Game Review: ‘DJ Hero’ for XBox360

reply_card [Converted]XBox 360 – Activision – 119.99 (Standard Edition), 199.99 (Renegade Edition)

Score: 9.0

“Holy addictive gameplay Batman!” That’s the first thing that comes to mind after sitting down with DJ Hero for just a few minutes. For those who haven’t been following our DJ Hero coverage here on the Flickcast thus far, is an extension of the Activision Hero franchise that started with Guitar Hero and also now includes Band Hero.

Taking a step back from the full band four player party experience, DJ Hero focuses on the single player experience with little hints of two player action. DJ Hero also comes with a steeper learning curve than the guitar focused games and isn’t going to be the kind of thing someone can hand to an uncoordinated friend and expect them to quickly pick up and play.

Gameplay:

Like Guitar Hero, DJ Hero couldn’t come in to existence without a custom made peripheral to play it. (Well it could, but then it’d be no different from Boom, Boom Rocket for XBLA) Enter the DJ Hero Turntable. Unlike a classic DJ turntable, this one already has a “record” attached with three buttons built in to it.

The green button represents one musical track, the red center button acts as a sampler and effects button, and the blue button represents the second musical track. All songs in DJ Hero are created in the “mash-up” style, meaning they are remixes of two songs combined together as one. Attached to the turntable is a basic mixer, containing a crossfader, effects dial and euphoria button (the last being something not included on actual DJ mixers).

When players choose a setlist to play, they see a series of mixes which will come up in succession. These setlists can be edited as well. When gameplay begins, the player will see a three stream note highway begin cascading down to the bottom of the screen. Instead of just hitting the button when the highway hits, different symbols indicate different motions a player must do. These actions can include just quickly tapping the colored button, scratching the record while holding the button or scratching the record in a specific direction.

One of the game's featured DJ's, DJ Jazzy Jeff in action... but no Fresh Prince

One of the game's featured DJ's, DJ Jazzy Jeff in action... but no Fresh Prince

Also new to the note highway is the inclusion of changing highway lanes with the crossfader. The crossfader has three basic positions, left track, both tracks and right tracks. By following the position on the note highway, players switch between the tracks playing as these ultimate mixes play. Above the crossfader is the effect dial. During some parts of the song, a small arc icon will appear over the highway and players can freestyle the levels of highs and lows in the song to create their own unique mix. Should a player miss hitting a tap, scratch or crossfade, the game emits a quick error buzz as the song continues.

Also on the mixer is the euphoria button. Here, much like star power in Guitar Hero, the player must hit a series of glowing notes in a row. Upon completion they are allowed Euphoria mode which doubles all scores they make over a short time. Another new addition to the Hero franchise that can only be made possible on a turntable is the Rewind. During gameplay in games like this, the more successive notes a player hits in a row, the higher their score multiplier will go. After hitting enough notes in a row, a player can Rewind in which they literally spin the turntable backwards. This will rewind the track, allowing players to go through a section of their mix a second time and score more points.

The game’s multiplayer features a unique set list of songs that put one player on the wheels of steel while a second plays on their Guitar Hero guitar. The benefit of this aside from some very unique and original rock / dance mash-ups you might ask? This adds an instant level of ease of entry to the multiplayer game that wouldn’t be present before. Most game players own at least one Guitar Hero or Rock Band game so they have a controller present. It is also far less intimidating for someone new to the series to come over their buddy’s house and play guitar while their friend who has been decimating the massive 90+ song playlist stays on the turntable.

Daft Punk with some crazy crossfading coming up

Daft Punk with some crazy crossfading coming up

Story:

DJ Hero has no story to speak of. Players pick a setlist, play it and then move on to the next. With each successive setlist played, they unlock new lists, new DJs, accessories and venues. This has been the formula for most other rhythm games though and should not come as a surprise. This isn’t Brutal Legend where you play a musically inspired character trying to save a world. You are a turntable artist spreading music to the masses and that’s it. But like other rhythm games, the gameplay as described above is what drives the game and keeps the player hooked. Adding a story would just be convoluted and most likely be skipped over by most players anyway.

Hitting these glowing notes perfectly will give the player Euphoria mode

Hitting these glowing notes perfectly will give the player Euphoria mode

Graphics and Sound:

The graphics of this game are somewhat similar in style to that of the Guitar Hero franchise. Characters can sometimes have a cartoonish look to them like an overweight luchador DJ while real life DJ’s are given fairly accurate portrayals like Grandmaster Flash and Daft Punk. Venues are filled with excited fans and feature dancers who freestyle and trip-hop along with the various styles of music. DJ’s animations synch up with different styles of scratching and controlling to mimic what is going on in the song. The visual style is a great fit for the game.

Of course you can’t talk about DJ Hero without mentioning the soundtrack. Be warned, if you don’t like club and dance music, this game is not for you. DJ Hero features mash-ups of classics like “Give It to Me” by Rick James with Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” to modern club anthems like Benny Besanni’s “Satisfaction” with Tiesto’s “Elements of Life”. The list literally spans Motown to disco to hip hop to modern rock to house music and tons of other genres in between. Some of the game’s best moments when playing through these unique and addictive remixes is seeing a song that you don’t recognize by name and finding out it is actually a song you have loved and didn’t know it.

Two player DJ / Guitar mode together on screen

Two player DJ / Guitar mode together on screen

Overall:

As with most games, the most important factor of DJ Hero is the fact that it is fun. It is addicting as well as players will often race in between set lists to start the next one. The only major downfall of DJ Hero is that it will actually make your arm tired after a half hour or so of play. This explains why the world’s top turntablists often only play in half hour sets. But it just makes the player excited to get back behind the 1’s and 2’s as fast as they can recover. DJ Hero is a great game for a party as well. Not to say everyone will be lining up to play it together, but it can provide a fantastic soundtrack for a house party whether someone is playing the game throughout or the game has been set to a stereo mode that just allows the game’s playlist to play without the need of someone controlling it.

Though it may be a more niche market than the Guitar Hero series since more people have rock stardom dreams than they do of becoming professional DJs, DJ Hero is actually just as fun a game, if not more so because of the different style of music present in it than the rock that has dominated the console market for the past five years. With varying levels of difficulty for the more casual gamer to the most hardcore of turntable enthusiasts and it’s eclectic soundtrack, DJ Hero really brings something different to the table for everyone. This game is a must try, if not a must buy, for all console gamers.

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