Last year, DJ Hero was tied as the best music game of the year on the Flickcast alongside The Beatles: Rock Band. When it was announced a sequel was coming so soon this year, there were some mixed feelings. Would there be enough changes made to the game or would it be DJ Hero 1.5 with just an expanded song list. Luckily, it is the former with a revised career mode, more interactive DJ control, added multiplayer modes and yes, more music and that is DJ Hero 2.
Take last year’s DJ Hero gameplay of a cascading note highway using a turntable controller and add in drop in, drop out multiplayer for a second controller as well as a singer and sprinkle in Guitar Hero’s vocal controls for a singer/rapper and you have the basics of DJ Hero 2. Luckily, things don’t end at the basics as freestyling takes a big leap in this sequel.
Last year, player’s freestyle abilities were limited to selecting audio packages they could occasionally drop in to the song. This year, that gets kicked up a notch as songs each have their own specific samples to be dropped in at certain parts which help the mixes feel stronger and more cohesive. Additionally, crossfader freestyling has been added.
Players get sections where they can choose which parts of each track they want to hear, letting players for the first time feel like a real DJ as they control the music completely at that point. Finally, freestyle scratching allows players sections of songs where they control exactly what kind of scratch effect they desire to take place. Slow, fast, long, short. All of these can be changed up and put in during these special sections allowing for a customized DJ feel every time.
The addition of vocals is a very interesting one as many of these mixes include popular songs that many people would know. But instead of just being a Guitar Hero rehash, the vocals are completely thrown around and put back in different order from what someone would hear on the radio. As a result, this section can be incredibly difficult for newer players. Players will become tempted to sing what the real words of the song are as opposed to what the remix makes them into. It does take some time to get used to this between listening and learning the new versions of these songs and forcing oneself to not keep singing the line they know should ordinarily come next.
Story and Presentation:
DJ Hero 2 makes an attempt to add a story to itself in a career mode called Empire. Players get to pick a club logo and a signature DJ to travel around the world to six venues playing for different crowd and battling resident DJ’s such as Tiesto, David Guetta and Deadmau5. The standard mixes usually consist of three or four tracks, with a few exceptions, that a player must earn stars for in order to unlock future setlists and venues. DJ Battles are a whole different focus and can be incredibly challenging. There are times players can score 95% and still lose battles because of near perfect mixing from their opponents.
The story itself is somewhat shallow as there are no real cutscenes and the visuals only change the location that the player is DJing in. There are brief introductory scenes for the famous DJs which populate the game but there still feels like there isn’t much of a story to go on. Instead it looks more like a polished version of classic career modes like that of the original Rock Band.
Graphics and Sound:
DJ Hero 2 looks much like its predecessor. Most of the visual changes are quite subtle and come in the forms of mostly refined character designs and camera and particle effects over the club environments. The note highway looks and feels the same as it always has but as everyone who has played a music game, the visuals are not what players are concerned with. It is however quite entertaining to see the DJ Deadmau5 have his mechanical light up head screwed on at the start of his set in empire mode or watching your own oddly dressed and quite out of place avatar putting his hands to the wheels of steel.
The music of DJ Hero 2 is where the game shines as always. The remixes featured in this year’s game have a much newer feel to them and are also more technically savvy. Many of the mixes feature songs that have been in the top club hits of the past year as well as some classics. Combinations like Snow’s “Informer” alongside the Jackson 5’s “ABC” are still amazing to hear put together flawlessly by the DJ’s and sound techs who worked on DJ Hero 2.
In addition, as mentioned before, the added control of the freestyling translates flawlessly with the audio. While some sections will sound better based on the skill of the player, no one would be able to tell the crossfading was happening on the fly and it wasn’t a completely prerecorded track playing. Because of this, the player does feel more empowered than ever as they know they are in control of the mix.
DJ Hero 2 takes a strong foundation and refines it. There is nothing mindblowingly different from the original but there is notable improvement. The basics are still there and the added polish and new features make DJ Hero 2 more fun. The choice of music as well as the DJs that participated in the title also do a great job of making the game feel drastically hipper than DJ Hero as many of these songs are still being played in many clubs across the world as we speak.
What could be brought to DJ Hero 3 remains to be seen, aside from two turntables being hooked into a single mixer which we have been wishing for since the title’s initial announcement. Regardless, DJ Hero 2 is a great music game experience in a landscape cluttered with repetitive concepts and titles. And it’s Party Play makes it the perfect iPod replacement for any home party soundtack.
XBox 360 (Also Available on PlayStation 3 and Wii)
Developer: Freestyle Games
Price: $59.99 (Just Game), $99.99 (Turntable Controller and Game), $149.99 (Two Turntable Controllers, Microphone and Game)
For DJ Hero 2 fans in Connecticut, stick close to the Flickcast as we will be taking place at a live event where one lucky fan will be walking home with their own copy of DJ Hero 2 along with turntable controller!