at first seem to be less complex than Rock Band with its three tracks of notes as opposed to five, this isn’t the case. In this game, rather than controlling the input of just one instrument, you control every track in the mix, drums, vocals, and everything else. Interestingly you do this all with just the one controller, using the left and right buttons to switch between tracks displayed on each side of an octagonal tunnel, and three of the face buttons to input the notes as they move towards you.

I’ll admit that on paper it doesn’t seem that appealing, after all it’s got a dated art style, dated tracks, and a music genre choice that’s unlikely to grab you. Where it really gets you – as all games should – is when you sit down to actually play the thing, and realise that until you start entering notes, the song exists as a mere metronome beat.

You don’t play each song in its entirety though, instead on completion of two bars with a track, that track then gets added to the song until you move on to the next section, leaving you free to add other instruments to the mix. The end result is that it creates the feeling that it’s you who’s actually constructing the song, layering in the music piece by piece, instead of just contributing one part the whole way through.

Other design choices provide a refreshing change from any rhythm game fan bored with Harmonix’s recent excellent work. Progress is achieved not through simply reaching the song’s conclusion, but by achieving high scores, and the use of a controller and not a peripheral means rumble can allow you to subconsciously keep the beat at all times.

To my mind, Frequency could well be a better video game than both Rock Band and Guitar Hero. As a game to be brought out when friends come over, or when it’s party time, holding a controller in your hands and playing techno songs is never going to reach the levels of fun of Fisher Price guitars.

I know as well as you do that this post isn’t going to convince you to give the game a go, but maybe this video review will, created lovingly in the day by a blond, clean-shaven Ryan Davies.

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§ 3 Responses to Frequency Could be Better than Rock Band…as a Game

  • Michelle says:

    Interesting, what are your thoughts on the upcoming Rock Band unplugged then, which seems to be to be a happy mix of Rock Band and Frequency?I have to agree with you on some of the points regarding Frequency though, having only just recently picked it up for the first time it’s no where near as accessible as it’s successors, but once you can see past the initial confusion on the screen a wonderful game shines through. Roll on Rock Band Unplugged!Good luck on the A Levels btw 😉

  • Jon Porter says:

    I was actually thinking whilst playing Frequency that it might make a cool PSP game, without having read about unplugged at all. I think it could be fun, but the constraints the PSP imposes could hamper it. On the PS2 you’re able to have a finger over each button for example, whereas with Unplugged it will be impossible to have a finger over each face button, it might make things more difficult. Also, minor point, but do you think the absense of rumble might have an impact on gameplay?Would love to hear more from you.

  • Michelle says:

    Maybe it’s just the way I play PSP games, but I always take my right hand off the side of the console for music games so I use my entire hand for quick presses, I do realise that this makes me more prone to dropping my PSP though!I have heard that RB:Unplugged is more tricky than videos and screenshots would have us believe, if anything the downside to the PSP for me, even with my tiny fingers is that the face buttons are a little bit too close together for my liking, makes music games much harder than they should be :(I don’t think the lack of rumble will detract at all, rumble is great when used appropriately, but it’s often not and the fact that I can’t even remember how the rumble in Frequency works speaks volumes, maybe it was so beneficial to the gameplay I took it for granted.But to use another example – I don’t miss rumble when I am actually playing the drums or guitar in Rock Band, so I don’t think it will be missed here, so much of Frequency and Amplitude is about spinning plates, you’re so busy trying to concentrate I doubt that it’s going to concern me too much ;D

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