E3: Frequency impressions

[05.18.01] » Is Sony's music game a Tempest in a teapot?

    Something about vector graphics lends itself to flights through endless tunnels. Jeff Minter's Tempest series combined trippy, shifting vector tunnels with state-of-the-art music. Square's Internal Section (never released in the U.S.) took the concept one step further, welding dynamically generated levels to the music itself. Sony's Frequency takes this concept to the next level, merging licensed tracks with tunnel-based gameplay. Unfortunately, what Sony has on the floor is currently extremely disappointing.

    The gameplay of Frequency is extremely simple, using only three buttons. The player chooses a difficulty, song, and tunnel type. All the tunnels are octagonal, and each "side" of the octagon is a different instrument. The player moves their avatar left and right between "instruments," pressing the three buttons in time to on-screen cues. Master all of the instruments in a single "section" to move onto the next section and ultimately the song's end. The licensed music is universally excellent. So what's wrong with the game?

    By letting the player only "play" one instrument at a time, the game fragments any sense of music into separated tracks. Most music games empower you by letting you play "the song"; you feel like you're making the music and get swept away in the groove. With Frequency, you feel like a human drum machine, playing second--if not third or fourth--fiddle to the main show. Having to constantly shift instruments also keeps the player from fully engaging in the song. Finally, though the graphics are initially impressive, they feel sterile after only a few minutes.

    Though things may improve before the game's final release, the game as it stands on the show floor can only be seen as a disappointing addition to the rhythm/action genre.

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