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'DJ Hero 2' turns the tables on convention

Dec 1, 2010

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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DJ Hero 2The DJ Hero franchise is to the music game genre what Nirvana was to rock music in the early 90's. Both DJ Hero and Nirvana brought something new and fresh to the table after years of music video game fans and rock fans, respectively, being force-fed the same stuff over and over again.

Whether the DJ Hero franchise suffers the same premature fate as Nirvana remains to be seen, but based on the quality of the original game's sequel, all signs point to more scratching, freestyling and remixing coming in the future.

DJ Hero 2 doesn't change the formula of its predecessor so much as it tweaks it in several different ways. Guitar mixes are out; microphones are in. Sample selections are out; song-specific freestyle sampling is in. Rock music - for the most part - is out; a lot more hip-hop is in.

While some of these changes aren't for the better, the whole package is still a stronger one than the original DJ Hero.

In terms of core gameplay, not much changes for DJ Hero 2. You're still using the same turntable that came packaged with the original game and playing music by tapping three coloured buttons, scratching the 'platter', moving the crossfader from left to right, and twisting the effects dial to alter the sound of the music that's coming from your speakers.

DJ Hero 2The effects dial feels a little tighter, which is good, but there's still a "no-man's land" of sorts with the crossfader. When you're focused so intensely on the onscreen directions and quickly moving the crossfader from left to right, it's difficult to tell if you've properly moved it back to the centre.

Granted, the game is somewhat forgiving, and you can be off-centre by a couple of centimetres in either direction without being penalized for it, but there's still too much glancing down to make sure you're in proper position, which often means losing track of what's happening onscreen.

And you can be sure of one thing in DJ Hero 2: you will need total and complete concentration once you move up to the Hard or Expert setting. Activision's other music game series - the juggernaut known as Guitar Hero - has progressed over the years into something more and more about the party aspect; it's much more accessible to even the most casual gamer.

The DJ Hero series, meanwhile, is not nearly as easy. The difficulty level in the sequel swings wildly once you move from Medium to Hard. Not only are new gameplay features added, but there's simply a lot more thrown at you all at once. Worst of all, there's no practice mode in DJ Hero 2.

And while developer FreeStyleGames has thrown in the ability to do a lot more freestyling in DJ Hero 2 - with freestyle crossfading and scratching (both of which are completely awesome) - it still feels like you don't get the chance to really make a song 'your own' until you move up to Hard.

DJ Hero 2The setlist itself is very strong, with all sorts of big name artists and songs making an appearance. You'll hear everything from Motown (Jackson Five's 'ABC'), to 90's hip-hop (Naughty by Nature's 'O.P.P.'), to current radio hits (Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance'). Sadly, rock music is barely even considered, with Metallica being the only real entrant from that genre. A shame considering the fantastic remixes based around rock songs in the original DJ Hero. Fingers crossed that downloadable content fixes that issue.

Regardless of musical preferences, the remixes for the most part are absolutely phenomenal, and are made not just by FreeStyleGames, but by well-known artists like DJ Qbert, DJ Shadow, and RZA, adding some real credibility to the game.

Our only complaints are that the full setlist isn't available right out of the box (unless you manage to hunt down a cheat code online), and that some of the remixes are only available in certain game modes.

As much fun as it is to play these songs on your own, there is still very much a big social aspect to DJ Hero 2. There are several multiplayer modes available both locally and online, and though all of them follow the same general theme in order to win - be more accurate and creative than your opponent - they're all a ton of fun.

Our experience with online play saw absolutely no issues with lag or players quitting halfway through, though matching up to other players is a little odd. When setting up a match, you have the option to search for players of a 'similar' grade. What this means is if you're playing on Hard, you could easily be matched up with someone playing on Medium. As mentioned earlier, the difficulty level of these two grades is huge, possibly putting the player on Hard at a big disadvantage, despite the fact that he or she will be getting more points for hitting the proper notes. It's a wonder why there isn't a setting to find an exact grade match.

DJ Hero 2DJ Points acts as the game's multiplayer XP, and are awarded for completing and winning battles online, which unlocks new medals and tags that you can attach to your avatar. It doesn't add anything to gameplay, but it does give a reason to keep going online, and it's a great way to show off when you're about to go one-on-one with someone.

Even while playing on your own, if someone on your friend list has previously finished a specific mix, you'll see his or her score on the left side of the screen, giving you even more motivation to do well.

The other big change for DJ Hero 2 is the addition of the microphone, for those who simply can't get enough karaoke in their lives. Unfortunately, singing really isn't conducive to DJ Hero's remix formula. It's one thing to try to rap the verses to Snow's 'Informer', but add in the random lyrics from the Jackson Five's 'ABC', and it becomes nigh-impossible to do anything more than mumble the majority of the song.

This is all the more proof that DJ Hero 2 doesn't need anything else to take away from its rock-solid core gameplay. All that's needed is a turntable to realize just how unique, special, and most importantly fun, this game is.

 

DJ Hero 2
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Activision
Developer: FreestyleGames
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site: http://djhero.com

Rating: 8.5 / 10

 
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