DJ Hero 2ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Interactive Music
When DJ Hero first arrived on the scene last year, many praised the game for jolting a breath of fresh air into the music gaming genre which has significantly tailed off over the past few years. DJ Hero featured a terrific soundtrack, the turntable peripheral was easy to use and the overall gameplay was enjoyable. You truly felt like a nightclub DJ when playing the game. This being said, it was not all roses for DJ Hero as some of the sales figures fell below expectations and many reviewers were quick to point out that there was certainly some room for growth as DJ Hero was far from perfect. So along comes DJ Hero 2 which hopes to address some of the deficiencies from the first game and deliver an experience that will bring even more ‘wanna-be’ DJ's into the mix. Does DJ Hero 2 deliver a better experience this time around? Read on to find out.
I have to be honest; it is hard to pay attention to the game's visuals when you are so focused on tapping and scratching. This being said, the visuals in the game are certainly on par with other music based games from Activision such as Guitar Hero. At the very least the graphics are on par with last year’s DJ Hero game but I also noticed quite a few enhancements. The game appears a bit more polished and it truly feels like you are playing in some of the most fantastic night clubs in the world. The overall look is perfectly suited for the game. The venues where the games take place are slick looking and very colourful. The level of detail is impressive and the stylish look of the game is certainly attractive.
The character animations are equally vibrant and come to life in High Definition. Each venue in the game has a crowd that dances and cheers to each of the tracks and there are even some dancers on the stage now and then. Of course your DJ is ripping away on stage to lights flashing and other stage effects behind him. All the characters in the game move in a realistic fashion and have a way of drawing you into the game. DJ Hero 2 boasts quite a few DJ celebrities as well and they become unlockable as you progress along in the game. There are thirteen more DJ’s that can be unlocked during play as you complete songs and earn stars based on how well you perform. Most of the unlockable DJ’s are artists that include: David Guetta, Deadmau5, DJ Qbert, Tiësto and RZA. They all look pretty good too and if you are a diehard mix-music fan you should recognize most of the virtual likenesses right away. As far as the gameplay is concerned, there are no noticeable slow-downs or frame-rate issues, which is critical given the game is all about timing and freestyling. DJ Hero 2 runs incredibly smooth and runs without a hitch. All in all, I had no major concerns with the game's visuals.
In order to be a successful music game, two key ingredients are necessary: 1.) great music; and 2.) master tracks. Well, DJ Hero 2 meets both of these requirements. DJ Hero 2's setlist includes 83 mashups from nearly 100 songs from about 85 different artists. Clearly a lot of time was spent into creating a soundtrack that not only delivers but knocks your socks off. You would think with so many songs there would be quite a few stinkers. This is not the case at all as the majority of the track mash-ups sound fantastic and have you humming them well after you have played the game. Most mixes involve two different songs, but others are beat juggles using the same core song on two different tracks for unique effects. The song selection spans the decades and there is truly something for everywhere whether you are a fan of R&B or Hip Hop.
A few of my favourite tracks are listed below, but if you would like to see the full list check it out at http://djhero2.com. Here are my faves:
• Naughty By Nature - “O.P.P.” Mixed With Jackson 5 - "ABC”
• Busta Rhymes - “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” Mixed With M|A|R|R|S - "Pump Up The Volume”
• Kanye West - “Love Lockdown” Mixed With Metallica - "The Day That Never Comes”
• Young Jeezy ft. Kanye West - "Put On” Mixed With DJ Shadow feat. Q-Tip and Lateef The Truth Speaker - “Enuff (DJ Fresh Remix)”
• Lady Gaga - “Bad Romance” Remix
• LL Cool J - “I Can't Live Without My Radio” Mixed With Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five feat. Melle Mel & Duke Bootee - “The Message”
• 2Pac ft. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman - “California Love Remix” Mixed With B.o.B ft. Bruno Mars - “Nothin' On You”
• Eminem - “Not Afraid” Mixed With Lil' Wayne feat. Static Major - “Lollipop”
• Iyaz - “Replay” Mixed With Rihanna - “Rude Boy”
• LL Cool J - “I Can't Live Without My Radio” Mixed With Chic - “Good Times”
• Nelly - “Hot In Herre” Mixed With Warren G feat. Nate Dogg - “Regulate”
• Sean Paul - “Get Busy” Mixed With Harold Faltermeyer - “Axel F”
• Sean Paul - “Get Busy” Mixed With Rihanna - “Pon De Replay”
• The Notorious B.I.G. ft. Mase & Diddy - “Mo' Money, Mo' Problems” (Remix by FSG)
• Timbaland ft. Drake - “Say Something” Mixed With Young Jeezy ft. Kanye West - “Put On”
As you can see it is a pretty good set list with some exceptions depending on your taste. The overall sound quality is good as well. You hear every little note in 5.1 surround sound and I noted how all the tunes just filled my media room. I was really impressed with how you can hear the various types of scratches as well. All in all anyone who has done a bit of research and actually enjoys many of the tunes on the setlist before picking up the game should be happy with the whole audio package offered in DJ Hero.
For those of you who are completely unaware of how the DJ Hero game works. DJ Hero simulates the use of a turntable and follows the gameplay model of Guitar Hero, which is all about watching on screen cues that are timed to the music you are listening to. You must match your actions to these cues. The controller looks like a turntable and has three buttons coloured blue, red, and green. There is also a special effects dial, a crossfader, and a “Euphoria” button (which is used to double your multiplier). Along with the great design of the controller you are also able to detach its two halves allowing you to set it up for left handed players so they can use it as naturally as possible. This great feature is back as it allows even more people, specifically those lefties out there, the ability to play the game too.
The two buttons on the turntable to the left and right represent the two songs that you are mixing together, and the middle button represents the samples that you add into the mix. Mixing in the songs is performed by either tapping the corresponding button, or when you see the scratch symbol you hold down the button and move the turntable back and forth to scratch in the music until it is finished. It is the same basic control scheme from DJ Hero, but thankfully even those new to the franchise will find DJ Hero 2 boasts a comprehensive tutorial mode and even my 7-year old daughter had no problem picking up the basic tapping, scratching, crossfading, effect dialing and euphoria controls. The tutorials are self explanatory and extremely helpful. Of course to really master the game it takes practice, especially on the higher skill levels. That being said, you should be able to find some level of comfort in the skill levels available in the game.
Some of the new controls this time around include: Held Notes (where you hold a note for the duration of the held note icon); Length Scratches (these represent longer upward or downward scratches); Freestyle Sampling; Freestyle Crossfading and Freestyle Scratching. The freestyling controls are a nice welcome addition as gamers can now express more creativity and ferocity. All in all, the controls in the game are superb and I am simply amazed at how ‘real to life’ the turntable looks and plays.
In terms of new modes and game types, Empire Mode is where I spent the bulk of my time and is essentially DJ Hero 2’s single player mode. It is an all-new mode where you go from small-town hero to global super-star. There is not much of story to the single player mode as it all about the music. Nevertheless, the progression system is similar to Guitar Hero games as you have to complete a series of mix mash-ups before you can progress. You advance in the game by unlocking new venues, decks, headphones, outfits and new characters (including some old favorites). All in all, it’s an enjoyable single player mode with plenty to offer.
To address the lack of a party mode from last year, DJ Hero 2 includes vocals. Here you can plug in a compatible USB microphone (a microphone comes with the DJ Hero 2 bundle) an extra controller and join the party on vocals. Vocals are scored on pitch, range and volume. Note that not all songs feature vocals but it’s a nice addition nonetheless. DJ Hero was mainly a single player experience while DJ Hero 2 attempts to make party play a more prominent feature. Playing with a group of friends is easy. Select “Party Play” from the main menu and the game will play non-stop in auto mode. Players can jump in and out of the songs at anytime without disrupting the set. This is perfect for those Guitar Hero parties or rather DJ Hero parties where you want music to play continually without any interruption as gamers fiddle with the settings and whatnot.
There is also online multiplayer play via Xbox LIVE called Battle Mode. The online multiplayer mode in DJ Hero 2 includes six different Battle modes: Star Battle, Accumulator, Checkpoint, Streak, DJ Battle and Power Deck Battle. All of these modes can also be played offline with two Turntable Controllers.
In Star Battle, you see who can earn the most Stars before the song ends. In Accumulator you press the Euphoria button to bank note streaks. The player with the highest total streaks wins. Checkpoint is all about reaching a checkpoint with a higher score. The player who tallies the most checkpoint sections is the winner. Streak is all about winning the game by banking the highest note streak. DJ Battle involves the same rules as Checkpoint, but each song is specially mixed to showcase unique battle sections with call-and-response challenges. Finally, Power Deck Battle is where players can go into the Decks menu and choose a Power Deck with special abilities, such as Tap Master (taps earn higher scores), Multiplier (max 5x), Hyperdeck (high speed for pros), etc. All in all, the online features this time around have been greatly improved and there is simply much more variety this time around. It remains to be seen if a DJ Hero online community takes off. Nevertheless the ingredients are here.
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