DJ Hero is back to mix it up with some new innovations to further perfect the experience of being a fake plastic DJ.
DJ Hero came out in a turbulent time for Westernized Rhythm Gaming. A time when Activision gave us way too many Guitar Hero games to play (Metallica, Smash Hits, 5, Band Hero, and Van Halen) and Harmonix reintroduced the world to The Beatles. DJ Hero was well received by most critics of the gaming universe, but unfortunately the high price tag made it hard to convince people to buy a new peripheral. Those who did buy it were mostly pleased and the casual geared game play (see: you can’t fail) made the game a hit with people that just weren’t into what Guitar Hero/Rock Band provided.
On the other side of the spectrum, this game was HARD on expert, some of the charts were amongst the most difficult things any of us have ever encountered, which caused even experienced rhythm gamers like @azuritereaction to claim that this was indeed “the hardest Westernized rhythm game ever”.
Eventually, thanks to price cuts and a lull of GH/RB games, DJ Hero sold a large amount of units and websites, such as gamasutra took back their claim that the game was a “flop”.
While all this was going on, FreeStyleGames were hard at work at fine tuning all that was wrong with the first game, and making DJ Hero 2 a contender for it’s impending release of October 19th, 2010.
One of the biggest gripes about DJ Hero was the in game menus. They were cluttered, hard to navigate, and featured weird design decisions such as adding songs to a setlist before you could actually play them. All this has been fixed in DJ Hero 2 as the menu is a very minimalist black text on white/gray gradient background. The menu options borrow some of the choices from this years Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock; for example, organizing the competitive modes into one single area and of course the addition of party play by hitting yellow.
The user interface in game has also been greatly improved with the Star Ranking/Note Streak Meter having a 3D appearance as well as keeping track of your previous star rank when you play the song again in Quickplay.
Graphics in the game have greatly improved and will make you feel even more in tune with the club experience. Hotties wink at you before you start your DJ set, and David Guetta’s intro in Empire Mode is a fantastic little cinematic that you should watch out for. All in all the right improvements and enhancements have been made.
Another neat feature is the addition of Avatar support (Xbox360). You can put “yourself” behind some DJ Decks and even score a cleverly named achievement/trophy for doing so!
DJ Hero’s got some new tricks baby!
Now there are three ways to make the mix your own in DJ Hero 2.
1) Freestyle Crossfade: These will be sections where you are free to move the Crossfader in any direction and highlight any portion of the audio track as indicated by lines on either green/blue side of the scrolling record.
2) Freestyle Scratching: Scratch backwards, forwards, do it fast or slow and you will hear the difference during these sections- get creative!
3) Freestyle Sampling: YEEE BOYYYY- but not quite… This feature is back from DJ Hero 1 but now only features specific samples related to the track you are playing, but don’t worry you still get the air horn sample occasionally!
All of these new freestyle modes are scored accordingly by your timing and creativity and shown by a letter grade you will receive at the end of the song. Unfortunately I am unable to determine the score addition a good freestyle grade will give you. Perhaps this will be found out in the coming months.
Much like Guitar Hero there are now sustain notes in DJ Hero 2! These notes may also remind you of Extended Sustains in Guitar Hero World Tour and onward given the fact on Expert you will be required to hold down one sustain while tapping or sustaining notes in adjacent lanes. These only appear in Medium and higher difficulties though.
Instead of a short single scratch these icons represent longer upward or downward scratch motions with the platter. These only seem to show up in Hard and Expert.
Tap + Scratch sections:
Although these don’t come up too often it should be mentioned that you will encounter Green and Blue scratch sections where you are told to tap the button and then hold down and scratch. These along with Length scratches are what I find most confusing.
The Party Never Stops!
The first thing you’ll notice whether you are in party play, empire mode, or quick play will be the music just keeps coming. FreeStyleGames must be wizards because I’ve never seen this game load in between songs- this is especially evident in the setlists in empire mode where you’ll struggle to realize when one song ended and one began. The only downside to this is you may foolishly take a break in between songs and miss the first note but thankfully you can restart that mix and try to 100% it again.
This new take on career mode puts you into a loose story where you go from small-town hero (in Ibiza really?) to global super-star. You’ll battle against computer controlled DJs and of course top DJs like DJ Qbert for example (good luck beating him). Additionally like any career mode you will unlock new venues, decks, headphones, outfits and new characters (including some throwbacks to the first game).
DJ Hero makes artists I don’t like enjoyable to listen to. They did it in the first game and they did it in this incarnation as well. Who would’ve thought that my favourite mixes in this game would involve people like Soulja Boy, Missy Elliott, Lil’ Wayne, Young Jeezy, and even Sean Paul. The setlist is full of amazing mixes that will just floor you at how good they sound and how much fun is lent to the gameplay as a result.
While the tracklist has a more mainstream feel, the difficulty is still there thanks to producers like Diplo, Tiesto, DJ Qbert, A-Trak, Scratch Perverts, David Guetta, RZA, and DJ Shadow. Some of these mixes will even make mDawg’s hand hurt!
The gameplay has been tweaked slightly given that in DJ Hero fast taps and scratches were troublesome for most players. Other than that the game remains the same except for the addition of new competitive modes and of course vocals.
The biggest addition to the suite of competitive Battle Modes is most definitely DJ Battle.
DJ Battle takes a page from early Guitar Hero mode “Face Off” and allows two players to play custom mixes specifically made to give the experience of being in an actual DJ Battle. These call and response songs are among the most fun in the game (opinion) and sound awesome. Let’s hope that future Guitar Hero’s can take this idea and make it their own. This mode is scored simply by who hits the most percentage of each section before the checkpoint. The only downside is that freestyle modes count toward this percentage and if an opposing player is locked out of them they will most likely lose.
This mode has simply been put in to involve a third player in the game. While the implementation works in theory, in practice it falls short due to the static display, the difficulty of hitting the pitches, and of course the fact the songs are remixed. However I will say this is much better addition than Guitar in DJ Hero 1, which fell short in almost every regard.
Before we get to the final thoughts let’s look at the shortcomings of DJ Hero 2:
- Still no Practice mode
- Hyperspeed is now a special PowerDeck you need to enable and is uploaded to the leaderboards with an indication.
- No varying levels of Hyperspeed
- No Create-A-DJ
- No Logo Creation for Empire Mode
- Powerdeck scores upload and one of them gives you double rewind
- Online competitive modes have mixed difficulties matching up (Expert vs. Medium)
Other than those things, the game is awesome, it has Hero Feed much like Guitar Hero Warriors of Rock (minus the twitter/facebook spam), an amazing sound track, seamless setlists, freestyle modes, and a DLC schedule on the way.
Also announced is that DJ Hero 1 DLC will be compatible via a patch in November which give us hope for DJ Hero imports (fingers crossed).
Let’s hope that there will be DJ Battle tracks available as DLC in the future.